Fine Gael National Press Office Press Release
Fine Gael National Press Office Press Statement
Sunday February 10th 2008
FF Govt's Grossly Misguided Autism Policy To Be Overhauled by FG Motion
In light of the Seán O'Cuanacháin case and the callous disregard with which the Fianna Fáil Government and the Minister for Education have treated parents of children with autism, Fine Gael will this week put forward a Private Members' Motion that will overhaul how children with autism are treated.
Fine Gael Education Spokesman, Brian Hayes TD, said today (Sunday) that the comprehensive motion will demand that the Government commit to funding the existing 12 ABA centres, expand the ABA scheme, institute an appeals system and make specific education services available to autistic children where it has been recommended by psychologists.
"As the last week has shown, under Fianna Fáil, when it comes to children with autism, the State seems more concerned with dragging parents through the courts rather than providing for their child's educational needs.
"In fact, the Education Minister's record in this area is so poor that the author of a Government taskforce report on autism described the Government's policies as 'grossly misguided'.
"For too long, the needs of children with autism have been shamefully overlooked and that is why, this week, Fine Gael will use our Private Members' Time to present a motion that will overhaul the entire sector. There is no greater example of this disregard for the needs of children with autism than the baffling neglect by the FF Government of Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA). The Minister for Education has refused to extend ABA beyond the 12 pilot centres that have already been established but the Fine Gael Motion will reverse this policy as well as ensuring that the existing centres are funded in the current format for the long term.
"There is no appeals mechanism currently in place leaving parents who look for justice for their child with no option but to go to courts. Fine Gael wants to see an appeals process set up without delay as well as implementing the outstanding provisions of the EPSEN Act and ensuring Speech and Language Therapy and Behavioural Therapy is made available to all schools with autistic children in attendance.
"So far, parents of children with autism have come up against a brick wall when trying to get the State to provide for the educational needs of their children. The Government now has an opportunity to change that and I urge each and every Government Deputy to vote for the Fine Gael Motion. It is the least these children deserve."
That Dáil Éireann;
- Accepting that the current system of assessment for children with autism is inadequate
- Noting the co-author of the report of the Government Taskforce on Autism has suggested the Department of Education's policy on education for autistic children is misguided
- Considering that the lack of a suitable appeals process leaves parents with no option other than to pursue education services for their children through the courts
- Acknowledging the Government's delay in implementing the EPSEN Act 2004 to provide appropriate education services for children with special needs
- Noting the Government's refusal to change its policy to consider funding for new ABA centres despite a clear demand for ABA services countrywide
- Considering the Government's failure to improve coordination between education and health services in supporting children with special needs despite promises in the Programme for Government 2007 to do so
Calls on the Government to;
- Lay any evidence before the House which supports the suggestion that the current system of education provision for autistic children is suitable for all children, even those with moderate to severe autism who have been recommended one-to-one tuition
- Introduce the outstanding provisions of the EPSEN Act 2004 according to the NCSE's proposed timescale for implementation
- Commit to funding the existing 12 ABA centres in their current format
- Expand the current ABA pilot scheme of 12 centres to accommodate other projects of a similar nature where they are needed
- Recognise the qualifications of psychologists currently working in ABA centres
- Honour its Programme for Government commitment and institute an appeals system without further delay
- Ensure Speech and Language Therapy and Behavioural Therapy is made available to all schools with autistic children in attendance
- Immediately move to enhance cooperation between the Department of Education and Health to ensure children with special needs receive adequate support in all aspects of their lives from an early age