Written Answers. - Psychological Service.

Paul McGrath

Question:

1109 Mr. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of children assessed as dyslexic in County Westmeath; and the timescale which applies for an assessment procedure once a child is presented with suspected dyslexia. [20581/00]

The National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, provides a service to all post-primary schools in County Westmeath. Currently, NEPS does not provide a service to primary schools in County Westmeath and schools have been advised by the acting director of the National Educational Psychological Service, pending an expansion of the service to schools in the county, to send all referrals for psychological assessments to the relevant health board.

The NEPS is currently piloting a data base of client records which, when fully operational, will allow it to provide aggregate information of the type requested by the Deputy, in respect of pupils referred to the service. In the meantime, this information is not available to my Department.

Paul McGrath

Question:

1110 Mr. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the fact that costs incurred by parents of dyslexic children in counties where there are no services provided by State agencies in having their children privately assessed should be recouped by his Department. [20582/00]

I am aware that difficulties have arisen in some areas in relation to access to assessment services.

The National Educational Psychological Service, which is in the process of being developed on a nationwide basis, currently provides an assessment service to all second level schools and a limited number of primary schools. The intention is to achieve nationwide coverage at first and second level over a five year development period.

In areas where the National Educational Psychological Service is not yet available, responsibility for assessment services continues to rest with the relevant health board, through the director of community care.

In the meantime, I have asked my Department to consider, in collaboration with the relevant health authorities, how the problem to which the Deputy refers might be alleviated.

Paul McGrath

Question:

1111 Mr. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will provide the resources to ensure that the recommendations of a report are fully implemented when a professional assessment has been prepared on a dyslexic child. [20583/00]

The educational needs of primary pupils with specific learning disability, including children with dyslexia, are generally capable of being met within the ordinary school system, with the support where appropriate of the learning support service. Since the commencement of the 1999-2000 school year, the learning support service has been extended to every first and second level school in the country.

All fully qualified primary school teachers are trained to deal with a variety of reading problems, including those that are accompanied by perceptual difficulties. In addition, the special training programme for learning support teachers includes a module on specific learning disability. There are currently 1,478 learning support teachers in place in the primary sector.
Second level pupils with a specific learning disability are normally integrated into ordinary classes. In such situations they may receive additional tutorial support through the learning support, guidance counsellor and subject teachers. Depending on the degree of the condition, they may also be eligible for special arrangements in the certificate examinations.
Children of primary school age, whose condition is of a more serious nature, may attend their local primary school where they can be supported by the special resource teacher service. Arising from a Government decision of October 1998, all children with special needs within the primary system, including children with dyslexia, now have an automatic entitlement to a response to their needs.
Since this decision was taken, significant additional resource teachers and special needs assistants have been allocated to the primary system to support children with special needs, including those with specific learning disabilities.
For some children, the severity of their condition can be such that placement in a special school or in a special class attached to an ordinary school is the required response. There are four such special schools at present, three of these are located in the Dublin area and one in Cork.
Special classes can be established in ordinary primary schools to cater for children with specific learning disability where a need for such provision has been identified. There are twenty such classes in place at present and further classes will be established as required. A reduced pupil teacher ratio of 11:1 is applicable in all special facilities catering for the children in question.
In addition to the range of support services that are available to children with specific learning disabilities, including dyslexia, my Department is continuing to support the work carried out in this area by the Association for Children and Adults with Learning Disabilities. In the current year, an allocation of £50,000 will be made to that association.
I am satisfied that the range of special support services provided by my Department constitutes a very significant response to the educational needs of students with specific learning disabilities, including dyslexia.
I have recently established a task force on dyslexia, which will commence its work shortly. I want to make early progress in developing policies to assist children with dyslexia, and I have asked the task force to report within three months of commencement because I want to respond to its recommendations at an early stage.