Tuesday, 4 November 2008
Department of Education and Science
Special Educational Needs
Question 136: To ask the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools awaiting resources to meet the requirements of children with autism; when it is expected that these requirements will be met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38230/08]
Question 556: To ask the Minister for Education and Science the extra resources he proposes to make available for children with autism in mainstream education in 2008 or in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38534/08]
Question 557: To ask the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to promises made in the course of the 2007 general election in relation to the provision of resources for teaching of children with autism or Asperger's syndrome; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38535/08]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 136, 556 and 557 together.
The Deputy will be aware of the Government's commitment to ensuring that all children with special educational needs, 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, special needs assistants and the appropriate school curriculum.
The establishment of a 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 330 classes have now been approved around the country at primary and post primary level, including many in special schools. The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) will continue to establish more classes as required.
Children in these classes benefit from having a reduced pupil-teacher ratio of 6:1; fully-qualified teachers who have access to training in a range of autism-specific interventions, including Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA), the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) and the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) and there is a minimum of 2 special needs assistants in each class. These students have the option, where appropriate, of full/partial integration and interaction with other pupils. Funding is also provided for assistive technology and specialist equipment as required and special school transport arrangements may also be put in place. My Department has put in place a training programme for teachers in autism-specific interventions including TEACCH, PECS and ABA through the Special Education Support Service.
The Deputy will also be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools to support children with autism. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.
All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.