July 21, 2017, Independent (Ireland): Autism diagnoses on rise as special needs education costs soar http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/education/autism-diagnoses-on-rise-as-special-needs-education-costs-soar-35952968.html A huge increase in the number of pupils in Irish schools with an autism diagnosis is a key factor in the Department of Education's soaring spend on supporting children with special needs. Almost one-fifth - €1.68bn - of the department's budget is now devoted to special educational needs (SEN), more than the €1.58bn awarded to higher education. Overall, the cost of catering for pupils with special educational needs has risen to 18.9pc of the department's overall budget, up from 14.5pc in 2011. While the department imposed cuts in many areas during the years of austerity, the budget for special education grew amid a growing acknowledgment of the State's responsibility. A new spending review, carried out by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, highlights how surging demand for supports for children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a key driver in the rising expenditure. Most of the expenditure on special educational needs - €1.49bn - relates to employment of staff, such as resource teachers and special needs assistants (SNAs). … The report attributes spending growth to factors such as the rise in pupil numbers and the increase in those qualifying for SNAs and other supports, "and in particular the number presenting with an autism diagnosis". Between 2011 and 2016, there was an 83pc increase - from 2,742 to 5,041 - in the number of pupils in mainstream schools with an autism diagnosis who have an SNA. There are also children with ASD in special schools. The review notes how the number of SNAs has risen from 2,988 in 2001 to more than 13,000, accounting for €464m of the Department of Education budget.