Give Autistic children the education they deserve. Revamp the ASD school system in Ireland
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My name is Nicole Duggan, and I am a mom to an amazing little boy named Riley. Riley is almost 5 years old and is an amazing little boy. With the age that he is you would think we would be starting to gear up to him starting primary school next September, beginning his many years of education. You would think we would be attending open nights, trying to decide where he will attend. Where I will pick for him to start school. You would think I would have a plan in place for my son having put his name down for school at 3 months old.
You would think these things.
But you see when my son was 2 years and 9 months he was diagnosed with Autism. Riley is non-verbal. He has a lot of sensory issues. He suffers with anxiety and at almost 5 years old he is still not toilet trained.
Due to a diagnosis this country is letting my child and every other autistic child down. Riley cannot attend a mainstream school, due to his needs. He needs more specialised care. Riley needs a placement within an ASD specific unit, as stated by a multi disciplinary team in our health system, the HSE. Fair enough, you would think.
As of June 2019, my son does not have a school place. Although his name has been put down for units all over Cork, no places are available. I have been in contact with 37 units in our county, who have ASD units. Out of those 37 Units, there is not one place available for next year.
This is the case for so many children all over the country. As parents, we do not get to pick where our children go to school, we are expected to be happy if they get a place. We do not get to have the excitement of our children starting primary school, because we don't know if they will actually get a place. We spend our days ringing schools, ringing SENO's, ringing TD's and hoping that someone will have a positive answer for us. Those positive answers are rare.
The department of education's answer? Home tuition.
An answer I will not be accepting.
My son will NOT be home tutored.
This country thinks it is acceptable to remove our kids from a school setting and have them schooled at home, due to "lack of resources".
Our children who thrive on routine, are forced to be moved from pillar to post and are not a priority to our government.
The Irish Government think it is acceptable to deprive our children of the social aspect of school, something they so very much need. They think it is acceptable to deprive our children of being in a school setting, making friends, and finding their own bit of independence, by having them home schooled, this is not acceptable.
As a parent, it is heart breaking to think that our children are bottom of the pile. The government cannot tell a neurotypical child that they do not have a school place for them. Why is my child any different?
Autism makes them different, not less.
My child, and all other autistic children, have a right to an education.
They have a right to go to school.
They have a right to be included.
1 in 65 children in Ireland has a diagnosis of autism.
This is not a small number.
Something needs to change!
The schooling system in place for autistic children, both in Primary and Secondary level, needs to be overhauled.
More special needs schools need to be opened.
More ASD specific units need to be opened. All teachers, mainstream or special needs, need specific Autism training.
SNA's need to be made available for children who can cope in a mainstream class.
Our children have a right to the support in the classroom and it is about time the Irish Governement started putting these supports in place.
It is about time parents do not need to fight so hard to get what our children are entitled to.
Funding is not an excuse.
Lack of resources is not an excuse.
A lack of knowledge is not an excuse.
Autistic children are as much of a priority as any other child in this country.
It is time for the Irish Government to take this into account.
I challenge the Minister for Education Joe McHugh and the Irish goverbent to make a stand and to improve education in Ireland for autistic children. Get our children the school places they deserve.
Give them the education they deserve.
Show me that you think our children are just as important as any other child.
I for one will not back down until this is done, and I know I have an army of parents behind me who are ready to fight.
Please sign to show your support to change this system for our children
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