Patrick Costello TD raises a topical debate with the Minister regarding autism spectrum disorder schooling in Dublin.
Full speech transcript:
I will concentrate on Dublin 12 in my constituency but many of the issues impact on the constituencies that border our constituencies. The Minister has been in the House before to hear me speak about Scoil Colm, which will now be opened as Our Lady of Hope as a special school. That has given some hope to parents. However, there is still an under-supply of special schools which is pushing more and more children into special autism spectrum disorder, ASD, classes. We hear of reports being written stating a child needs a special class – not a special school – because there is no special school available. Ultimately, the children are losing out because they are not getting the correct educational placement they need. Children who should be in a special school are not getting a special school; their need for one is not being registered and they are taking up spaces in special classes, creating overly long waiting lists. In Dublin 12 there is an added burden because established schools in Dublin 4 and Dublin 6 are not being forced to provide ASD classes, as other schools have been by the Department. There are children in Dublin 4 and Dublin 6 who are completely under-supplied with ASD special classes being pushed into Dublin 12, increasing the waiting lists in Dublin 12 and then children from Dublin 12 are being pushed into Dublin 24. All the problems with school transport that we just heard about are affecting these kids as well. These are kids who need stability, predictability and special classes. The system as it is set up is not serving them and they are losing out.
I wanted to raise the similar issue of early years provision. I was saving it for my follow-up question. A family I am trying to do my best to support in my constituency faces a challenge with the Early Start programme, which is under the remit of the Department of Education. The family has a child with a diagnosis of ASD and they are being told there are no special needs assistants available under the Early Start programme. A child in the programme does not get a special needs assistant even if he or she has a diagnosis. That is not good enough. From where I stand, the collaboration the Minister spoke about does not seem to be working very well. There is a domino effect in that children are being bussed out of their own communities into others. The knock-on effect ultimately means that, because some areas are not providing or not being forced to provide the ASD classes they should be providing, other areas and children are suffering.