Fianna Fáil TD for Mayo Lisa Chambers says the findings of a new report on school autism services highlights the need for more resources for the sector.  The study, which was carried out for the National Council for Special Education, found that one in 65 students had an autism diagnosis.

Deputy Chambers commented, “This research is further evidence of the need to increase funding for autism and special needs services. There are around 14,000 children, diagnosed with the condition, in our schools and the services available are not up to scratch.

“Organisations like Western Care are playing a huge role in providing support services to people with autism and special needs across Mayo.  Their range of after school services, summer schemes and early childhood supports provide much needed help and reassurance to children with autism and their families.  Despite the effort from workers and volunteers in the organisation, the demand for these services far outstrips the availability.

“Unfortunately the supports provided by the State are not enough.  There are long backlogs for assessment in the first instance, and even when a child is diagnosed with autism, not all schools are equipped to cater for the complex needs of every student.  This needs to be addressed without delay.

“This report should act as a wake-up call for the Government about a possible service crisis.  We are already failing to cater for the needs of children in schools and this research reveals that there are more children with autism than had been previously estimated.

“I am calling on the Government, ahead of the October Budget, to put the needs of children with autism and special needs on its priority list.  We should be giving children the best possible opportunities and that requires proper investment in their education and health needs”.