Written answers

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Department of Education and Skills

Autism Support Services

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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78. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the schools in Galway city with a dedicated autistic unit; the services available in each unit; the schools that have as part of this service dedicated early intervention services for children under six years of age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52592/18]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs, in county order, are available on the NCSE website at the following link:


The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for the establishment of special class and special school placements in various geographical areas where there is an identified need, in consultation with the relevant education partners and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The NCSE is aware of emerging need from year to year, and where special class or special school provision is required, it is planned and established to meet that need.

There are 88 special classes attached to mainstream schools in Galway City and County. Of these, 3 are ASD early intervention classes, 35 are primary ASD classes and 22 are post primary ASD classes. The number of ASD special classes in Galway has increased from 17 in 2011/2012 to 60 in 2018/2019.

While it is not always possible or practical that a special class placement would be available in the child’s local school, the NCSE has informed the Department that, in general, they are satisfied that there are sufficient ASD special class placements to meet existing demand in Galway.

Special classes for students with ASD are staffed with a pupil–teacher ratio of 6:1 at primary level (including early intervention classes) and 6:1.5 at post primary level, and also have a minimum of two SNAs for every class of 6 children.

My Department's policy is to provide for the inclusive education of children with special educational needs, including Autism (ASD), in mainstream school settings, unless such a placement would not be in the best interests of the child concerned, or the children with whom they will be educated.

ASD Early Intervention special classes are available for children aged 3-5 with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Early intervention classes are intended to provide early support for children with ASD before they start school. Following early intervention, children will attend a mainstream class unless there is professional guidance that they require a special class or a placement in a special school.

The greater proportion of children with ASD attend mainstream class, where they may access additional supports if required.

Some students with ASD, although academically able to access the curriculum in mainstream, may find it too difficult to manage full-time placement there and placement in an ASD special class should be considered.

Special classes are part of a continuum of educational provision that enables students with more complex special educational needs to be educated, in smaller class groups, within their local mainstream schools. They offer a supportive learning environment to students who are unable to access the curriculum in a mainstream class, even with support, for most or all of their school day.

Students enrolled in special classes should be included in mainstream classes to the greatest extent possible, in line with their abilities.

Special school placements are provided for other students with ASD and very complex special needs who wouldn’t manage in a mainstream school even for part of the week. Enrolment of a child in a special school is based on a professional assessment in consultation with the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).

The Department is aware that the establishment of special provision in some schools and communities can be challenging. The Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 will assist in addressing this issue in areas where the NCSE is of the opinion that there is insufficient education provision for children with special educational needs.

Section 8 of the Act, which commenced Monday 3rd December 2018, will provide the Minister with a power, after a process of consultation with the NCSE, the board of management and the patron of the school, to compel a school to make additional provision for the education of children with special educational needs.


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