I welcome the Minister. The matter I am raising has been raised by colleagues in the other House. It relates to the establishment of a CABAS unit for autistic children in Dublin. I know the Minister is aware of the ongoing situation, but I ask him to update the House regarding the reviews carried out and the ongoing monitoring of the comprehensive application of behaviour analysis to schooling, CABAS, project.
A significant number of people suffer from autism and I hope, following a review of the projects run up to now, the Minister will be able to provide extra facilities. I have been contacted by a number of people, including a close friend whose three and a half year old child is autistic, in this regard. The Minister has had other problems to deal with this year but the case for those who suffer from autism is meritorious and I hope there is support and sympathy in general to ensure appropriate resources are made available.
I have spoken to my colleague, Deputy Creed, our party spokesperson on education, regarding the provision of extra resources. The Minister is well aware more resources should, and I hope will, be made available. Apart from the need for resources, the case for further projects and schools is meritorious and I understand a location has been identified in Dublin. Unfortunately, autism sufferers do not comprise the biggest lobby group.
In the context of the review of the Cork project and ongoing research it is important to recognise various characteristics among autism sufferers. Some of the most common include avoiding eye contact; disinterest in people or play; unusual fears such as a fear of colour; inappropriate use of toys; resistance to learning; obsessive spinning of objects; lack of awareness of dangers; and ability to ignore loud sounds. There is positive evidence that a child with autism responds often dramatically to the stimulus of special education and training and in a suitable environment children and young adults can learn basic living skills which compensate, at least in part, for the problems they experience.
Experience has shown to date that such an environment is best provided by way of family-like community settings; special schools for children with autism; skill based training centres; organising staff to assist in the development of people with autism; and residential homes in family sized units. There is no simplistic solution to the problem such as throwing money at it but I am sure the Minister, given his wide experience, has met various groups and will respond positively to further representations.
Will the Minister outline progress on this issue? Will he give a commitment in principle to make the necessary resources available? There needs to be a follow-up to the Cork project. Given the large population in Dublin, is the Kilbarrack venture a definite runner? I hope the Minister will give a positive response despite the many applications he receives for resources in other areas. He could do with more resources similar to other Ministers but the case for autism sufferers is self-made. If he is unable to answer all the questions I have put, perhaps he will come back to me later.