Irish opposition party calls for complete overhaul of services for autistic children|
DUBLIN, Ireland: The Irish opposition party, Fine Gael, is calling for a complete overhaul of services for children with autism.
According to the party, the government should commit to funding the existing 12 ABA (applied behavioural analysis) centres nationwide and expand this scheme even further. ABA is considered by many to be a particularly effective method for teaching people with autism. However, it is not the method used by Ireland's Department of Education.
Following on from the Ó Cuanacháin case last month, Fine Gael is also calling for the establishment of an appeals system.
Yvonne and Cian Ó Cuanacháin, the parents of a seven-year-old boy with autism, had previously lost a High Court challenge to force the Irish State to pay for their son’s ABA education. Last month, the High Court ruled that all parties in the case must pay their own costs, leaving the couple facing a seven-figure legal bill.
“Under Fianna Fail, when it comes to children with autism, the State seems more concerned with dragging parents, through the courts rather than providing for their children’s educational needs. In fact, the Education’s Minister’s record in this area is so poor that the author of a government task force report on autism described the government’s policies as grossly misguided," commented the Fine Gael TD, Brian Hayes.
The party is using its private members’ time this week to present a motion "that will overhaul the entire sector."
“There is no greater example of the disregard for the needs of children with autism than the baffling neglect by the government of ABA. The Minister for Education has refused to extend ABA beyond the 12 pilot centres that have already been established, but the Fine Gael motion will reverse this policy, as well as ensuring that the existing centres are funded in the current format for the long term," Mr Hayes explained.
He added that, because there was no appeals mechanism currently in place, parents had no option but to go to the courts. The party is calling for an appeals process to be set up without delay. It is also calling for a guarantee that specific education services will be made available to children with autism where it has been recommended by a psychologist.
“So far, parents of children with autism have come up against a brick wall when trying to get the State to provide for the educational needs of their children. The government now has an opportunity to change that, and I urge each and every government Deputy to vote for the Fine Gael motion. It is the least these children deserve," Mr Hayes said.
(Source: About Irishhealth.com, February 11, 2008)