Dáil Éireann - Volume 592 - 17 November, 2004

Written Answers. - Special Educational Needs.

  546. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that formalised Department of Education and Science-university partnerships be established to develop appropriate programmes for persons with ASDs; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29435/04]

  547. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that a visiting teacher service, similar to the visiting teacher service for children with impaired hearing and with a high level of very specialised training in [1282] the area of autistic spectrum disorders, be put in place for persons with ASDs; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29436/04]

  549. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that schools providing for persons with ASDs implement the statementing procedure and detailed individual education plans which respond to the needs of the child and provide for the education in the least restrictive setting; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29438/04]

  550. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that extreme caution be exercised when deciding who should be informed about the diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome, and that the dignity and decision of each person regarding disclosure or non-disclosure of disability status among peers be respected; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29439/04]

  551. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that the marginalised lifestyles and social isolation of those with ASDs be acknowledged through pro-active policies that promote social inclusion, positive mental health and community integration; that such strategies be prioritised and funded for late adolescents-adults with AS-HFA in the mainstream who are without a dedicated service provider and at risk of social isolation or depression though lack of social opportunities; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29440/04]

  552. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001, that the Department of Education and Science introduce behaviour support teams in each region to support the education of children with ASDs and additional behavioural difficulties; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which, if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29441/04]

[1283]   553. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that a range of suitable options be developed, so that students presenting with significant behavioural challenges will remain in a suitable educational programme, uninterrupted, while simultaneously supporting the staff who are charged with educating them; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which, if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29442/04]

  554. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that all persons diagnosed with AS-HFA have access to age-appropriate social, communication and life skills training programmes across the range of educational settings; that where diagnosis is made during adolescence-adulthood, intervention programmes, that is, peer support groups-social understanding initiatives should be implemented immediately; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29443/04]

  555. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that Garda and probation officers be aware of AS-HFA and respond to it sensitively; that it be a part of pre-service training at the Garda Síochána College, Templemore and part of in-service training in the probation department; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29444/04]

  556. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress which has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that special pre-school classes offer validated approaches of teaching children with an ASD; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29445/04]

  558. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that prescribed therapies and behaviour management support be made available, and delivered as agreed on the support plan of IEP, regardless of the location at which the child receives their education; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29447/04]

[1284]   559. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that formal reviews be conducted at least at this age; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29448/04]

  560. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that the NEPS be involved in collaboration with the relevant health board psychologist, in the placement and subsequent monitoring of children aged five years and under who have an ASD; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29449/04]

  561. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that independent evaluation research on pre-school programmes funded by her Department and, if relevant, by the Department of Health and Children, be conducted to inform future planning and provision; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29450/04]

  563. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that the function of special needs co-ordinator be assigned to a named teacher in each school; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29452/04]

  564. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that provision for children with ASDs ensure appropriate opportunities for meaningful integration and inclusion with their similarly aged peers and be written into the school plan; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed. [29453/04]

  567. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that a review of the progress and the individual education plan for each child with an ASD be carried out annually or at an appropriate request of a parent or teacher; if such a recommendation has [1285] been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29456/04]

  568. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that there be a full, independent, multi-disciplinary assessment to effect the smooth transfer of the children from the primary sector to the second level sector; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29457/04]

  569. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that children with ASDs in primary schools have full access to the curriculum of their similarly aged and ability peers, with appropriate modification, as identified by the relevant statement of need and individual education plan; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed. [29458/04]

  571. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that her Department inspectorate regulates and annually report on primary provision for children with ASDs; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed. [29460/04]

  572. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that schools review, at least annually and in the context of the school plan, their provision for children with an ASD in all aspects of the education of their child; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29461/04]

  573. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendations (details supplied) in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that research be carried out on methodologies and approaches, on the benefits of various clinical interventions, on the development of ASD-specific components of teacher and classroom assistant training, on curricular interventions, on inclusion in education for persons with ASDs, on strategies for successful mainstream education and that there be systematic evaluation of all pilot projects ; if such a recommendation has been carried out and the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be com[1286] pleted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29467/04]

  574. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendations (details supplied) in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that the Department of Education and Science make available a range of approaches and therapies to meet the unique needs of each students with an ASD, that such provision includes as appropriate, a choice/combination of home based, mainstream or specialist settings and the various core therapies of speech and language, occupational and behavioural therapy, and physiotherapy when specified; if such a recommendation has been carried out and the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29468/04]

  575. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendations (details supplied) in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that funding be made available for research into the effectiveness of various approaches and strategies used to support with ASDs including the specific curricular approaches to promote the academic potential and social and emotional progress of children with AS-HFS; if such a recommendation has been carried out and the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed. [29469/04]

  576. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendations (details supplied) in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that the Department of Education and Science issue a national ASD policy statement which will emphasise the primary of the principles of inclusion and the latest restrictive environment, and which will require schools to include a statement of provision and curriculum access and support for person with an ASD within the school plan; if such a recommendation has been carried out and the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29470/04]

  Ms Hanafin: I propose to take Questions Nos. 546, 547, 549 to 556, inclusive, 558 to 561, inclusive, 563, 564, 567 to 569, inclusive, and 571 to 576, inclusive, together.

The Deputy has tabled a number of questions in relation to individual recommendations in the report of the task force on autism. At the outset, I want to say that these recommendations provide an invaluable basis for the development of educational services and supports for persons with autism.

However, in responding to the recommendations, my Department has had to give priority to a number of key areas before detailed individual [1287] recommendations can be addressed. These key areas involve the implementation of the core legislative and structural measures required to underpin service development and delivery. This approach is critical to the implementation of many of the individual recommendations of the task force including those relating to assessment, parental involvement, service delivery, information dissemination, promotion of inclusion and co-ordination between health and education authorities.

With regard to legislation, the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 has now been enacted while, on the structural front, the National Council for Special Education has been established on a statutory basis. While these developments represent significant progress, a considerable amount of additional input is required before these measures can begin to have a positive impact on services for children with special educational needs, including those with autism.

Over the course of the coming months, I expect that significant progress will be made in this regard. Specifically, consideration will be given to the detailed measures required to enable the Act to be commenced. In addition, it is intended that the NCSE will assume operational status in the new year and a range of measures are in hand to ensure that this objective is realised.

These measures include comprehensive supported training for the council’s special educational needs organisers and the drawing up of detailed work protocols in relation to the various areas of work for which the council will assume responsibility.

This work will be carefully planned and executed over the coming months. It will address many of the recommendations of the task force. Other recommendations will be addressed over time in consultation with the council and other interested parties.

Question No. 547 answered with Question No. 546.

  548. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that the Department of Education and Science instruct and resource the in-career development section of the Department to prioritise the training of all staff involved in the education of students with ASDs to ensure their understanding of how the particular ASD and any accompanying disorder affects the student’s learning style; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29437/04]

  Ms Hanafin: At the outset, it is important to state [1288] that the existing full-time pre-service primary teacher training courses in the colleges of education contain appropriate elements to assist teachers in dealing with the full range of pupils, including those with special educational needs.

In addition, there are inputs to both the higher diploma in education and the education degree programmes in the University of Limerick, as part of a general alertness orientation programme, on the variety of pupils’ learning difficulties which teachers may encounter in the classroom.

In recent years my Department has adopted a strategy designed to greatly expand the provision of continuing professional development for personnel working with pupils with special educational needs, including those with autism. This training provision aims to provide development and support at individual teacher level, and, crucially, at whole school staff level.

In particular, it is the policy of my Department to provide for a range of additional and continuing professional development programmes to further enhance the skills of teachers working with pupils with special educational needs, including those with autism. The additional training provision is specifically designed to address the complex range and variety of training needs in this area.

In this regard, in consultation with the colleges of education, a major expansion in the range of postgraduate training for teachers in this area has been authorised. My Department is currently providing support for 160 places on a postgraduate diploma programme in special educational needs; 12 places on an applied behavioural analysis programme; 20 places on a postgraduate programme in autism; 16 places on a masters programme; and 160 on the postgraduate programme in learning support.

In September 2003, the establishment of the special education support service, which currently provides a range of training and support for teachers at local level, was authorised. This service is developing training teams which will further support teachers working with children with special educational needs in primary and post-primary schools. The number of places made available at postgraduate level and the overall inservice requirement in this area are kept under ongoing review.

Questions Nos. 549 to 556, inclusive, answered with Question No. 546.

  557. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that her Department provide the staff necessary to conduct home and school programmes, including intensive behavioural intervention in the locations and to the extent indicated; and that this be conducted in approach specific (details [1289] supplied) schools or classrooms; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed. [29446/04]

  Ms Hanafin: My Department is continuing to develop the network of special educational provision for children with autism. The extent of progress can be measured from the fact that, since 1998, when autism was first recognised as a distinct special educational need, the number of dedicated facilities that have been developed is as follows: eight pre-school classes for children with autism; 134 special classes for children with autism attached to special schools and mainstream schools; five special classes for children with Asperger’s syndrome; and eight autism facilities, some of which are providing an applied behavioural analysis model of response to children with autism.

Another major landmark in the development of autism specific services was the joint launch last month by my predecessor and the Minister with responsibility for Education in Northern Ireland of the Middletown Centre for Autism. This marked the successful completion of the purchase of the former St. Joseph’s Adolescent Centre, Middletown on behalf of the Department of Education in the North and the Department of Education and Science in the South. Both Departments plan to refurbish the property to meet the needs of a centre of excellence for children and young people with autism throughout the island of Ireland. The centre will be dedicated to improving and enriching the educational opportunities of children and young people with autistic spectrum disorders.

Four key services will be provided by the centre: a learning support service, on a residential basis; an educational assessment service; a training and advisory service, and an autism research and information service.

In addition, my Department may sanction home tuition grants for children with autism for whom a home-based ABA programme is considered appropriate or in cases where such children are awaiting an appropriate school placement.

I believe that the steps taken in recent years and those currently in hand represent significant progress in the development of services for children with autism. However, I fully recognise that further progress is required and my Department in consultation with parents and existing service providers will seek to ensure that the recent rate of development is maintained.

Questions Nos. 558 to 561, inclusive, answered with Question No. 546.

Question No. 562 answered with Question No. 543.

[1290] Questions Nos. 563 and 564 answered with Question No. 546.

Question No. 565 answered with Question No. 543.

  566. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that special needs assistants be adequately trained and remunerated; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29455/04]

  Ms Hanafin: My Department has established a special education support service, headquartered in the Laois education centre, to manage, co-ordinate and develop a range of supports in response to identified training needs for personnel, including special needs assistants, SNAs, who work with children with special educational needs, including children with autism. SNA training is provided in accordance with the priorities and overall demands of the system. Particular needs, for example, those of children with autism, are taken into account in establishing the relevant priorities.

A general training course for SNAs has also been put in place by the teacher education section of my Department, in conjunction with three colleges of education and the network of education centres. Some 20 hours of training are provided for SNAs, through their local education centres. Linked with this training is the option for the SNAs, in consultation with the individual colleges, to continue the training to certification level. To date, a significant number of SNAs have participated in these initial courses and priority has been given to those who have not previously had training in this area of work.

Revised pay arrangements for regular part-time special need assistants employed in the 2004 to 2005 school year in primary schools were introduced recently. Part-time special needs assistants who are employed for a regular number of hours each week over the course of the full school year are now being paid at the appropriate revised hourly rate for each hour worked with effect from 1 September 2004. The details of the revised rates were issued in circular pay 21/04. Special needs assistants employed in infant classes for the full duration of the infant school day are now paid for 27 hours per week at the appropriate hourly rate subject to verification by the board of management of the school.

Circular pay SNA 18/04, outlining the terms of the brief absences available to special needs assistants, issued to boards of management of primary schools in August 2004. Superannuation arrangements were agreed for special needs [1291] assistants in April 2004 and the appropriate deductions are made from salary on an ongoing basis. It is proposed to introduce a payroll operated by my Department for the payment of special needs assistants employed in secondary and community or comprehensive schools in the near future.

Questions Nos. 567 to 569, inclusive, answered with Question No. 546.