Dáil debates

Thursday, 9 May 2013

10:40 am

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

This morning I wish to raise the issue of access to resource teaching hours for children with Down's syndrome. Down's syndrome is by its nature complex and affects intellectual ability, speech, language, hearing, memory, vision, motor skills and general health. As I am sure the Tánaiste understands, Down's syndrome seriously affects a child's ability to engage with the school curriculum. The rate in Ireland is one in every 546 births. That means that about 120 children are born with Down's syndrome each year, and approximately 80 begin mainstream primary education.

Down's syndrome is by definition a complex low-incidence disorder, yet, remarkably, it is not one of the 11 low-incidence disabilities that qualify for resource teaching hours. Prior to 2005, all children with Down's syndrome received resource teaching hours, but since then children with Down's syndrome who have IQ scores in the mild range of learning disability have not qualified for specifically allocated resource teaching hours.

This is an important issue that affects no more than about 24 to 30 children each year. It could be easily resolved by simply adding Down's syndrome to the list of low-incidence disabilities. It is a small number of children but the kind of support that would be afforded to those children could literally transform their lives and learning experiences. What does the Tánaiste plan to do to address this issue? Will he speak with the Minister for Education and Skills and is he prepared to come back to the Dáil with a proposal to address unfair discrimination against a group of children with Down's syndrome?


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