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Autism Professionals gather in Dublin for Special all-Ireland Conference

15 April, 2008


Around 400 delegates have attended a special North/South conference on autism in education at Dublin's Croke Park.

Sinn Féin Minister for Education Caitríona Ruane MLA addressed the special conference, that was officially opened by the Minister for Education and Science, Mary Hanafin TD. The conference, 'Education through the Spectrum' is being attended by experts and professionals as well as parents' representatives.

Minister Ruane highlighted the work under way in the North to improve the educational provision for children with special education needs.

The minister said:

"All children must be given the opportunity to access a quality education that meets their individual needs. The collaborative work that is going on between the two education departments has shown real successes and benefited children across this island. This conference is a unique opportunity for us to focus specifically on autism and learn from acknowledged experts. Together we can make a difference to the lives of many children."

The conference is being chaired by Dr Mitchell Fleming who is the current President of the Psychological Society of Ireland. There will be three key speakers: Dr Rita Jordan, Dr Ian McClure and Dr Patsy Daly - each speaking on a particular theme. The conference is jointly organised by the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Education.

Minister Ruane said:

"A further example of co-operation is the Middletown Centre for Autism project which is a joint initiative between my department and the Department of Education and Science. It aims to support the promotion of excellence in the development and harmonisation of education and allied services to children and young people with autistic spectrum disorders." Officials from both departments are continuing to work closely together to progress the development of the Middletown Centre for Autism.

Minister Ruane noted the increase in identified cases of children with ASD.

She said:

"We have seen an increase in the number of children identified as having Autism, with around 3,200 now known. One thing we are clear about is that any intervention is centred on the needs of the individual child after considering a range of possible treatments. I recognise and commend the work done in the autism units in mainstream schools and the intensive care offered by our special needs schools. " ENDS

Note to Editors

As well as the key speakers at the conference, there were a number of workshops held throughout the day:

Prof Rita Jordan - Interventions in Education and Care for young children with ASD. She introduced Dr Joanne Atkinson, ASD Specialist Teacher with the SE Education and Library Board's ASD Service

Frances Stewart, Coordinator of the Oakwood ASD Service, in the Belfast Education & Library Board, described the supports that she provides for children, parents and schools at the key periods of transition across the school stages.

Dr Ian Mc Clure - Relevance of evidence-based practice to ASD. He introduced Siobhán Kingston, Special Education Support Service and teacher in St. Gabriel's Special School, Cork.

Dr Brian Mc Clean - Positive Behaviour Support for people with Challenging Behaviours

Diana Seach - Smile, Interactive play for children with Autism

Irish Autism Action - Ken Kerr spoke on the role of applied behavioural analysis in the education of children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders in the ROI

Ros Blackburn - Living with Autism

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