Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin Mid-West, John Curran has expressed concern over the severe shortage of special classes available for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder at post primary school level in Dublin Mid-West.

There are currently 548 ASD classes at primary level and just 237 classes provided at post-primary, nationwide. There is also a severe shortage of ASD classes at pre-school level, with only 127 classes available.

“ASD classes within mainstream schools are critical for children with special educational needs. It is most important that these children are assisted to attend their local school in a specialised class with a lower pupil–teacher ratio,” added Deputy Curran.

“The shortage of ASD classes is now reaching crisis point and as a result, many children with autism are being denied their right to be educated in a mainstream school.

“In my own locality there are currently just two post-primary ASD classes; one in Pobail Scoil Iosolde, Palmerstown and the second in Kishogue Community College, Clonburris – a stark contrast compared to the eleven ASD Classes offered at primary-level in the same area.

“There are a significantly lower number of ASD classes available at primary level when compared to post-primary. This is a glaring inconsistency and the reality is that without providing a larger number of post-primary ASD classes to meet the special educational needs of children, many may not be able to attend their local mainstream secondary school with their peers.

“We are well versed on the benefits of early intervention for children, yet there is only one pre-school ASD class in Dublin Mid-West. This lack of early intervention ASD classes at pre-school level is a further matter of concern.

“The Minister must move to ensure that all schools are equipped and resourced to provide these classes where they are needed, and not leave it to a small number to cater for the needs of children with autism.

“Fianna Fáil is working on an amendment to the Education (Admissions to Schools) Bill, which is set to come before the Dáil at the end of January. The amendment would ensure that all children with special needs have access to a special class, if that is what is required for the individual child.

“Children with ASD are being failed by the State and a much greater sense of urgency is required to ensure these children can have access to a school place, which best suits their needs and will see their full potential realised”, concluded Deputy Curran.