Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Crossmaglen mum advocates US clinic’s strategy with special needs children

Many parents of children with special needs are all too familiar with the approach that very little can be done to develop their child, perhaps offered medication and sometimes surgery to keep the child as comfortable as possible.

But what if you were encouraged to develop your child’s physiological, physical, intellectual and social skills?  What if you were told that you can take charge of your child’s development? That you are the most qualified person in the world to help your child.

The answers to these questions can be found in a pioneering new approach to the developmental progress of children with many complex conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy and Down’s Syndrome.

The US-based Family Hope Center holds clinics across the globe and has successfully treated children in 16 countries.  Its unique programme is aimed at teaching parents and families the techniques to help improve the child’s development.

Three years ago, the mother of a Crossmaglen child with special needs attended a three-day seminar offered by the Family Hope Center. Michelle McKeever says her family has gotten their “life back” through following the programme tailored to the needs of her son, Ronan.

Michelle has now become an advocate for the programme and will be among a number of speakers at an information event to be held in Newry later this month.  She will speak of her experience with the programme and how it has benefitted Ronan’s development.

Describing the work of the Family Hope Centre, she said: “The Family Hope Center gave us so much more than hope, they gave us our life back with the knowledge and passion to help our son.”

Crossmaglen-based chartered physiotherapist, Phelim O’Neill, first became interested in the work of the Family Hope Centre three years ago and has attended a number of its seminars and workshops.  He has now become involved with the programme and says he is convinced of its approach and how it benefits children with special needs.

Describing the treatment programme, he said: “The treatment methods practised can be effective regardless of the cause of the condition, or the severity of the injury or impairment. The programme is designed to help parents and families understand how the brain grows and develops and then, based on this understanding, the Family Hope Center team can pinpoint the location of the injury in the brain and devise an individualised treatment plan. They then instruct and support the family in a step-by-step, comprehensive home treatment programme.

“Its very satisfying to see so many children having the chance to optimise their functional level and quality of life and then this also has a positive knock on for the rest of the family,” he added.

Based in Pennsylvania, the Family Hope Center team is headed by husband and wife Matthew and Carol Newell.  The couple are certified at the Developmentalist and Teaching levels in Child Brain Development, each having over 25 years’ experience in this field. Their team also includes Doctors/Paediatricians, an Orthopaedic Consultant, Nutritionists and Educators.

The Family Hope Center provides the education, motivation and guidance for parents of children with special needs and believes parents are uniquely qualified to be their child’s therapist.

Phelim is encouraging both parents and professionals who work with special needs children to attend the upcoming clinic in Newry to hear first-hand of its work.

“Having observed and learned about the work of the Family Hope Center and more importantly the rationale behind their work, I am convinced of the merits of this approach,” he said.

Revealing that along with Michelle McKeever, he will help deliver a presentation introducing the Center’s work to people in the Newry area, he added: “If you are a parent, teacher, healthcare worker, educational psychologist, doctor or nurse, we believe that it is imperative that you take this opportunity to hear at first hand Matthew talk about [his] work.”

The Family Hope Centre information event will be held on Thursday 23th April in the Canal Court Hotel, Newry, commencing at 6.30pm.  It will include a two-hour presentation by Matthew Newell, followed by question and answer session from the audience. Tickets cost £15 and can be purchased online at Eventbrite or pay at the door. Or for more information contact Phelim O’Neill on 0879817218 or