Sept 3, 2022, Independent: Charity claims many students with autism and special needs were left in transportation limbo as school resumed
A significant number of children with autism and other special needs began the school year last week with no guarantee of transport to and from school, according to an autism charity.
AsIAm, Ireland’s national autism charity, said despite their entitlement to access school transport services, many children attending special school and special class placements were left in limbo when the school term resumed.
A survey it conducted over a 24-hour period last week found “a significant number of students are still without school transport provision.”
“As schools open across the country after the summer recess, many autistic students still find themselves in limbo as a result of this uncertainty….
“This uncertainty has created an unnecessary and unwanted distraction for many families,” the charity said in a statement yesterday.
Its survey of 193 members found that 123 students with autism experienced delays or other issues confirming transportation arrangements, accounting for 64pc of autistic students affiliated with the charity.
More than half or 62pc of the students’ parents said the delays and uncertainty has impacted their return to school while 18pc of those students who are entitled to school transport have not yet been approved for the same….
“Many families within this survey have highlighted the impact this delay is having on their family life and their child. Parents have had to take time off work, unpaid leave, and make changes to their work hours etc. One family has to do an 80km round trip daily, which is not sustainable.
“It is critical to remember that many of the children who have not been provided with a school transport service are the same students who have spent many months of uncertainty about whether they would even have a school place to go to this September.
"Once again, the Department (of Education) has placed another barrier in front of families who have already had to unfairly fight and are often only able to access a school place outside of their local community,” he said.
“The lack of effective planning speaks to a complete lack of respect for the accommodations many autistic children require for school with regards predictability and undoes a vast amount of work that is likely to have been taken by both family and child in preparing themselves for a new school year.”
He said the charity is seeking an urgent response from Education Minister Norma Foley on the matter.