I wish to advise the Deputy that the following special classes are currently operating in mainstream primary schools in County Kildare: ten classes for children with autistic spectrum disorder operating at a pupil teacher ratio of 6:1; six classes for children with mild general learning disability, MGLD, operating at a pupil teacher ratio of 11:1; and seven classes for children with severe profound general learning disability operating at a pupil teacher ratio of 6:1.
In addition, there is one special school for pupils with MGLD and two special schools for pupils with moderate general learning disabilities catering for approximately 165 pupils.
My Department also provides funding for the Saplings Project, a facility sanctioned on a pilot basis which uses applied behavioural analysis methodologies for children with autism. Some 30 children are currently enrolled in the facility.
In general, applications for enrolment in primary schools are made directly to the boards of management by parents without reference to my Department, so the number of places required is not available.
The Department allocates resource teacher posts and special needs assistant posts to second level schools and vocational educational committees to cater for pupils with special needs, including pupils with autism. Applications for such support are made to the Department by the relevant school authorities. Each application is considered on the basis of the professionally assessed needs of the pupil(s) in question and the nature and level of the support provided is based on the advice of the National Educational Psychological Service.
The Department is currently reviewing a range of possibilities for the development of appropriate models of support at second level for children with autism in the north Kildare/west Dublin area with a view to putting in place the necessary support services when required.