THE Department of Education has confirmed that they have begun an assessment with all primary and post-primary schools in Ballincollig for the provision of an ASD unit.
A Department of Education spokesperson confirmed tothat engagements have begun with all primary and post-primary schools in Ballincollig.
“The National Council for Special Education has engaged with all primary and post-primary schools in Ballincollig regarding the establishment of special classes for students with autism.
“Engagement with schools has reached an advanced stage; any additional accommodation requirements are being identified and the majority of the schools in Ballincollig and its environs have committed to establishing special classes for students with autism. This will result in the provision of special class places for students entering the school system over a number of years.”
Cork City Councillor Colm Kelleher welcomed the news for the region which has a growing population.
"It is estimated that one in 65 children have ASD. Units have increased locally in recent years, but there remains no ASD unit in Ballincollig.
"We possess a significant population and we are now one of the major urban centres in the city. In contrast, there are four units in Carrigaline, which is a similar area in size to Ballincollig. There are also four units in Cobh, Glanmire and in Mallow. It is imperative that the needs of the children in the area who require these services are catered for,” he said.
The lack of an ASD unit in Ballincollig has represented a huge concern for the Fianna Fáil councillor who has fought valiantly for a unit to be established locally.
“I have been lobbying for this since I was first elected. I have conveyed my concerns to the Minister’s office and they have advised me that they have begun this assessment. It is good news. Hopefully, we can get an ASD unit attached to a school in Ballincollig,” he added.
Councillor Kelleher said that children within the Ballincollig hinterland are currently having to travel quite a distance to avail of their nearest ASD unit which is not an ideal solution.
“The nearest ASD unit to Ballincollig is Berrings which is approximately 12 kilometres away. There is also one in Goggins Hill which is a similar distance away. There are also units in Farran and Vicarstown. Of the four facilities, only two have early intervention classes for pre-school children in Berrings and Vicarstown. Each unit only has space for six children. There are already massive waiting lists within the catchment area.”
Cllr Kelleher said he is also looking for a more centralised hub going forward. “I also plan to explore the option of having a centralised hub provided by the HSE to take care of all the schools. At the moment schools are taken up the slack and teachers are going above and beyond the call of duty. SNA’s are often being asked to do something they shouldn’t be required to do,” he added.