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Ability West provides services and supports to over 520 children and adults with intellectual disability across 11 geographical areas in Galway.  Since establishment in 1962 we have been to the forefront in developing community based services for people with intellectual disability.  Services and supports we provide include:


Rehabilitative Training

St. Joseph’s Training Centre is an approved centre for the delivery of rehabilitative training.  The main programme operates in St. Joseph’s Training Centre, Snipe Avenue, Galway, however, with outreach rehabilitative training programmes operating in Clifden, Mountbellew and Tuam.  Rehabilitative training is a three year programme which focuses on further personal development with an increasing emphasis on the development of occupational skills which includes work experience.  Each trainee attending has an individual training plan for the course of the three years and the aim is to complete FETAC approved courses which can be submitted for certification as evidence of the qualifications that they have achieved.


Employment Opportunities

Ability West has close links with Employ Ability Galway and was in fact one of the founder members of the Supported Employment Consortium which was a precursor to Employ Ability.  It provides the necessary supports to assist people with disabilities access the world of work.  A number of adults have been referred or self-referred to Employ Ability and have successfully gone through job profiling and job matching to find paid employment in a variety of occupations.  Further information is available on www.employabilitygalway.ie.


Adult Day Services

Ability West provides a wide range of day services aimed at supports for service users to achieve their desired goals as outlined in their personal plan.  We endeavour to support service users achieve these individual goals in line with National directives and guidelines including the HSE New Directions Policy 2013.  These supports include:


  • Therapeutic Programmes
  • Community Based Activities
  • Health and Leisure Activities
  • Access to further education and development
  • Access to employment opportunities
  • Access to supported living options
  • Personalised Care Programmes


Ability West encourages service users to live the life of their choice.  For many, engaging in everyday activities in the community can have a profound effect on a person's health and well-being.  Our staff are skilled in working with service users to identify the difficulties they may face and work with them to build confidence and skills to participate, work and live in a community setting of their choice.  Ability West has a referral and admission policy which outlines how to access our day services.


Active Ageing

Ability West has recognised that adults with an intellectual disability are enjoying increased longevity and are likely to experience early age related mobility and health changes.  Responding to this challenge and to support this older population to continue to realise their dreams and ambitions we have established active ageing programmes in a number of areas throughout the city and county.  These are for people who have attended Adult Day Services and are now getting to the age where they wish to have a more gentle paced service and one that is more appropriate for their age.  Rather than just retiring to live full-time at home or in an Ability West residential service this programme offers them a five day opportunity to meet with people at a similar stage in life and to ensure they have a varied programme of activities available to them.  We liaise closely with Active Retirement Groups/Programmes in the local communities.


Residential Services

Ability West provides residential services throughout Galway City and County.  A typical residential service would have five residents.  We provide part-time residential services, five day care and seven day care.  Everyone living in a residential service attends a day service or employment on a Monday to Friday basis.  Service users are encouraged and helped to personalise their home to reflect their individual taste.  Staff are available to provide support necessary for people to live fulfilling lives in their homes and communities.  Emphasis is placed on maintaining contact with family members who are welcome to visit their relatives at any time.  While the home provides the basic security and comfort that all of us would value, there is strong emphasis on engaging with the local communities and the use of community services.  At any one time, we would have approximately 130 people availing of residential services.  These services are provided in line with the National Standards for Residential Services for Children and Adults with Disabilities (HIQA) and Statutory Instruments No. 366 and 367 of 2013.


Short Breaks

The aim of short breaks respite support is to support people within their family and community.  Ability West aims to assist families to engage their own supports through their own natural support networks such as family, local community, neighbours and through the Volunteer Programme.  However, Ability West recognises the need for more formalised supports. We recommend that where possible, respite supports should be provided in the home and in the community via Host Families, Community Support, Outreach Projects and in other innovative and inclusive ways. 


All funded respite options are resource dependent.  Ability West provides Short Breaks Respite support in the following ways:


  • Social Groups and Summer Camps where individuals are supported in small groups to develop their social skills
  • Host Families where families provide short and long term breaks in their homes to children and adults.  This is a shared service between Ability West and Brothers of Charity Services Galway
  • Grants to Families where the organisation pays a grant to the family so they can fund support from a support person on a private basis
  • Volunteers is where an unpaid, vetted person offers support to individuals and groups
  • Community Support is where a paid support worker is provided to the person with a disability in their own home and community.  These Community Support Workers are aligned with individuals who have particular requirements and again provide a service which is very much valued by the individual and their family.
  • Residential Respite is where the person with a disability accesses respite in a residential building supported by staff along with other people with a disability.  Residential Respite will only be provided in specific circumstances and will be assessed and decided on an individual basis.


To access these forms of short breaks, it is necessary to complete the Short Breaks Application form, which is available on the intranet, under Home Sharing and Community Support.

On completion, the form is then sent to the Respite and Community Support Manager who logs the request on the waiting list and puts the original copy of the form on the service user’s central file.  The request is considered by the appropriate team along with the Social Work team if required.  Short breaks are prioritised and offered should resources be available.




Ability West Physiotherapists provide support and services to people who avail of our services and their families.  As part of the multidisciplinary team, we provide assessments, recommendations, and therapy to children in St. Teresa’s Special School, Ballinasloe; Tigh Nan Dooley Scoil Speisialta, Carraroe; St. Oliver’s Special School, Tuam; and St. Joseph’s Special School, Galway.  The Physiotherapy Department provides services to adult service users in the area of mobility, transfers and in maintaining healthy muscles and joints in a variety of settings throughout Galway City and County.  We aim to involve all key members of a person’s life to provide services in a meaningful and family-focused way.


Areas where Physiotherapy can help:

  • 24-Hour Postural Management: To provide assessment of Service users with physical disability, Seating and Mobility equipment, Sleep Systems, etc.
  • Mobility: Gait training/strength training/balance, prescribing Standers, Crutches, Walkers, Tricycles etc.
  • Orthotics: Prescription of splints, braces, orthosis, prosthetics, footwear, insoles, gaitors, thera-togs, second skin and other lycra splints, specialised helmets
  • Beds Committee: Prescription of beds, mattress
  • Respiratory: Chest physio/postural drainage
  • Hydrotherapy/swimming
  • Horse riding/hippo therapy
  • Intervention post botox: Exercise prescription/advice
  • Rheumatology/Orthopaedics/post Fracture/Surgery: Rehabilitation programme
  • Multi-Sensory Activity Advice including Sensory Integration with focus on motor co-ordination difficulties
  • Balance and falls prevention
  • Clamping and Lift Equipment: Training and advice on transport safety
  • Manual Handling: Provision of Manual Handling Training, training for hoists/slings, manual handling risk assessments, ergonomics


Further information is available by contacting Renjith Joseph, Physiotherapy Manager at 091 540900 or Renjith.Joseph@abilitywest.ie.


Psychology and Behaviour Support

The Psychology Department comprises of Psychologists, the Positive Behaviour Support Manager and the Behaviour Support Therapist.  Psychologists work with individuals who attend services and who are referred for specific work such as an assessment or for therapy.  The Positive Behaviour Support Service provides support to individuals who have significant behavioural needs.  Psychologists do not work with all service users, and are involved only when there is a particular need or difficulty that requires input.  Psychologists can be asked to carry out work with an individual by the person themselves, or by a family or staff member.  Once the work has been completed, the psychologist may not be involved again unless another matter is referred for follow up.


Areas of work include

  • Assessment Work
  • Support and Consultation
  • Positive Behaviour Support
  • Clinical Therapeutic Work
  • Child and Adult Protection
  • Staff and Family Training
  • Service Development and Staff Support


Psychologists mainly rely on unit teams and family members to identify individuals’ needs and to seek psychological support when necessary.  Psychology input can be requested by using the Psychology Referral Form, or by contacting the Head of Psychology, at Blackrock House. Tel: 091-540900.


Speech and Language Therapy

This department provides a service to both children and adults and is committed to the promotion of successful “Total Communication” for service users to understand and express themselves.  Total Communication means use of all modes of communication; both non-verbal and verbal.  It is recognised that successful communication is vital for person centred planning as follows:


  • Making choices
  • Giving consent
  • Self-advocating and acting independently
  • Creating and sustaining relationships
  • Understanding and being understood
  • Accessing and giving information
  • Engaging in supported employment
  • Experiencing positive communication


The role of the Speech and Language Therapist includes the assessment, diagnosis and management of communication and feeding, eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties (FEDS).


The Speech and Language Therapy Department aims to work collaboratively with service users, their families, their support network, teachers, staff, and other members of the multidisciplinary team.  The department maintains a close link with other agencies including the HSE and makes onward referrals as appropriate.


Areas of Work

Intervention is focussed on the development of functional communication and may involve the following areas:

  • Receptive and expressive language
  • Oral motor skills for feeding and speech
  • Use of appropriate augmentative and alternative communication systems, for example: Lámh, PECS, picture communication systems and communication aids
  • Staff and family training and support
  • Accessible information for service users
  • Development of shared resources to support the communication environment is ongoing and available to all centres.


This department has developed comprehensive training packages for staff and families including:

  • Communication strategies training
  • Certified Lámh training
  • Family Lámh training
  • Visual communication supports
  • Communication passports
  • Accessible information (service user friendly documents, easy to read documents, etc.)



Social Work

The aim of the Social Work Department is to support service users and their families by assessing need and identifying with them the most appropriate ways of meeting these needs.  Social Workers will advocate on their behalf within Ability West and within the wider environment such as the Health Service Executive (HSE), local Authorities, etc. 


Social Workers provide practical and emotional support to assist families and service users in coping with any difficulties they may encounter in relation to the disability.  The department has a special responsibility to ensure that the requirements of service user s’ families are known and included in service planning within Ability West.  Social Workers liaise with day, residential and respite services to ensure that service user’s needs are being met in so far as possible within resources.


Areas of Work

  • Assessments
  • Family Support
  • Client Protection
  • Short Breaks/Respite
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Support with Bereavement and Loss
  • Future Planning
  • Staff Training
  • Policy Development
  • Service Development and Planning
  • Person Centred Planning
  • Advocacy
  • Empowering Families



Ability West currently has over 200 male and female volunteers who facilitate activities focused around personal choice such as swimming, yoga, bowling or doing social activities.  Many share their talents, skills and interests with service users and some are involved in art programmes, drama and music sessions.  Others are involved in community skills where they accompany service users to the shop, library, post office or beauty salon.  Volunteers help with the everyday things that we take for granted.  The role of the volunteer can even include driving a bus, cleaning or doing DJ at our discos.  No matter what the involvement, volunteers enjoy the contribution they make.


The Volunteer Programme is all about engaging with Ability West, services and most importantly, our service users.  It is all about having fun and sharing that fun with a person with an intellectual disability.  Volunteers find volunteering with Ability West to be flexible and rewarding.  The opportunity to make a positive difference to the life of another person is always very satisfying at every level. 


For further information, please contact Linda Keane, Volunteer Programme Manager at 091 540900 or click here Volunteer.


Special Schools

Ability West is patron of four special schools located in Ballinasloe, Carraroe, Galway City and Tuam.  The special schools are under the remit of the Department of Education and Skills and Boards of Management are in situ in all schools.  Ability West nominates two representatives to each Board of Management, one of whom takes on the role of Chairperson. 


  • Tigh Nan Dooley Scoil Speisialta, Carraroe                Aisling Heskin, Chairperson
  • St. Joseph’s Special School, Galway City                 Eileen Costello-Conneely, Chairperson
  • St. Oliver’s Special School, Tuam                             David Joyner, Chairperson
  • St. Teresa’s Special School, Ballinasloe                   Gerry Haslam, Chairperson