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Hyland Urges full implementation of All Ireland Centre for Autism

13 January, 2004

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education and Newry/Armagh MLA Davy Hyland has urged that the proposed centre of excellence for the treatment of children with Autism be implemented as soon as possible.

Mr Hyland said:

"Following the initiative taken by the then Education Ministers, Martin McGuinness and Dr. Michael Woods it was expected that a new centre of excellence for the treatment of children with Autism would open in the Autumn 2003. This was to be based in the former St. Joseph's Adolescent Training Centre in Middletown, Co. Armagh. This cross border facility was intended to be made available to children throughout the island of Ireland.

"In 2002 the Assembly passed a motion calling on the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to introduce a training programme for Health Visitors, School Nurses, Key Stage 1 and Nursery School Teachers to facilitate the early detection of autism and to make adequate provision in collaboration with the Department of Education to meet the needs of autistic children.

"Since then both Education departments North and South have been asked to implement suitable structures and facilities to improve a cross border exchange between pupils and teachers. As a result it is intended that an All Ireland Exchange Trust will begin in March 2004 to deal with special needs children with Autism. Complimentary Parent/Teacher CD ROMs /Videos and literature with information on Autism and Dyslexia will also be launched in the near future. However at present there appears to be a reluctance on behalf of the northern Education department to implement this All Ireland initiative.

"Having discussed this with fellow MLAs at a meeting in Stormont on Tuesday I will be contacting Direct Rule Minister, Jane Kennedy to urge that she fully implements this much needed facility." ENDS

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