Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 17 May 1989

Vol. 390 No. 2

Ceisteanna-Questions. Oral Answers. - Mentally Handicapped Children.


asked the Minister for Education if her attention has been drawn to the widespread desire on the part of parents of children suffering from Down's Syndrome that their children should be educated in ordinary classes within ordinary schools; and if she will support this development by assigning resource teachers.


asked the Minister for Education whether the primary review group is examining the possibility of integrating mildly handicapped children within the existing primary school structure in order to avoid the necessity for such children to attend at special schools and the need for resource teachers for such children.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 5 and 24 together.

The position is that all aspects of primary education, including the provision for children with mental handicap, are currently being considered by the Primary Education Review Body. The matters raised by the Deputies will be decided in the context of policy developments following consideration of the review body's report when it becomes available.

May I ask the Minister if she is aware of the coming together of groups of parents in this category in Kildare, north Dublin and south Dublin, all with the common ambition of seeing their children educated within ordinary classrooms in ordinary schools but with particular support? Is she aware that there is a particular urgency in saying "yes or no" to these groups in that in many instances their children are enrolled for September next?

I am so aware and I have had correspondence and informal meetings with people I have met at events who have expressed to me the wish that their children be integrated into ordinary national schools. I am also aware that there is a growing trend in Europe towards that development. The needs of people with particular disabilities can best be addressed within the normal school context. I am also aware that there still would be groups and children who unfortunately, for one reason or another, could not be so integrated and for whom there remains the need for special schools and special classes. It is obviously a question of balance and of being able to fulfil the very natural expectations of parents to have their children integrated. I have also had views expressed to me by parents whose children wish to remain in special schools and in special classes. It would be entirely unfair to everybody concerned in education to issue a blanket approval. The circumstances and the abilities of the children, the levels at which they have been assessed by the psychological and medical experts all fall to be taken into account in such decisions.

May I ask the Minister whether her attention has been drawn to a report on the performance of Down's Syndrome children indicating that children being educated in ordinary schools have performed up to the level of their age group? On the basis of what she has said — I accept that the same solution will not apply to every child—that where a clearly identifiable desire for this integration exists and where a group of parents have come together and have made an informed choice to that effect, she would be prepared to give her support? On that basis, would she agree to meet personally with the groups of parents involved?

Parents of Down's Syndrome children.

I would indeed be very glad to meet them. I would like to hear from them directly at first hand. What I have learned has been from reading and from meeting people informally at functions. I certainly would be pleased to meet with a group of parents of Down's Syndrome children.

Notwithstanding other commitments that might arise.

That is another matter.

Will you meet them this month?

That will depend on other events.

I want to deal with Deputy Quill's question. Question No. 6 please.