Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Questions (319)

Charlie McConalogue


319. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a psychologist employed by the Health Service Executive recommends that a child with autism receive early intensive behavioural intervention for a specified number of hours each week, his views on whether it is proper for a teacher to utilise his Department's preferred eclectic approach, which professional behavioural psychologists warn is incompatible with EIBI; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31745/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department's position is that as each child with autism is unique, they should have access to a range of different approaches to meet their individual needs. Applied Behavioural Analysis, or ABA, is one of the approaches used in special classes for children with autism. The use of ABA as part of the range of interventions is particularly useful for addressing behavioural issues. My Department supports the use of ABA and training is provided for teachers in its use. However, the Department does not accept, based on research, advice and best practice, that ABA should be the only approach used. While ABA helps to improve behaviour, other approaches, such as Treatment and Education of Autistic Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH), Picture Exchange Communications System (PECS) are just as important in developing children's communication and speech skills. It is important that children have access to a range of approaches so that their broader needs can be met. As children differ significantly from one another and as children's needs vary and change over time, it is not possible to impose a method or approach that will work for all children with autism. This child centred approach is based on advice received from international experts on autism, NEPS, the Inspectorate and the report of the Irish Task Force on Autism.

The Deputy may be interested to note that teachers in special schools have been using ABA principles for more than 25 years. ABA involves the systematic application, at any time during the child's day, of behavioural principles to modify behaviour. The effectiveness of behavioural interventions to improve the performance of children with autism and to ameliorate behavioural difficulties has been recognized for decades. To clarify the position regarding psychological assessment reports prepared by health service staff which identify a child's educational needs, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has provided guidance to their staff which clarifies that if a report prepared by HSE staff identifies a child's educational needs the report should not specify how the education sector should meet those needs.