Six-year-old Limerick girl needs help with her silent world

Lexi Mae Payne with her mother Hollie.

THE mother of a Limerick child with autism says she is willing to take the Government to court to get the supports her little girl needs.

Six-year-old Lexi Mae Payne from Rosbrien self-harms and attacks her mother and others out of sheer frustration as she cannot speak to tell anyone what her needs and fears are.

At a hospital appointment last week, her mother Hollie had to try to wrestle with Lexi Mae to stop her pounding her head off the floor and grabbing phones and items from other patients.

When she tried to bring her under control, Lexi Mae “put me across the room”, Hollie told the Limerick Post.

Both mother and daughter left the hospital with bruises and scratches from the encounter. Hollie says this “happens all the time because she can’t speak to let us know what she’s feeling”.

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“She gets afraid and frustrated and then it all comes out in self-harm and violence.

“It’s so bad that I’m afraid she’ll end up with brain damage,” said Hollie.

Hollie says she has had amazing help from a number of nurses at University Hospital Limerick. One in particular nurse tries to always be there when Lexi Mae has an appointment.

“She’s fantastic with my daughter but she’s not always there. I rang last week but she was off. There doesn’t seem to be any procedure or training in the hospital in dealing with children like Lexi.

“Autism means she’s very affected by lights, noise, and stressful situations. She just can’t cope with it.

“I’m amazed the hospital has no system where children with difficulties can be seen when they arrive, or a sensory room where they could wait and be calm,” said Hollie.

The little Rosbrien girl’s current major problem is lack of speech therapy services.

She has had one appointment with a therapist in the last year with just one more scheduled.

“She needs regular appointments at least every couple of months, but we just can’t get them. And she’s not the only child in that situation.

“I’ve had to fight every inch of the way for Lexi Mae and have paid for private appointments to have her diagnosed.

“The services should be there for children who need them. Decades ago, people didn’t know about autism. We do now and there are so many children being diagnosed but still we’re way behind in giving them the supports they need.

“Lexi Mae has great potential. I know that. The psychologists have said so. But she’s just not getting the support she needs from the services to reach that potential.

“I’m looking at going to court to make the State help children like Lexi Mae,” said Hollie, adding that “I shouldn’t have to think of doing that.”

A spokesman for the UL Hospitals Group said that there is a sensory room in the Paediatric emergency department at UHL for patients with autism spectrum disorder. The room is located next to the paediatric waiting area and is available to any patient who wishes to use it.

“We have recently engaged with Autism Ireland on improving the service our emergency department offers to autistic patients and we are expecting their feedback in the coming weeks.

“There are also designated sensory areas located within the Children’s Ark in the playground and playroom,” the spokesman added.