The Deputy will be aware of the Government's ongoing commitment to ensuring 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. This facilitates access to individualised education programmes, fully qualified professional teachers, special needs assistants and the appropriate school curriculum.
Many children with autism are fully integrated into mainstream classes. The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) provides additional resource teaching hours and special needs assistant support to schools in respect of fully integrated enrolled students with autism. However, some students with autism require further support in school. The establishment of a network of autism-specific special classes in schools across the country to cater for these children with autism has been a key educational priority in recent years. Autism specific classes are established with a staffing ratio of 1 teacher and a minimum of 2 Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) for every 6 children. Other SNAs may be allocated if required to meet the care needs of the children.
My Department supports provision in some 540 special classes for autism attached to mainstream and special schools and 18 special schools for children with autism throughout the State which cater for the educational needs of over 5,000 children with autism. These figures include103 classes for autism in Co. Dublin, details of which are available on the NCSE website. The NCSE will continue to establish more classes, as required.