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Communication at the heart of unique preschool



Nora Ward teaching children through play at the Language Development Preschool. PHOTOS: JOE O'SHAUGHNESSY.

Lifestyle – Keith Kelly hears about a special facility that’s helping young children with speech problems

The former Mother Hubbards premises snuggled in Moyvilla between Craughwell and Oranmore was once a thriving restaurant, catering for some of the thousands of motorists who travelled daily on the old N6 between Galway and Dublin before the new motorway opened.

With the drop-off in traffic, the restaurant closed its doors but for the past eight years it has been given a new lease of life as the home to the Children’s Language Development Preschool (CLDP) which opened in 2008 and provides children of preschool age with speech and language therapy and support to help them communicate.

The school is run by Joan O’Connor and has a staff of five teachers which caters for up to 15 children at a time, a ratio which Joan says is ideal for supporting the children who attend, but at the same time it means that there is a waiting list for the facility’s services.

“We tend to take smaller groups of children and more staff, at the moment we would have seven children with two teachers, we deal with smaller ratios.

“Sometimes a child might come for three months, say, and they will get enough out of it that they can go back to their local preschools; some may stay for a year, a year and a half, two years – it can depend on a child’s needs, or their age,” explains Joan.

The school opened in 2008 when the husband-and-wife team that was already operating four schools in Dublin decided to look outside the M50 ring for a location for a fifth, but it has been far from plain sailing.

“The company went into liquidation not long after we opened. We had renovated this place, we had it done up and had a fantastic group of parents and kids, were making lots of progress and were told in July with a phone call from Dublin we were closing down,” Joan recalls.

“We had a lot of kids booked in for September, so over the summer myself, a couple of teachers and a group of parents set up the school, set it up as non-profit-making organisation with charity status. We opened the doors on September 1, all those children came back and we have been open since,” she explains.

The school is set up as a preschool for children with language and communication difficulties. It caters for children with a diagnosis as well as those whose parents feel are not progressing as they should with their language.

“We are a pretty unique service – if a child has a specific diagnosis, such as autism or Down syndrome, we take those children, as the common problem is language, communication,” says Joan.

“There are services for children with autism, with Down syndrome, but it is the other children that don’t fit in those boxes that often finds a problem with locating services. The parent might feel a child is not talking as they should be and there is a delay in their speech development, so they will turn to us.

“In that case, what can happen is they start with us from the age of two upwards, knowing there may be an issue, and we encourage them to go to the HSE and get assessed. All of that can be happening in the background while they are here and we are working with them while sometimes they are trying to figure out what is going on.

“We have a speech therapist that comes in every month, we have an occupational therapist and behavioural analyst so we get the support as teachers, so if we have concerns about speech, we have our own ST and assess the children ourselves.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest



Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.

For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.

These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.

“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.

In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races



Loughrea’s Marathon Man Jarlath Fitzgerald.

On the eve of completing his 150th marathon, an odyssey that has taken him across 53 countries, Loughrea’s Marathon Man has announced that he is planning to hang up his running shoes.

But not before Jarlath Fitzgerald completes another ten races, making it 160 marathons on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

“I want to draw the line in 2026. I turn 57 in October and when I reach 60 it’s the finishing line. The longer races are taking it out of me. I did 20 miles there two weeks ago and didn’t feel good. It’s getting harder,” he reveals.

“I’ve arthritis in both hips and there’s wear and tear in the knees.”

We speak as he is about to head out for a run before his shift in Supervalu Loughrea. Despite his physical complaints, he still clocks up 30 miles every second week and generally runs four days a week.

Jarlath receives injections to his left hip to keep the pain at bay while running on the road.

To give his joints a break, during the winter he runs cross country and often does a five-mile trek around Kylebrack Wood.

He is planning on running his 150th marathon in Cork on June 4, where a group of 20 made up of work colleagues, friends and running mates from Loughrea Athletics Club will join him.

Some are doing the 10k, others are doing the half marathon, but all will be there on the finishing line to cheer him on in the phenomenal achievement.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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