Written answers

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Department of Education and Skills

Special Educational Needs

Photo of Denise MitchellDenise Mitchell (Dublin Bay North, Sinn Fein)
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78. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to review his Department's approach to applied behaviour analysis schooling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52385/17]

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin Bay North, Fine Gael)
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My Department's policy is to promote a child-centred approach to education of all children with special educational needs, including those with autism, in school settings.

Such placements facilitate access to individualised education programmes which may draw from a range of appropriate educational interventions, delivered by fully qualified professional teachers, with the support of Special Needs Assistants and the appropriate school curriculum.

My Department therefore provides for a continuum of provision which includes mainstream school placements with additional supports, or for pupils who require more specialist interventions, special class and special school placements.

As each child with autism is unique, they should have access to a range of different approaches to meet their individual needs. This facilitates access to individualised education programmes which can be supported by Special Needs Assistants and fully qualified professional teachers who may draw from a range of autism-specific interventions, including Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), Treatment and Education of Autistic Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) and Picture Exchange Communications System (PECS) as well as the appropriate school curriculum with the option, where possible, of full or partial integration and interaction with other pupils.

The use of ABA as part of the range of interventions may be particularly useful for addressing behavioural issues. My Department supports the use of ABA and training is provided for teachers in its use.

However, my Department does not accept, based on research, advice and best practice, that ABA should be the only approach used. While ABA may help to improve behaviour, other approaches, such as a number of those, to which I have referred, are just as important in developing children's communication and speech skills.

All recognised schools must operate in line with this policy. This policy has been informed by published research, including the Report of the Task Force on Autism (2001), the Evaluation of Educational Provision for Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) (2006) and the NCSE’s policy advice on Supporting Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (2016). I have no plans to further review this policy.


Frank L. Ludwig
Posted on 16 Dec 2017 10:58 am (Report this comment)

I don't suppose the department has consulted autistic adults who had ABA used against them when they were children. While there are many reasons not to subject an autistic child to ABA (see http://franklludwig.com/aba.html ), the main one is that it only addresses the behaviour itself and not the causes of that behaviour which can traumatise the child for life.

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