It is the policy of my Department that all children with Special Educational Needs, including those with Autism, can have access to an education appropriate to their needs, preferably in school settings through the primary and post primary school network.
Such placements facilitate access to individualised education programmes which may draw from a range of appropriate educational interventions, delivered by fully qualified professional teachers, with the support of Special Needs Assistants and the appropriate school curriculum.
The greater proportion of children with Autism attend mainstream classes, but some require the environment of a special class or special school. This decision is based a recommendation contained within a professional assessment in consultation with the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).
Students enrolling in specialised placements must have a report from a relevant professional or team of professionals stating that:
- S/he has a disability (in line with the designation of the special placement in question) and
- S/he has significant learning needs that require the support of a specialised setting and the reasons why this is the case.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has a statutory function to plan and co-ordinate the provision of education and support services to children with special educational needs including Autism, in consultation with the relevant education partners and the Health Service Executive (HSE). This includes the establishment of special class and special school placements in various geographical areas where there is an identified need.
Since 2011, the NCSE has increased the number of special classes from 548 in 2011 to 1,459 across the country now, of which 1,196 are Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) special classes. Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs are available by county on the NCSE website www.ncse.ie.
In Co. Kildare, there are currently 4 special schools and 75 special classes in mainstream schools, including 6 ASD Early Intervention classes, 46 primary ASD classes and 15 ASD post primary ASD classes.
The NCSE has informed my Department that they intend to establish approx. 160 new ASD Special Classes nationally for 2019/20 school year to meet currently identified need.
In order to identify need in the area for forthcoming school years, the NCSE refer to professional reports indicating students require the support of a special class. In this regard Parents/Guardians of students with ASD seeking a special class placement should provide the relevant professional report to their local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) to inform the planning process.
Parents/guardians who may need advice or are experiencing difficulties in locating a school placement should contact their local SENO who can assist in identifying an appropriate educational placement for their child. Contact details are available on www.ncse.ie .
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) published transitional guidelines for children with special needs. These wide-ranging and comprehensive guidelines provide advice and tips for parents, students and schools covering the transitions between all stages of education, including the transition from primary to post-primary - Guidelines on Moving from Primary to Post-Primary School. These Guidelines are available at www.ncse.ie.