Pictured in Lisgrey House, Virginia at the presentation of a cheque for €28,153.09 from the Smyth family, Denn, to CAPS. Back (from left): Michael Kane, Catherine Denning, Thomas Smyth, Amy Callaghan, Noeleen Smith, Marian Cahill, Della Kane and Martin Cahill; front, Seamus Cahill, Catherine Smyth, Neil and Cathal McCabe, Michael Smyth and Anna Smith .

Michael gives something back

The family of a young man with autism have donated the balance of a trust fund to the Cavan Autism Parents Support (CAPS) group so that it may assist other families.

Michael was the firstborn child to Catherine and Tomás Smyth in April 1994. His parents noticed he was not reaching all his development milestones and, at the age of three years, Michael was diagnosed with autism.

Mum Catherine takes up the story: “In 1997 in Ireland there was insufficient and limited services available for young children with autism and we knew that, without appropriate intervention, Michael would never be able to interact verbally, intellectually or emotionally with his family, peers or community. He would become isolated from society and never reach his full potential.

“It was our responsibility to source the best possible education and learning system to meet Michael’s needs so that he had all the chances he deserved as a child to develop to his full potential.”

And so, in 1998, following “careful research” and with the help of a “willing committee”, the Michael Smyth Trust Fund was formed.

Money was raised and a place secured for Michael at the Boston Higashi School.

“This school in Boston was going to provide Michael with the best chance of a normal life through interventions that were guided by his needs at the time of diagnosis,” recalls mum Catherine of a difficult decision and a time of “great upheaval” for the family.

“We made the move to Boston with Michael until such time as Michael was able to stay in Boston comfortably in his surroundings and new home,” recalls Catherine.

Michael remained in Boston in school for 14 years.

“He exceeded all expectations developmentally. Michael returned home to Ireland and now daily attends the Drumlin Centre in Cootehill where he thrives both within his family, community and work,” says proud mum Catherine.

“The Smyth family will never forget the help they received from the fundraising committee and the financial support they received from the local community and surrounding areas.

“The family and committee feel the time has come to close off Michael’s trust fund and distribute the remaining funds to a very worthy local cause close to our own hearts - CAPS (Cavan Autism Parents Support).”

In closing the trust, the Smyth family were able to make the significant contribution of over €28,000 to CAPS.

Catherine explained how CAPS is a “wonderful” organisation, supporting children with special need in the Cavan/Monaghan area. It affords parents and siblings the opportunity to take a break safe in the knowledge their child with special needs is being cared for.

It also provides camps, activities, day trips and social clubs, alongside social mornings for parents, sibling workshops and activities.

“We are extremely grateful to be in a position where Michael no longer needs this financial support and most of all to be able to help those who are now in the position we found ourselves 28 years ago,” concludes Catherine on behalf of the family and committee.