RECOMMENDATIONS to the Government that schools be required by law to set up autism spectrum disorder (ASD) classes have been enthusiastically welcomed by a Cork ASD programme co-ordinator.
In recent months, Graham Manning, who runs an ASD programme in the city, has been campaigning for the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) to be given the authority to demand schools set up ASD classes where there is a need.
The Oireachtas Committee on Education has now published its list of recommendations for Government, including that the NCSE be given more powers to compel schools to have ASD classes.
“I enthusiastically welcome the recommendation, however, there is a worry the government won’t act on it,” Mr Manning told the Evening Echo.
Currently, secondary schools can refuse to accept a student with ASD despite repeated requests from desperate parents, teachers and other special needs organisers.
This has lead to a chronic shortage of places for students with ASD, Mr Manning said.
In its recommendation, the Committee found that children with special needs are being discriminated against, as they are turned away from schools due to the lack of facilities.
“It is imperative that the NCSE be given the statutory power to require schools to establish an autism or special needs class where they identify the need of any such child. It is also imperative that the NCSE be given the ability to require schools to provide all necessary resources for the admission of any such child,” the report states.
The recommendations regarding special classes couldn’t be clearer, according to Mr Manning.
“But then again the NCSE has had the same recommendation in place for years and previous governments have seen fit to ignore them.
“There’s nothing binding in this report so my fear would be that Fine Gael will again ignore the recommendations and refuse to end the current state-sanctioned discrimination against students with ASD and indeed all those with special needs,” he added.
However, the Education Committee did feature three members of Fine Gael, Mr Manning said, adding that he is hopeful this will carry some weight.
“The Government have ignored this recommendation for years, the only difference now is that three members of their own party support it.”