- Children having to travel huge distances to have needs met
- Frustrating for schools and parents alike
Fianna Fáil TD for Clare Cathal Crowe is calling for an overhaul on the process by which ASD classes are approved for schools.
The existing policy means that a large number of schools are applying for classes and being turned down, because of an enrolment criteria – despite the need being clear for a class in these schools.
“Many schools across the county have been in contact with me saying that they’re having difficulty getting approval to open autism classes and this seems quite illogical at a time when diagnostics have improved significantly – and now far more children are being diagnosed with ASD,” said Deputy Crowe.
“When I began my teaching career in 2006, ASD classes were unheard of and children with additional needs generally had their needs met within a mainstream classroom, or a special school.
“Nowadays, many schools in our county have ASD classes where, in a fully tailored learning environment that can meet their sensory and learning needs, six children are taught by a teacher and supported by a Special Needs Assistant.
“A lot of schools in Clare have applied to have these classes on-site and so far many have been approved but in more recent times, the National Council for Special Education (NSCE) has insisted that an autism class must have a full enrolment of six pupils before a new autism class in a neighbouring school can be considered.
“I know of incidents in the county where there are four or five in an ASD class and for this reason, a school 20 minutes further away is having its application for a class disallowed.
“This policy is frustrating in the short-term but on a long-term basis will quickly become unworkable because, in order to fill a class, children and parents are being sent great distances from their home base each morning and once a class fills, local children – particularly those entering a school at Junior Infants – with a diagnoses of autism are unable to attend their local school because the ASD class there has already filled.
“The policy has led to a ridiculous scenario where children from Ennis are going 15km or more out to rural schools and children from Limerick are coming out to schools more than half an hour away from their home.
“Their needs are being superbly met but the insistence by the NCSE that a class of six must be filled before another can be considered is condemning so many people to unnecessary journeys each day.”