March 11th, 2008 - abvadmin

Uimhir:399, 400

Ceist Pharlaiminte

Chun an Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíoctha

To the Minister for Education and Science

To ask the Minister for Education and Science her plans regarding the future of

applied behavioural analysis schools; if recognition for further ABA schools

will be permitted; the criteria that will apply; if funding will be made

available; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

– Pat Breen.

To ask the Minister for Education and Science if she will support the

development of a new ABA school in County Clare; and if she will make a

statement on the matter.

-Pat Breen.

* For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 11th March, 2008.

Reference Number: 10374/08, 10381/08


Minister for Education and Science (Mary Hanafin, T.D.)

I propose to take questions 399 & 400 together.

The Department of Education and the National Council for Special Education have

been working very hard to ensure that all autistic children have access to an

education that is appropriate to their own individual needs.

Whereas a few years ago, most parents of children with autism had no choice but

to send them to a special school, now they have three distinct choices

available to them. Their child can either attend a mainstream class in their

local school with additional supports as required, they can attend a special

class in a mainstream school or they can attend a special school. While some

children with autism can thrive in a mainstream class, special classes have

been specifically designed to meet the needs of those who require more

intensive support.

Children in these classes benefit from having fully-qualified teachers who have

access to training in a range of autism-specific interventions, including

Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA), the Treatment and Education of Autistic and

Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) and the Picture Exchange

Communication System (PECS). Teachers who are familiar with different methods,

can tailor these to the needs of the individual child, rather than being

limited by one approach. Children in mainstream schools also have the option

where appropriate of full/partial integration and interaction with other pupils.

In excess of 275 autism-specific classes have now been approved around the

country, 9 of which are in Clare, at primary and post primary level by my

Department in conjunction with National Council Special Education (NCSE), while

more are being set up as required. At primary level there are a maximum of six

children in each special class with a teacher and at least two special needs

assistants. Extra assistants are provided where the children need them on a

case by case basis. In addition, there are in the region of 2,100 children with

autism who are receiving additional teaching and/or special needs assistant

support in mainstream schools.

The Deputy will be aware that the Programme for Government commits to the

long-term funding for the centres that are currently in the ABA pilot

programme, subject to agreement with my Department on standards, including

qualifications, that will enable them to be supported as primary schools for

children with autism. I am pleased to advise that the issue is being actively

progressed and officials from my Department have met with the Irish Autism

Action group on several occasions to advance the matter.

My Department received an application from a group in Co. Clare to participate

in this pilot programme which was established in the absence of a network of

special classes that now exist in our schools. Given that this network of

special classes is now in place, there is now adequate provision for County

Clare. We are determined instead to ensure that each child has access to the

autism-specific education that is now being made available in schools

throughout the country.