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(Ireland) ANOTHER ASD student has no place in secondary school; parents wait years for assessment

Jan 28, 2019, Irish Examiner: Dylan’s parents are learning the hard way that autistic children are not a priority Ian Diamond and his wife, Josie, have failed to secure a place for their autistic son in 26 schools and are unable to find a home tutor willing to stay long-term. Every day is a gruelling battle for their rights, says Michael Clifford…. Ian has contacted 26 schools without success, in an attempt to get a place for his son. There is a possibility of a place in one school, but it does not meet his son’s needs, although the family are grateful for that school’s efforts. A small minority of schools provide classes for children who are on the autism spectrum, but they have lengthening queues. Other schools provide nothing. Ian Diamond’s search has not been confined to the locality of the family home, in Walkinstown, on the south side of Dublin city. He has been looking right across the city, and concludes that the demand for a basic education for children who are on the autism spectrum is simply not being met. … “I genuinely think that people are totally afraid to speak out, for fear of losing what small bit of hope they have, or even some small amount of resources,” he says. Before all that, there is the challenge of pre-school education. There are a limited number of pre-school ASD units in the country, all of which have lengthy waiting lists. … Despite spending his pre-school year in the local school, Dylan was out of luck when it came to places in the school’s ASD class for school-age children. The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is the body charged with overseeing the provision of education for those with special needs. Another search ensued. In this one, Ian contacted a total of 26 schools across the south side of Dublin, looking for a place for his son in an ASD unit or special school. Some of the schools don’t have a unit, irrespective of demand. Others had long waiting lists. In some instances, the schools didn’t even bother getting back to him. … In the meantime, the battle goes on. The daily grind of trying to obtain basic services for their children is part of life for thousands of parents who are forced to rely on nothing more than luck. … One of the reasons for this new law is there has been a reluctance by some in education — including patron bodies and boards of management — to provide a a dedicated class for special education. As a result, there are large areas in the State’s cities, in particular, where the demand for special education is not being met. So far, so inclusive. However, section 8 of the act has 20 subsections, nearly all of which represent a hoop through which the minister must jump before he invokes the new power. If parents, a patron body, a board of management or a teachers’ union, or other interested parties, want to stop a special class in their local school, they have ample opportunity. The hoops also give an out for any minister who may fear taking a political hit for going against the wishes of any of the vested interests. Being inclusive is fine and dandy, as long as nobody is discommoded, would seem to be the guiding principle. … The assessment must commence within 90 days of application and a report of the assessment furnished in another 90. The tight timeframe reflects the urgency given to early intervention. The experience of Ian Diamond and his family would not be unusual, in respect of the lack of urgency given to cases. Over a year after he applied for the assessment, on 28 August 2015, he had not received the report. He complained and his complaint was upheld. The recommendation by the complaints officer was issued on August 4, 2016, and stated that “Dylan’s assessment report is prepared no later than August 18, 2016, and issued in conjunction with his service statement no later than September 18, 2016.” The appointed deadline came and went and no report was issued. On November 7, Ian Diamond appealed the failure to implement the recommendation to the Office of the Disability Appeals. On December 21, 2016, the Diamonds were finally furnished with a report and service statement, nearly a year after they were legally entitled to receive it. The appeals officer ruled on the matter on February 7, 2017: “As the complaint’s officer’s timeline of September 18, 2016, has been breached, I must uphold this appeal. However, as the service statement has now been issued, I do not need to comment further on this appeal case.”

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