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It was as if Emily was trying to disappear…

Emily, who is just 8 years old, struggles with sensory issues; loud noises are very overwhelming for her.

It was very difficult for Emily over the last year and a half, having to stay inside her house with both her parents, and her three other siblings; Shane, Freddie and Georgia. Because in this house, there was a lot of shouting and very loud noise.

Her brother Shane had been struggling with a gambling addiction. When he would lose money, he would become violent and start punching walls and breaking things in the house. He would shout a lot, and lash out at his parents and siblings.

Shane’s outbursts would make Emily very anxious and upset, and she would seek out safe spaces around the house to try avoid her brother. She was becoming more and more withdrawn, and would hide at the first sign of conflict in the house. She would barely say a word at all and would avoid eye contact with the rest of the family. It was as if she was trying to disappear…

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Shane then started borrowing money to finance his addiction and fell in with the wrong group of men in his community. He fell into the vicious cycle of not being able to pay back the people from whom he had borrowed money. They would come to the house to ask for their money and become threatening towards not only Shane but also the whole family. One time, things got quite heated and Emily’s mam found Emily hiding in her bed under the covers, shaking and crying, overwhelmed by all the shouting.

Emily’s Mam contacted Barnardos and one of our project workers, Louise, began working with Emily on a one-to-one basis. Louise encouraged Emily to engage in various arts and crafts activities when she came to the centre, so she would become more comfortable and not feel like she was being rushed into talking.

Little by little, she began to open up about her feelings, and her fears about what might happen to her family. She said she was afraid of making friends, as they would quickly discover what was going on in her home. Louise suggested that Emily could attend the Friendship Group in the Barnardos centre, in addition to the one-to-one sessions. This way Emily could make new friends and they could meet and play in the centre.

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Emily is making progress each time she comes to Barnardos, thankfully. She loves coming here and taking part in all sorts of fun activities. She especially enjoys arts and crafts – she is very artistic! And she has made new friends thanks to the Friendship group, who she plays with when she visits the centre. She is also learning to put words to her feelings and her mam is noticing that Emily is becoming better at communicating.

But the emotional scars of what Emily has seen and heard will take time to heal. Sometimes she stills jumps when hearing a loud noise, and she puts her hands on her ears if someone raises their voice.

And there are so many more families. So many children like Emily all over Ireland who we need to fight for, so they are not left behind.

Please donate what you can today to help children like Emily. With your help, we can give them the childhood they deserve.

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While Emily’s story is true, we have changed all names used in this story and some other details in order to protect the family’s identity. Photos used are models.