Dáil Éireann - Volume 495 - 22 October, 1998

Written Answers - Special Educational Needs.

24. Ms Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will designate an officer to collate information in respect of children with special educational needs; and if he will monitor the number of these waiting for assessment and waiting for an appropriate service. [20690/98]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin): I am aware of the lack of adequate up-to-date data on children with special educational needs. My Department is currently considering possible measures to identify all the children in question, their locations and the range of special needs involved. A number of children with special educational needs will require referral for individual assessment by a psychologist. While there are some studies and estimates available on the nature and prevalence of children with such needs, there are no large scale data available in relation to some disability categories.

I recently launched the report of the planning group for the national educational psychological service. It is envisaged that implementation of this report, which I fully endorse, will commence in 1999. One of the recommendations in the report is that the national educational psychological service will be readily available to all students but will give priority to those with special educational needs. One of the first tasks of this new service will, therefore, be to liaise with all the agencies which provide psychological services to children in order to identify needs in the special education area and to collaborate in the development of comprehensive assessment services.

I would be anxious that every effort be made to respond to requests from schools for assistance to cater for children with special needs. However, unfortunately my capacity to respond in some situations is constrained by resource availability.