Parliamentary Questions: Education and Skills
Posted June 2nd, 2011 in Children, Dáil Work, Disability, Education, PQs, Special Needs
To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider making funding available to a school, (details supplied) which has not received any State support since September 2010 and which is entirely dependant on essential and urgent State support to remain open and provide education to children with autism; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Simon Harris.
Achieve ABA, Newbrook Road, Donaghmede, Dublin 13
* For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 2nd June, 2011.
Minister Ruairí Quinn
It is understood that the Deputy’s question refers to a proposal for an academy
for children with autism which was submitted to my Department for consideration
by an organisation in Dublin 13. My Department will respond to the submitted
proposal in the near future. The Deputy will be aware that my Department has no
direct funding arrangements with the group in question.
Consideration of this proposal will take account of my Department’s policy in
this regard, which is focused on ensuring that all children, including those
with autism, can have access to an education appropriate to their needs,
preferably in school settings through the primary and post primary school
network. This facilitates access to individualised education programmes, fully
qualified professional teachers who may draw from a range of autism-specific
interventions, including ABA, special needs assistants, and the appropriate
school curriculum with the option where possible of full/partial integration
and interaction with other pupils. As each child with autism is unique it is
important that children have access to a range of interventions so their
broader needs can be met.
My Department’s policy is to provide for children with special educational
needs, including autism, to be included in mainstream schools unless such a
placement would not be in their best interests or the interests of the children
with whom they are to be educated. Some children may be supported in a special
class attached to a mainstream school. These students have the option, where
appropriate, of full/partial integration and interaction with other pupils.
Other children may have such complex needs that they are best placed in a
special school. Students with special educational needs have access to a range
of support services including additional teaching and/or care supports. In
special schools and special classes, students are supported through lower pupil
teacher ratios. Special needs assistants may also be recruited specifically
where pupils with disabilities and significant care needs are enrolled.
Reflective of the important role of continuing professional development my
Department has put in place a training programme for teachers in
autism-specific interventions including Treatment and Education of Autistic
Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH), Picture Exchange Communications
System (PECS) and Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) through the Special
Education Support Service.
The Deputy will be familiar with the ABA pilot scheme which was funded by my
Department for the past decade. All of the centres which participated in this
scheme have been granted recognition as special schools for children with
autism. These schools will operate in line with my Department’s policy. I am
pleased to update the Deputy that following their recognition the new schools
are currently progressing well in the transitional phase. Twelve schools have
opened and the remaining school is scheduled to open shortly. It is my
intention to continue to support this transitional process.
The pilot scheme was established in the absence of a network of school-based
special classes for children with autism which is now available. The Deputy
will be aware that the establishment of this network of autism-specific special
classes in schools across the country to cater for children with autism has
been a key educational priority in recent years. In excess of 430 classes have
now been approved around the country at primary and post primary level,
including many in special schools.