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COMMENT: Children with autism deserve a local education

Monday, 24th April, 2017 7:55am
COMMENT: Children with autism deserve a local education
COMMENT: Children with autism deserve a local educationView More Images

By Judith Clarke

WITH knowledge of an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) unit/class in my local primary school, I know firsthand the great work the staff there do to support children with autism.

I know there is a huge problem with the lack of places in ASD units/classes in schools. In my opinion, there should be at least one such class in every school around the country. 

My husband and I started a petition calling for this because education and inclusion is so important for children with autism and mainstream classes aren't always suitable.

There are approximately one in 65 children being diagnosed with autism at the moment. 

The waiting lists for ASD units are long and there are not enough places to meet the demand with the number of children being diagnosed rising. 

Parents of children with autism have the added stress of trying to secure a suitable place in school for them, along with long waiting lists for early intervention services in the HSE.

These units are desperately needed now. There are parents who have to drive to a school miles away from their home to another town, across their county or to another county to access a school with a unit. They may also have other children who are in the local school. 

There are also parents whose children are currently out of school due to the lack of a suitable placement and others with children who have left school early. 

I know of a parent in Dublin whose child has been declined a place in eight ASD units/special classes for this coming September.

In the recent programme 'Autism and Me', it was revealed that up to 80 per cent of adults with autism are unemployed. 

Maybe if there were proper early intervention services and education this wouldn't be the case and there would be less of a burden to the State later on.

Children who are lucky enough to get a place in an ASD unit can really benefit and make great progress. They learn at their own pace, in a much smaller class, and get more one on one attention in an environment that suits their needs. 

Some units have access to a sensory room and children can also integrate with mainstream classes, where possible.

All schools should have this resource and receive the funding they need to provide it. Children with autism should get to have an education in their own local school, like everyone else, where they can make friends and not be excluded because they have a condition. 

Judith Clarke and Shane Dunphy’s petition can be found here.

Comment: Judith Clarke

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