Wednesday, 11 January 2017


A five-year follow-up

 Luke Kelly Melia and his assistance dog, a golden retriever called Aidan, at home at Oldcastle, Co. Meath. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
Luke and Aiden
Five years ago Conductive World mentioned the case of Luke Kelly-Melia, a boy with cerebral palsy then in his final year of primary schooling in Co. Cavan in the Irish Republic. His school had refused permission for him to talk Aiden, his stability dog, with him to school pending the outcome of its internal procedures (the school's, not the dog's). His parents withdrew Luke from the school for the rest of the school year and home-schooled him:

Luke's story prompted a further newspaper article at the time, a newspaper comment on the benefits of 'assistance dogs' from a neuropsychologist:

The academic reference that this article gives may be of some general interest but was not directly relevant to the problem of Luke and his family, which was of a social not a psychological nature.

How did things turn out for Luke at secondary school? I do not know what happened over the dog but there seems to have been no further breakdown in Luke's attendance and he is now in his final year of schooling.

Last year Luke was awarded the sum of 5,500 Euros by the Workplace Relations Committee. The Committee ruled that:

...his former primary school discriminated against him on disability grounds by refusing to allow him bring his assistance dog into the school.

[The Commission] ordered the school to redraft its policies to ensure it complied with the law... [and] report to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) on the progress on this within a year.

This heartening item is well worth reading in full. It rather restores one's faith.

Luke and his dog are still together.

And Conductive Education?

The posting in Conductive World five years ago was headed 'No country for conductors…...'

Five years later I think that there is still no conductive service operating in the Irish Republic, not publicly at least. If right, I suspect that that the Republic is the only European country to have seen conductive practices begin to establish bridgeheads in the usual Western way, out of the hope, hard work and initiative of parents – only then to see the forces of reaction triumph and clear the land of what they seemed to regard as poisonous...  

Hainji Kele's Facebook comments at the time are worth considering:

Luke's personal victory suggest that Ireland is becoming a more just place for those with disabilities. Perhaps the country now offers kinder ground for Conductive Education to try again. Forget the legend of Patrick and the snakes: take heart instead from the story of his ash staff.

Conductive Education has all taken a very long time in Ireland. It not too late for something new to take root.

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