Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Crowe supports all-Ireland co-operation on Autism

18 January, 2007


Speaking after this morning's Joint Oireachtas Education Committee where PAPA (Parents and Professionals and Autism), an autism umbrella lobby group based in the Six Counties, gave a presentation, Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Seán Crowe TD further reinforced the party's backing for all-Ireland co-operation on Autism.

The Dublin South-West TD said: "My late Sinn Féin colleague Michael Ferguson MLA did a significant amount of work on the issue of autism and it was due to his efforts that PAPA made their presentation today. I hope that further all-Ireland co-operation will take place to ensure that Michael's efforts of securing rights and entitlements of children with autism will be carried on.

"We need legislation across the island of Ireland to ensure that services supporting those with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) are provided for. The rights and entitlements of children with an ASD should be enshrined in legislation, as it was in Sweden in 1993, to ensure that they receive a full and fair education and that they are assisted in developing their full potential. The scenario where parents have to battle the Department of Education in court to secure their children's educational rights is an extremely sad day and needs to become a relic of the past.

"We also need increased funding to ensure that the necessary resources are in place to provide early diagnosis and intervention, which is vital in improving the quality of life of those with autism and their families. Although autism can be identified by the age of three, sometimes younger, at present waiting times for assessment are totally unacceptable, with parents having to wait up to 35 months in the Six Counties. Governments are failing children with autism and their families.

"I also call on both the British and Irish governments and all stakeholders to ensure that the Middletown Autism Centre of Excellence in Armagh is operating as soon as possible. As Minister for Education in the Six Counties, Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness MP MLA was instrumental in this coming about. It should have been up and running lone before now and the bureaucratic wrangling that has delayed the project needs to end."

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