Darren's Story Barnardos

Darren was written off before he’d even started Junior Infants.

This is Darren. He is five years old. When he was three, Darren was expelled from a mainstream pre-school. Without the necessary resources to deal with what they saw as challenging behaviour from a ‘bold child’, his second pre-school also asked him to leave. And so did the third. At only three years of age Darren had been given up on. Not once, but three times. His Mum and Dad were desperate.

It was obvious that Darren’s behavioural difficulties demanded attention that mainstream preschools were not able to provide and his development, which was well behind his peers, was threatened. Feeling frustrated by the lack of available and affordable alternatives, his parents turned to Barnardos for support.

Very quickly our project workers arranged a home visit to assess Darren’s needs and as a result he began to attend the Barnardos specialist pre-school and Early Years intervention programme, Tús Maith. This tailored service is unique to Barnardos.

It puts children who need individual support at the centre of its approach, supporting them in all areas to bring their development on a par with their peers and ready to begin mainstream national school.

Darren was like a “mini-tornado”!

Karen, Darren’s key worker, identified that he needed urgent help to manage his destructive behaviour. When he first came to Barnardos he would run wild, full of an intense energy. Karen called Darren her “miniature tornado” and initially spent a great deal of her time following him around to make sure he didn’t hurt himself. It was clear there was a lot of work to be done.

Darren was incapable of sitting still. At first, he spent 90% of his time thundering around the centre, leaving a trail of debris in his wake. But with careful planning, patience and a tailored approach to his individual needs, Darren’s behaviour slowly began to change as he continued to attend the Barnardos pre-school.

Karen’s first planned goal for Darren was reached when he successfully sat still in a chair at a table in the pre-school room with the other children for 60 seconds. One minute of calm represented huge progress – Darren was beginning to listen and follow instructions. Slowly but surely Darren was able to sit still for a little longer; two minutes, then four minutes etc. and he was soon able to join in more activities in the pre-school room.

Aching to learn, Darren is a clever boy with huge potential.

Darren thrived on the routine and approach in the Barnardos pre-school programme. Karen worked with Darren to help him understand and manage his behaviour. By giving him the opportunity to make choices about the activities he wanted to do, he became calm and started to engage in learning. Like a storm lifting, the fierce intensity of his energy that we first witnessed wreaking havoc through our project centre, eventually cleared to reveal a resilient, helpful and polite young child. Bright with intellect, Darren was, as Karen described, just “aching to learn”.

Through spending time with him we identified that Darren showed great skill at working with his hands. Even at his young age he was adept at fixing things. Darren was delighted when we gave him an old bike and some child-friendly tools to work with. Karen watched with joy as he concentrated his efforts on the bike for extended periods of time. This was another of the methods she used to ensure that by the end of the pre-school year, Darren was spending 90% of his time engaged in activities inside the pre-school room, instead of loudly crashing through the corridors. It was a total transformation.

Partnering with Mum and Dad

Although Darren’s behaviour in pre-school had improved, his positive behaviour changed when he went home. We discovered that Darren’s sometimes chaotic home life was a contributing factor. It is without question that Darren’s parents love him greatly. They do their best every day but had been struggling financially and emotionally with the effects of unemployment, poor housing and the cost of raising two children at a young age themselves, exacerbated by mental health issues they are each battling. This, unfortunately, is not unusual in modern Ireland.

Through Barnardos' Partnership with Parents programme, we began working with Darren’s Mum and Dad to help them better understand and meet his needs. This provided consistency between home and pre-school. Darren responded well, his behaviour at home eventually settling. We brought the old bike and tools to Darren’s home and together he and his Dad got it back in working order. Darren was as proud as punch – happily cycling it down to the Barnardos pre-school each morning.

The difference early education can make.

Darren’s development and behaviour are now on par with his peers. He was ready to move on and we are delighted that he made a smooth transition to national school at the beginning of September. He now has a real chance at a solid educational experience. Without early intervention and education, Darren would have started in a mainstream national school not adequately equipped to deal with his behavioural difficulties. Unable to engage, he would have been left behind, with his development slipping further.

It’s likely that he would have left the education system at some point before completing the Leaving Certificate. He would have become another statistic adding to high drop-out rates in some areas. Another young person with significantly limited chances in life. You can almost plot the sad and troubled path his life might have taken after that.

Happily, because Darren attended Barnardos services, we can forecast a much brighter future for him. But, for every success story like Darren, there are lots of other children in Ireland today whose future is at risk because of the lack of early intervention. But EVERY child deserves the same opportunities in life, without exception.

We will NEVER give up on a child. If, like us, you don’t believe that a person’s journey through life should be derailed at age three, volunteer for Barnardos National Collection Day, kindly supported by Dell, on Friday 15th September 2017.

We’re looking for team leaders, volunteers, student groups and companies to help us with organised bag packs and on-street collections in communities across the country. By donating just 1 to 2 hours of your time, you can create brighter futures for children like Darren. Get in touch today to see happening in your area and how you can get involved.

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