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Written Answers. - Autism Services.

Wednesday, 6 February 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 547 No. 4

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 217. Mr. Noonan Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan  asked the Minister for Education and Science Information on Michael Woods Zoom on Michael Woods  if, under current Department of Education guidelines, all children who are autistic or who have severe and profound difficulties are now centralised in specialist classrooms in special schools around the country where they will have classroom assistants; if this in practice means that children with these difficulties are being moved into classes without necessarily wanting to be moved into these classes; his views on whether some classes without children with severe and profound difficulties or autism also require classroom assistants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3715/02]

Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): Information on Michael Woods Zoom on Michael Woods Students with special needs up to the age of 18 years have a constitutional entitlement to special education services to enable them to reach their potential.

Students who have been assessed as having the disabilities referred to by the Deputy have access to a variety of special support services. The services range from special schools dedicated to particular disability groups, special classes/units attached to mainstream schools and placement on an integrated basis in mainstream schools with special back-up supports.

A classroom teacher and two special needs assistants are allocated for each group of up to six pupils with autism or severe/profound general learning disability. Additional special needs assistant support may be provided depending on the student's assessed need. These groupings also attract special rates of capitation funding and are entitled to avail of the special school transport service and the school bus escort service. The school year also extends through the month of July for each of these disability groups.

The organisation of this support within the school setting is a matter for the management of the school, having considered the needs of each individual pupil. The advice of my Department's inspectorate is available to schools when arranging these supports if required.

Special needs assistants are provided specifically to assist in the care of pupils with disabilities. The allocation of special needs assistant posts is based on the assessed level of need of each pupil. These posts are allocated either on a full-or part-time basis across a range of disabilities. There are currently in excess of 3,000 special needs assistant posts, including full-time equivalents, in place at primary level. Their duties are of a non-teaching nature. Individual pupils with a general learning disability would not typically require the services of a special needs assistant. Pupils assessed as requiring additional academic input may benefit from learning support or resource teaching provision and it is open to schools to apply to my Department for such support.

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