Dáil Éireann - Volume 536 - 10 May, 2001

Written Answers - Special Educational Needs.

[180] 156. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science when the review regarding salary and conditions applicable to special needs classroom assistants who are employed in second level schools will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13347/01]

Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): I expect the review referred to by the Deputy will be completed by mid-June. I will inform him of the outcome.

157. Mr. Creed asked the Minister for Education and Science if it is appropriate for existing service providers in the area of education for autistic children to be involved in the evaluation of alternative methods; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13348/01]

158. Mr. Creed asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has satisfied himself that the CABAS method of teaching autistic children can be adequately considered and assessed in view of the terms of reference and professional representation of the Government Task Force on Autism; and when this report is expected. [13349/01]

159. Mr. Creed asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in view of the work being carried out by the CABAS project in Cork for autistic children, which is quantifiable in respect of each child's progress, he will approve this project as a permanent service provided for autistic children; if he will provide the necessary financial resources to enable increased enrolments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13350/01]

Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): I propose to take Questions Nos. 157 to 159, inclusive, together.

The Task Force on Autism is comprised of people with a wide range of expertise and experience in the education of children with autism. The task force has also had the benefit of presentations from experts in the field of autism from the United States and Northern Ireland. In addition, the task force has received and considered more than 100 submissions from interested parties.

I understand the task force expects to hold its final meetings during this month and to present its report shortly thereafter.

The remit of the task force was to review the adequacy of the current range of educational responses to children with autism, including responses based on the applied behavioural analysis method, and to make recommendations on the future development of services for the children in question.

My Department has engaged the UK based National Foundation for Educational Research to carry out an independent evaluation of all current [181] State funded models of response to children with autism. The evaluation will include school based models in special and integrated settings, models using the applied behavioural analysis approach and cases involving home based tuition. The foundation has now commenced its work and will be contacting the facilities involved over the coming weeks. The foundation expects to present its report in October, 2001.

The CABAS facility was established in 1998 as a five year pilot programme to test the appropriateness and effectiveness of the CABAS approach to the education of children with autism. It is intended that the operation of this facility will be included in the evaluation being carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research. In the meantime, my Department has agreed to provide additional funding to facilitate a limited expansion of the CABAS project. Efforts to locate suitable accommodation for this expansion are continuing.