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Paul’s Story: Spinning confidence and creativity with Helium Arts

Paul didn’t know you could use a salad spinner to paint pictures. He dripped in the colours, put on the lid, and gave it three spins. It was amazing! Paint splatters and patterns danced across his paper plate. He was definitely taking this one home to show mum.

She couldn’t wait to see how it worked. Paul always left Helium Arts full of smiles and bright ideas, and his mum loved to see him so excited. She laughs when she remembers how scared she was that first week. How she sat, waiting for him in the car – convinced that the worst was about to happen. It didn’t. He loved every second of his time with Helium Arts.

She had never left Paul on his own before. Not since those four months in ICU. He was only a few weeks old. His small body no match for the whooping cough that consumed it. They have been in and out of hospital ever since. Paul was still a baby when they diagnosed him with Marcus Gunn Winking Syndrome, and 3 when he had his first epileptic seizure.

It was a big step for both of them. Letting go.

“I didn’t leave him with anybody. Just school, my parents and one aunt. To leave him at a club and walk away was huge.”

Like any 10 year old, Paul doesn’t like to let things stop him. It wasn’t easy. He couldn’t keep up at school and struggled to make friends – hiding behind his mum and only playing with one person at a time. It was almost a relief when they found out he had autism. No more wondering what was wrong. They were ready to think about the future.

So when Paul and his mum met the Helium Arts team at an outpatient clinic, they decided to give their community art workshops a try.

That was two years ago.

She doesn’t sit in the car and wait anymore. With paramedics at each and every workshop, she knows her son is safe. And Paul loves spending time with his new friends.

“It really brings them out of themselves. When they meet other kids who are sick – it makes them realise that they are not alone. That there are other people out there.”

She is thinking of buying a new salad spinner. The old one is covered in paint. It’s a small price to pay. Helium Arts has given Paul more than his mum could have ever hoped for. A confidence and creativity no illness will ever take away.

“He’s a different child. He makes friends easily now and isn’t afraid to be in a group. There are so many things he’s been excluded from. But this is total inclusion. No matter what.”

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+ 353 (0) 44 93 96 960


Helium Arts is a registered charity and compliant with the requirements of the Charities Regulator, the national regulatory authority for charities in Ireland


CHY Number: 19236
Registered Charity Number (RCN): 20075200
Companies Registration Office: 486621


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Helium Arts
Top Floor
22 Pearse Street
Co. Westmeath
N91 VYP0



This website has been part funded by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.