Dáil Éireann - Volume 526 - 15 November, 2000

Written Answers. - Special Educational Needs.

267. Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has carried out an assessment of the adequacy of the back up services to cater for the needs of children in a class (details supplied); the plans he has to remedy the shortfall; and if the growing body of litigation in this area requires greater urgency from official quarters in rectifying these shortfalls. [25912/00]

Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): I assume that the Deputy is referring to the two special classes for pupils with autism located in St. Helen's primary school in Portmarnock.

The school in question has two special classes for pupils with autism which were sanctioned by my Department in June of this year. Each class caters for a maximum of six pupils and has the support of a class teacher and a special needs assistant. The school authorities also receive enhanced capitation funding in respect of chil[270] dren enrolled in the special classes and funding is provided to meet special equipment needs.

I recently announced a range of measures to improve the level of service provided to children with autism. These measures included: a doubling of the level of special needs assistant support provided to each special class catering for children with autism, and the extension of the school year through the month of July in the case of all special facilities catering for children with autism.

As a result of these developments, arrangements are currently being made in my Department to provide two additional special needs assistant posts to the school in question.

In addition to receiving the necessary educational supports, children with autism can require a range of therapeutic support services. Such services are provided by the relevant health authority. In the case in question, an outreach support service is provided to the special classes in question by the relevant health authority.

I have asked my Department's inspectorate to make contact with the school in question to investigate the adequacy of the current range of supports provided to the children in question.