Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Mentally Retarded Children.

Mr. A. Byrne

asked the Minister for Education if he will state when it is likely that there will be sufficient accommodation and treatment for mentally retarded children and children described as backward whose health, education and progress is being retarded through inattention and failure to provide the treatment that would make them healthy and capable of absorbing education and engaging in useful occupations.

The whole position in regard to the provision of educational facilities for the various groups of mentally retarded and backward children is at present under consideration in my Department. These groups include children whose mental retardment may be due to physical causes, for example, the blind, deaf and dumb and those suffering from epilepsy, cerebral palsy or orthopædic diseases. I am not yet in a position to state when it is likely that accommodation and treatment for all these groups can be made available, as, apart from the question of the provision of accommodation, serious difficulties arise in the matter of the recruitment and training of suitable teachers for the specialised work of the instruction and care of these children. I may say, however, that during the past year or two some noteworthy advances have been made by the religious communities and other bodies who have undertaken the care and training of these groups and that considerable financial aid has been providedfor them by way of teachers' salaries and other grants from public funds to assist them in their work. Improved staffing arrangements have been sanctioned for the schools for the blind and for the deaf and dumb; a new school has been established for boys at the colony for epileptics at Mulhuddart; and a new day school for children suffering from cerebral palsy has been provided in temporary premises in Dublin. For some time past, also, schools have been provided in connection with the orthopaedic hospitals and convalescent homes for children whose normal mental development has been impeded by long periods of illness.

As regards the ordinary backward children, it has been found possible in many of the larger schools in the cities to adopt a systematic grading of classes which allows the various groups to progress uniformly in relation to their ability and mental development.

Last year, an experimental class was established in the Central Model Boys' School, Dublin, consisting of backward boys from a number of neighbouring schools. I am watching carefully the result of this experiment, with a view to its extension to other groups of schools in the near future.

As regards the group of persons, including children, who by reason of incomplete development of mind are ineducable and are in need of special institutional care and supervision, I am aware that the Department of Health is giving active consideration to the question of improved provision for these classes.

Mr. A. Byrne

Is the Minister aware that it is about one and a half years since he gave me an almost similar reply? As every Deputy who has been asked to get a child, who cannot assimilate education in the ordinary way, into one of these institutions knows, it is now more difficult than ever to get such a child into an institution. Would the Minister do something to speed up the provision of accommodation so as to give the parents of such children the opportunity that I know he is most anxious to give them, of providing for their education?

As I have pointed out, we are making considerable progress and as time goes on greater facilities are being provided for cases of this type.