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. However my Department is conscious of the on-going need to adapt policies and to develop new policies as new research or learning becomes available.
As the Deputy is aware a key function of the National Council for Special Education, as set out under Section 20 of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004, is to provide expert, independent, evidence-informed policy advice on special education for children and adults.
In recent years the NCSE has provided policy advice to my Department on a range of issues including the Future Role of Special Schools and Classes in Ireland, the Education of Children who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing and the Education of Students with Challenging Behaviour Arising from an Emotional /Behavioural Disorder. In 2013 the NCSE published its policy advice on Supporting Students with Special Educational needs in Schools.
I previously advised the Deputy that I have now requested the NCSE to prepare Policy Advice on the Educational Provision for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The NCSE has advised that the policy advice will be delivered in the spring of 2015 and will draw upon findings gathered from an extensive consultation process which has already commenced. I expect that the NCSE final report will reflect the broadest possible range of views and provide recommendations which will assist the development of policy for future years.