Further to the encouragement of the Ombudsman for Children last year and mindful that greater clarity on my Department's policy on the education of children with autism would be useful for schools and parents, my Department is currently in the process of preparing a comprehensive statement of existing policy within the boundaries of one document. This process is ongoing.
My Department's policy on the education of children with Autism resides within the overall policies on the education of children with special educational needs. In the main these policies are non condition specific. In this context, the Autism policy, whether expressed in a multiple of documents or in a single document, should not be viewed as a separate 'stand alone' policy. The new policy statement will not be exclusive. Policies are subject of necessity to change from time to time. Also, the new statement will neither alter nor add to existing policy. It will reflect the current policy in a coherent and articulate manner for the benefit of schools and parents. My Department is conscious of the need to adapt existing policies and to develop new policies as new research or learning becomes available. The National Council for Special Education has a formal role under Section 20.1(j) of EPSEN to advise the Minister 'in relation to any matter relating to the education of children and others with disabilities'. I have now requested the NCSE to prepare Policy Advice on the Educational Provision for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The NCSE have commissioned research which will not be finalised until mid to late 2014 and I expect that this research will inform much of the work in preparing the policy advice. Accordingly it is not expected that the report will be finalised until early 2015.