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(Ireland) 11 kids with ASD travel 2,800 miles/week to special schools

May 20, 2022, Irish Sun: AUTISM HELL 11 Irish children travelling THOUSANDS of kilometres each week to special schools due to zero capacity https://www.thesun.ie/news/8827299/children-travelling-thousands-kilometres-special-schools/

SOME 11 autistic children face a 4,500km [2,800] journey each week to access special second level schools because there is zero capacity in the main town where they live, it has emerged.

The kids have to travel to Glenamaddy or Longford to be taught because of the lack of space in Athlone schools to cater for them.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin this week apologised to Darren Milne and Gillian Bolger, who told Prime Time of the major difficulties they face trying to find school places for their 11-year-old autistic twin sons Ryan and Kyle.

The family are in mortgage arrears of €50,000 after Darren had to quit his job as a Dublin bus driver to care for the boys.

But Independent Deputy Denis Naughten, referring to the plight of families in the midlands, said it’s a situation which is repeated up and down the country.

The Roscommon/Galway TD told the Dail: “I want to raise with the Minister of State the lack of school places for children with autism, which is now forcing students from south Roscommon to travel up to 100 km each day to avail of an education.

DAILY JOURNEY

“I know of two children in south Roscommon who are travelling up to 100 km. Another two children I am aware of, in County Westmeath, must also travel such a distance.

“The children in County Roscommon will have to make a daily journey over to Glenamaddy from next September to access second level education in an autism-specific class.

“We have figured out that there will be 11 children leaving primary school in the catchment of Athlone and south Roscommon next month who have no local autism-specific school place. “We all know that children with autism require routine, and their parents know the transition from primary school to secondary school is going to be challenging. What are those parents to say to their children as the latter say goodbye to their classmates?

“What answer are the children to give to the other sixth-class children when they talk about where they are going to school next September? Securing an appropriate school placement for a child is an anxious time for every single parent, particularly those with a child with additional needs.

“It makes the experience extremely stressful. The children, if they are lucky enough to get a placement in a school, will have to travel up to 100 km daily. The children I have mentioned are the ones who have been lucky enough to secure a school placement.

“ On average, the 11 children are facing a combined weekly journey of over 4,500 km to go to school because of the failure to provide autism classes in local schools, despite the fact that this has been known to the Department for the past eight years. "This is just not good enough.”

Parents of autistic twins Gillian Bolger and Darren Milne Credit: RTE Prime Time