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Autistic children repeatedly failed by education system, survey reveals – Kathleen Funchion TD

9 April, 2019 - by Kathleen Funchion TD

Commenting today on the nation-wide survey on ‘school absence and withdrawal in Ireland’s Autism community’ conducted by the autism advocacy group AsIAm between the 30thJanuary and 20thFebruary, Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson for Education and Skills Kathleen Funchion said that the survey which showed that there is a significant number of children who do not attend school at all due to being autistic, was incredibly alarming in its findings.

Deputy Funchion said:

“The findings of Invisible Children: Survey on School Absence and Withdrawal in the Autism Community are incredibly alarming. It is a national scandal that the right to an education is out of reach for so many autistic children at primary and secondary level.

“What is very clear is that policy advice given by the NCSE according to research done in 2017 does not give an accurate picture of the needs of autistic children.

“We see that many students have a school place in theory and appear on the roll book.  However, a large number of these children are reduced to a partial school day by the school they attend.

"These children are also frequently suspended or expelled completely due to negative behaviour which is often the result of the child not receiving the appropriate level of supports needed.

“This creates a vicious cycle where a child’s anxiety is further compounded and ultimately leads to that child simply not attending school. The State is failing these children.

“The survey also shows that access to school places for autistic children was one of the main barriers to education. 35% of those surveyed said that their family had applies to anywhere between four and seven different schools whilst seeking a place for their child. A shocking 54% said that a lack of school places was the biggest barrier of all.

“The figures speak for themselves. The education system is broken for a disconcerting number of autistic children and their families.

"In order to fix this, the Minister for Education need to recognise the issues in front of him, review previous policy advice and as a matter of urgency agree to set out an alternative plan with the NCSE that will ensure every autistic child has a suitable school place for this coming September 2019.”

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