The provision of education for children with special needs, including those with Autism, is an ongoing priority for Government.
Currently, almost 20% of the total Education Vote or €1.9bn is invested in supporting children with special needs.
Since 2011 investment in Special Education supports has increased by 50%, which is significantly above the 7% increase in total student numbers over the same period.
As a result the numbers of special education teachers, special needs assistants and special class and school places are at unprecedented levels.
The majority of children with Autism attend mainstream class, where they may access additional supports if required.
But some students may find it difficult to manage full-time placement in mainstream and so placement in a Special Class or Special School setting may be deemed appropriate where placement in mainstream class is not in the best interests of the child.
The NCSE has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide and has well established structures in place for engaging with schools and parents. Accordingly, my Department is not involved in the placement of individual children in school.
The Council ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.
Nationally, 167 new special classes opened this school year, which means there are 1,618 special classes in place, compared to 548 in 2011.
Of these 1,353 special classes cater for students diagnosed with ASD.
Provision in our 124 special schools has also increased from 6,848 placements in 2011 to 7,872 this year.
In Westmeath alone, there are 31 special classes and 4 Special Schools providing specialist support to children with more complex special educational needs.
The NCSE is planning a further expansion of special class and school places in Westmeath to meet identified need for next year. This process is ongoing.
The NCSE has informed the Department that, in general, they are satisfied that they have planned sufficient ASD post primary special class placements to meet identified need in Westmeath for next year.
I understand that the local Special Education Needs Organiser is working with the family and will continue to be available until a suitable placement has been secured.
As the matter raised by the Deputy refers to a particular child, I have arranged for the Deputy's question to be forwarded to the National Council for Special Education for their attention and direct reply.