A CORK mother has called on the government to stop making excuses when it comes to providing autistic children with the support they need to gain a proper education.
Nicole Duggan, mother of four-year-old Riley, who has autism, said the country is letting her son and every other autistic child down.
A petition started by Ms Duggan, calling on government ministers to revamp the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) school support system in Ireland, has garnered almost 30,000 signatures in just over a month.
In an open letter on Facebook, Ms Duggan called on new Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh, to improve education in Ireland for autistic children, providing them with the places and education they deserve.
Riley cannot attend a mainstream school, due to his needs, and he needs more specialised care within an ASD specific unit, a fact recognised by an HSE multidisciplinary team.
“My son does not have a school place,” revealed Ms Duggan.
“Although his name has been put down for units all over Cork, no places are available.
“I have been in contact with 37 units in our county, who have ASD units,” she added.
“Out of those 37 units, there is not one place available for next year.” This is the case for families across Ireland, according to Ms Duggan.
Ms Duggan has called for the current schooling system in place for autistic children, both at Primary and Secondary level, to be overhauled.
“More special needs schools need to be opened,” she said.
“More ASD specific units need to be opened and all teachers, mainstream or special needs, need specific Autism training.”
Ms Duggan also called for more Special Needs Assistants to be provided for children who may be able to cope in mainstream education with the assistance of one.
“Our children have a right to the support in the classroom and it is about time the Irish Government started putting these supports in place,” she said.