Ice-cream party takes place in Leinster House in aid of Down Syndrome Ireland as charity calls for vital investment in early years supports

Ice-cream party takes place in Leinster House in aid of Down Syndrome Ireland as charity calls for vital investment in early years supports

As part of this year’s HB Fundays campaign, the event in Leinster House also saw the charity calling on the Government to fund the roll out of a vital early years programme called See & Learn which supports children’s speech and language development, giving them a positive start to their education.

For the HB Fundays campaign this year, Down Syndrome Ireland and HB Hazelbrook Farm hope to raise in excess of €300,000, with funds raised this year going towards increased support for families of children with Down syndrome which will see the money raised help to accelerate funding for See and Learn and Parent-Link, a local support service for new parents of babies with Down syndrome, provided by parent volunteers who will be trained and supported by Down Syndrome Ireland.

Down Syndrome Ireland also want to see the Department of Children and Youth Affairs fund the future roll out of See and Learn so that it is fully sustainable in the long term and is also calling for increased State investment to improve access to early intervention and therapy, particularly Speech and Language Therapy and Occupational Therapy.

Calling on the Government, Gary Owens, CEO of Down Syndrome Ireland said, “Learning to talk is a particular challenge for most children with Down syndrome. Difficulties with understanding and using language present obstacles in daily life and can be a major source of frustration. Delayed language impacts on learning, and the effects are lifelong. As such, children with Down syndrome require frequent and regular Speech and Language Therapy in their early years.

“Unfortunately, the present situation with the HSE involves long waiting lists followed by short programmes of treatment. A recent survey showed that 50% of Down Syndrome Ireland members are waiting longer than 6 months to see a therapist, with some waiting for two to three 3 years. this is a system which is not working for children, families or therapists. As a result, we are calling on the Government to intervene and improve the situation.”

Speaking on the value of See & Learn, Deirdre Howard from Kildare, whose son Ronan is 4, said: “In the early days, our children’s comprehension is rarely reflected in their spoken communication; which leads to them being underestimated in terms of learning and potential, which unfortunately as we’ve seen in the past, impacts on their entire life. Most times, children with Down syndrome know the words and are trying to say them clearly, but it takes quite some time to perfect the pronunciation – so whilst Mums and Dads know the difference between ‘juice’ and ‘shoes’; others communicating with our kids might struggle.“But thankfully, so much is changing.  Early intervention works. See and Learn works – we’ve been using it at home for two years and see the results. It’s been life-changing and we really want our Government to see our children’s potential and give them the best start in life.”

Commenting on the need for the vital programme, Nicola Hart, Speech and Language Therapist with Down Syndrome Ireland said: “In the absence of frequent and timely speech and language therapy from the HSE, Down Syndrome Ireland provides specialist therapy in some branches, and subsidizes parents to access private therapy in others. While the See and Learn programme is not a replacement for this, it is an educational programme which supports language development and could be rolled out universally by the Government to children with Down syndrome in their free preschool years.”

Elaine Prendergast, Brand Manager, Unilever Ireland added;

‘’We are proud to be partnering with Down Syndrome Ireland on HB Fundays for the 18th year running – the campaign has helped to raise over €3.5 million for the charity. Last year more than 692 parties took place across the country with thousands of people fundraising and enjoying delicious ice cream by hosting their own #DSIHBFUNDAYS party for a great cause and this year, we are trying again to build on that success.”

To get involved this year by hosting your own HB Fundays party, please register online at ​to receive your party pack, which includes vouchers for free HB Hazelbrook Farm ice cream.

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