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"Our Experience With CAMH's Sligo/Leitrim"

About: Sligo/Leitrim Mental Health Services / Sligo Child and Adolescent Community Mental Health Services

(as a service user),

Approximately three years ago when my now 8-year-old son started primary school, it quickly became evident that he was struggling both academically and to comply with the structure of a classroom setting. Of course, this is natural for any young child, however his teacher and I agreed to monitor him both at home and in school. Once Senior Infants his new teacher had the same suspicions as his previous teacher and I, that my son likely has ADHD and Dyslexia.

We visited the school public health nurse in Markievicz House. The nurse could see how busy my son was and referred us to a GP to determine if we should be referred to CAMH's or not. The doctor met with my son and could clearly see that a referral was indeed needed. The GP also sent a referral for Occupational Therapy. And so, our journey and wait began.

The waiting times I guess are the most difficult to deal with. As a parent you want the help your child needs straight away. But I knew that the wait list was not because CAHM's and OT staff weren't working incredibly hard every day. So, with that knowledge I changed my mind set to gratitude that we were going to get the much-needed help.

During the waiting time (approx. 12 to 18 months) I had read and educated myself a lot about ADHD. My two older children had already received a diagnosis of dyslexia and one of the two dyscalculia also. I also knew that they struggled in school and at home, but had previously put it down to strong willed, argumentative, forgetful, scatty personalities. I quickly realised that they too potentially had ADHD.

My daughter became completely overwhelmed once she started secondary school. She was totally unable to mask any longer. Her struggles became very big and very serious quite quickly. We now had three referrals in CAMH's. Whilst we were still waiting for our CAMH's appointments I got a phone call from OT Lisa offering me a cancelation appointment the next day. At this point we had been waiting approx. ten months, so I jumped this chance. My son began seeing Lisa back in 2022 and is still under her care, he absolutely adores Lisa. He loves his appointments with her, and I am not at all surprised. Lisa is fantastic with him, and I would imagine all children.

Lisa has been very clear in reassuring me and during a visit to my son's school to meet with is teacher and learning support teacher that there is nothing 'wrong' with him. He is exactly who he is supposed to be. He is kind, engaging, fun, happy and has such a love for fun activities and the outdoors. What is wrong is that he is in a school system that doesn't suit how he learns best. Lisa spent hours in my son’s school supporting and educating his teachers on how to best support him. We genuinely feel so lucky to have Lisa guiding and supporting our son and us.

Which brings me to CAMH's. Our son was seen, assessed, and diagnosed first. He received his ADHD diagnosis in May 2023 and his diagnosis of Dyslexia in October 2023. Almost all our meeting and dealings have been with Clinical Nurse Specialist Patrick and Consultant Dr.Kalu.

I can genuinely not say enough good about these two individuals.

It quickly came up in conversation during our meeting with my son that the schools and we as parents truly felt that both of my older two children had ADHD too. Patrick could see the worry; stress and I suppose guilt that my husband and I were feeling at missing this for so long. But I guess as we now know that we were also most likely neurodivergent therefore what wasn't particularly 'normal' in other families was something that we grew up with. It was only when our daughter hit crisis point that we really realised that it was more than dyslexia and a strong personality. Our daughter was battling with constant and chronic overwhelm . She chose negative ways of alleviating those stresses and we as her parents were beside ourselves with worry. CAMH's provided our daughter with a course of much needed therapy whilst we waited for her assessment. Recognising the situation, we were in and with our son already under the care of CAMH's, Patrick and Dr.Kalu worked promptly to have our older two children assessed.

Our two older children received their diagnosis on the same day in February 2024. Each child had their own individual appointment, and the diagnosis was delivered by Dr. Kalu with kindness, care, compassion and reassurance. I feel that Dr.Kalu has a vested interest in our children and our family. We have the upmost respect for her, and we have great trust in the guidance, support, and recommendations she has given to us. 

Patrick has become one of the biggest parts of our story. At times that we as parents were scared, unsure, worried and I guess lonely in the new world we were trying to navigate, Patrick made numerous phone calls to us just check in. This was at a time that I didn’t realise how much I needed it, but he did. He provided us with so much reassurance, guidance, and and compassion. This is not something he had to do, but he did it anyway because he cared. We know that we can make a call to CAMH’s if we have a question, and our call is returned by Patrick or Dr Kalu promptly. 

We are blessed and so very lucky to have such kind, caring and exceptional professionals looking after us. Our family will remain in the Care of CAMH for the foreseeable future. I am so happy that we remained patient and did not opt for a private assessment for our kids. We simply would not have the team of people around us that we do now.

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