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(Ireland) Kildare: Autistic 13 y.o. denied school place; first on waiting list

Oct 16, 2023, Irish Examiner: Mother feels abandoned as she battles to get a school place for her son with autism

The mother of a 13-year-old boy with autism and a mild intellectual disability has said she feels abandoned and embarrassed that her son remains without a school place, seven weeks on from schools returning. ...

Ms Rackyte, whose family lives in Kildare, says she has been desperately trying to secure a spot for her son, Kai, but says she has been met with confused faces, smirks, and disbelief.In a recent meeting with the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), she said she was told about understaffing rather than any solutions. She added: The impression I got is that they don’t really know themselves what’s happening.

Kai finished primary school in June, where he was in a special unit and had an “amazing” learning experience. Her son, who is “obsessed” with school, loved his daily routine and asks every day without fail if he will finally be going to his new school. ...

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we were one of the first ones to bring [an application] in,” she said.

However, at the open day which had over 30 parents attending hoping to get a spot, they were told that there were just three places available in first year. Kai is currently first on the waiting list for the school. However, Ms Rackyte does not believe a space will become available until next year. “I went to one of the schools in Naas and I said I want to put in an application and they said it was too early for next year. I told them it was for this year and they looked at me like I had nine heads.”
Although not ideal, a spot was secured for her son in a mainstream class at the beginning of August and it was thought that an SNA would be provided by the NCSE until he was in second year, when he would then transition to the school’s special unit as he would no longer be a new student.
She was told by NCSE that they could not provide an SNA because her son needed to be in a unit, and the school place was lost in the lengthy back and forth due to demand. “They would rather have this child at home,” she said adding that the whole experience has been a “waste of time”.

On three separate occasions, they were offered school places by the NCSE too far away, with one even being 60km from their home.

This was down to the incorrect location recorded for the family being in the system, with Ms Rackyte calling to rectify the error three times.

Last week, she sent a referral form to the Tusla educational welfare officer. However she questions why she was not informed of this possibility by the NCSE in August or September, which would have saved a lot of time.


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