Fears for future of children with autism
Families of children with autism have expressed fear that spending cuts and the lack of appropriate school places are resulting in many young people failing to reach their full potential.
This follows a report in yesterday’s Irish Times regarding an 11-year-old boy with autism, Luca Boucher-Murphy, who has not received appropriate therapy or education from the State for at least six months.
His mother, Gayle Murphy, said the only option available from the Health Service Executive was a centre which did not meet his needs and where he ended up harming himself.
Shine, an autism charity, said a growing number of children were being made to fit services not appropriate to their needs.
The group’s chief executive, Kieran Kennedy, said many parents were left with little choice but to accept whatever places were available, even if they did not meet their children’s assessed needs.
“The result . . . is that placements are breaking down because they don’t meet the needs of children,” he said.
“For the first time in 15 years, I’m dealing with kids with autism who have been thrown out of primary schools and on to the scrapheap because their behavioural problems aren’t being dealt with.”
Another group, Irish Autism Action, said demand for emergency support to deal with children who have lost their school places as a result of behavioural problems was growing. The group’s chief executive, Kevin Whelan, says access to high-quality services still depended too much on where families lived. “The traditional service providers in the area of disability – their experience has been for intellectual disabled. Now, they’re being asked to provide services for people with autism. It can be very difficult to do both.”
The Department of Education maintains significant progress has been made in dealing with autism and that 15 per cent of its entire budget – about €1.3 billion – was spent supporting children with special needs last year.
“The provision for 2012 shows that despite the current economic difficulties, the overall level of funding for special education has been retained,” it said, in a statement.