Seanad debates

Friday, 27 June 2003

Adjournment Matters. - Services for Children with Autism.


10:30 am

Photo of Joanna TuffyJoanna Tuffy (Labour)
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I raise this matter in order to hear an update from the Minister on the situation in Lucan Educate Together national school. The issue has been raised with me by parents of children with autism who attend Lucan Educate Together national school. Music and art therapy has been provided for the children at the school and this initiative has been very successful.

Despite a shortage of therapists in this area the school has been successful in retaining the services of music and art therapists. This therapy was of great value to the students. However, funding has not been provided to allow the therapy to continue in the next school year. The school has provided all documentation necessary for the continuance of the required funding.

It is important that children with autism can be catered for in a mainstream national school, such as the Lucan Educate Together national school, rather than having to go outside their local area for their education. The school took this initiative and it is good that the Department has supported it. However, much more support is needed to make sure the resources are available for these classes. This is just one of the aspects involved.

Photo of Noel TreacyNoel Treacy (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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I am pleased that the Senator has given me the opportunity to outline to the House the Department of Education and Science's current position in respect of this issue.

There are two special classes for children with autistic spectrum disorders at Lucan Educate Together national school. These classes cater for 11 pupils. Each class has a class teacher and three special needs assistants. The school has applied to the Department of Education and Science for funding towards the continuation of specific therapies for the children in these classes. The therapies include art therapy, "Stretch and Grow"– a specially designed exercise and health programme – and music therapy. Therapists were recruited and therapies put into practice in the school before any official application was made to the Department for funding.

Additional information in support of the application for funding was submitted earlier this month by the school authorities to the special education section of the Department of Education and Science. General responsibility for the provision of therapy services is a matter for the health authorities and officials in the Department of Education and Science have contacted the Department of Health and Children to acquaint them with the proposal. The intention is that health authorities will address the matter and respond to the schools.

I assure the Senator that appropriate educational provision will continue to be made to enable the principal and staff of Lucan Educate Together national school to cater for the needs of all the children in the school, including those in the special classes.