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(Ireland) Nonverbal 13 y.o. with ASD rejected by 17 schools; 'nowhere to go': mom

July 3, 2023, Newstalk: ‘He has nowhere to go’: Boy with special needs rejected by 17 schools
A mother of a 13-year-old boy with Down Syndrome and ASD is "fighting" to find him a secondary school place after being rejected 17 times so far.
Last week, Marita Coyne and her son Robbie McGrath walked out of his primary school hand-in-hand after his graduation.

It was not the moment of joy it should have been for Ms Coyne, however, as Robbie still does not have a place in secondary school for September.

Robbie has a dual diagnosis of Down Syndrome and Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and Ms Coyne said she has been trying to secure a school place for him for the last two years.

"He should be transitioning into his new secondary school – we don't have any idea where that's going to be or even if there is going to be a school for him," she told The Pat Kenny Show.

"This journey has been going on for years."

Mainline education

Ms Coyne said Robbie was in a mainstream primary school, as it was believed this would be best for his socialisation.

"At the time, we didn't know of his diagnosis of ASD because that only happened before Christmas," she said.

"Now he has got to the point where he's going in a different direction – he needs different help.

"Robbie is a flight risk. He has very limited danger awareness. He needs help with personal care ... essentially, he's nonverbal."

Ms Coyne said she applied to 12 special education schools in Dublin and its surrounding areas for Robbie.

"I've applied for every school I could think of; every school I've researched, every school I've been given from the National Council for Special Education (NCSE)," she said.

'Behind the scenes'

Ms Coyne said the Minister for Education, Norma Foley and the NCSE have told her that they are "working behind the scenes" to secure a place for Robbie.

"The reality is, I'm sitting here talking to you with no school place for my son," she said. "I feel that no family should have to go through that, irrespective of what is going on behind the scenes….

Ms Coyne said she has received a variety of different reasons for rejection from the schools. "There are no places, he's on a waiting list, [or] we are out of the catchment area. Perhaps the school facilities don't suit his complex needs – they're the main responses I've been receiving," she said.

"I am getting information, statements that have come through with regard to what's coming down the line and what's happening, but I need it now and my son needs it now." 'It's no surprise'

Ms Coyne said she has "lost count" of the number of public representatives she has contacted….

Marita Coyne and her son Robbie McGrath (Photo provided by Marita Coyne)

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