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44connect 2016 Sensational Kids helps children of all abilities reach their full potential My little son JC was diagnosed with autism just before Christmas in 2014 explains Laura. When he rst started here in Sensational Kids he had 5 words but he only used three Mama Dada and NO. But mostly it was just NO. Before we came here it was tantrums. Id never understand what he wanted. We came to Sensation- al Kids and they started working with him using the Picture Exchange Communication System PECS which allowed him to communicate using pictures. He practi- cally ew at it when he realized he could convey not only what he wanted he could actually express his prefer- ences and choices. It gave him the initiative to commu- nicate. The tantrums went to practically zero. Then the vocabulary started to come. Today thanks to Sensational Kids JC is up to nearly 100 words. Sensational Kids benets the 1 in 4 children in Ire- landwhohavespecialeducationalneedssuchasautism Down Syndrome dyslexia and dyspraxia. By providing a range of clinical and educational services it benets children of all ages and all abilities to enable them to develop to their full potential. I always say to people I never set out to be a social entrepreneur it was never in my mind to do this says Karen Leigh the founder of Sensational Kids. But really it started when my own child. Connor whos now 14 was born with no ear on one side and no ear canal. I quickly found out that the help that he needed wasnt available in Ireland and that we needed to go to America. So we found ourselves at The Childrens Hospital in Los Angeles. While in Los Angeles Connor was given an as- sessment by an organization called Can Do Kids. We went into this lovely big occupational playful center in Los Angeles and he just loved going. They assessed him and it actually turned out he has dyspraxia which is a very common condition that affects coordination and handwriting and low muscle tone. It is a common condition that affects children in many classrooms across Ireland. We came back to Ireland navely thinking that we could just nd our local version of Can Do Kids in Ireland but it didnt exist. There was nowhere to bring him to. Karen soon found that they were on a govern- ment waiting list that was years-long for services and therapies Connor needed immediately to help him get ahead. Private therapies were available but costly and out of reach to most families. Some people might feel stuck but Karen decided to set up Sensational Kids to ll a need for families like hers. We fundraised for two very long hard years to get 100000 to get Sensational Kids off the ground. We employed our rst occupational therapist and we were really wondering if we have enough money to keep it going. But it snowballed. Were sitting here six years later and over 3000 children have come through our doors. Today Sensational Kids has saved Irish families over 500000 in therapy fees by employ- ing a high-quality but low-cost model of services. No governmentfundingisreceivedandallworkisrelianton corporate and public partners along with the proceeds of an on-site store that offers skill-building toys and products. Within their colorful space children receive occupational therapy speech and language therapy educational psychological assessment and support. Play therapists work with children who are experiencing stress and anxiety to develop coping and self-calming strategies. Parents have support groups and children who once had no options for affordable therapies are getting the help they need. A grant from The Ireland Funds supported the Transition to Secondary School Program for 20 children with special educational needs who are in mainstream education. Through practical strategies and skills specialists at Sensational Kids helped children address the challenges of this important transition setting them up for success and better learning. Successful outcomes are now being seen across the board. The Ireland Funds are proud to support this innovative program that is serving JCs family and thousands of other families. 100 words and counting. SENSATIONAL KIDS