Almost 90 children with autism in a single Dublin postal district have no school place available for them next September.
While they have all been diagnosed as requiring places in special classes or special schools in Dublin 15, there are no places available in the area.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), which was established to improve services for children with additional needs, has confirmed there are "particular pressures" in the west Dublin area.
However, parents in the area and other parts of the capital say they have been campaigning to highlight acute shortages for the past three years.
Problems with accessing appropriate education extend well beyond the area, though there are no official figures.
The autism charity AsIAm estimates that well in excess of 300 children with autism nationally are being excluded from the education system, based on recent surveys.
Síle Parsons, spokeswoman for the ASD 15 group – which represents parents in Dublin 15 – says children with autism who are due to start school in September have been turned away from dozens of schools and are being denied their right to education.
In addition, older children have been either expelled from mainstream schools or are on reduced hours timetables. Others are in receipt of limited home tuition, while some are travelling up to 60km a day to access schools outside their home area.
“All of these children deserve an appropriate school placement within their own community – that is true integration and inclusion,” Ms Parsons says.
“Autistic children learn differently; they require teachers who understand them, for those teachers to have supports; they need more sensory friendly environments and visual aids.”
The NCSE says it has been seeking additional places from schools but relies on their willingness to open special classes or to take on additional special school provision.
“Last month, the NCSE wrote to the Minister for Education to advise that we were not of the opinion that sufficient schools will response voluntarily to meet demand,” a spokesman said.
“This letter initiated the formal steps set out under the Education (Admissions to School) Act 2018, which ultimately gives the Minister for Education the power to direct a school to open additional places.”
The spokesman says the NCSE is “very disappointed” it has to take this step, despite every effort being made to work with schools to try to open additional places.
It estimates a total of eight special classes, for up to 48 pupils, and seven special school classes, for up to 40 children, will be needed to meet anticipated demand in the area.
The spokesman says the NCSE is working closely with the Department of Education, school patron bodies and managers to seek to meet demand.
The ASD 15 group is campaigning for an autism-specific special school to be established in the area to help meet demand.
It says it has secured a patron body and land and just requires the green light from the Department of Education for funding.
At a recent meeting in Dublin 15, a representative of the Daughter's of Charity Disability Support Service said the situation facing vulnerable children in the area had reached "crisis" levels.
Helen Connaughton, a senior educational psychologist with the organisation, said the placement of children with complex needs in mainstream schools was highly inappropriate.
“Most are non-verbal, many have significant sensory impairments, additional diagnosis of ADHD, anxiety and some have medical conditions such as epilepsy,” she said.
Because the environment and curriculum is not designed to meet their needs, she said these children often experience school as a stressful, unpredictable place.