Department’s “criminal neglect” of autistic children

By Tom Young

A group of parents in the Waterford and South Kilkenny area have become seriously frustrated in their attempts over the past several years to establish an ABA (Applied Behavioural Analysis) School for their autistic children.

The effort to set up such a school has been ongoing since 2001, a time lapse which is critical because of the vital need to provide developmental assistance for the affected children at the earliest possible age.

The truth of the matter is that many of the children have now missed out on the years through which they would best respond and the parents lay the blame squarely with the Department of Education. The contribution from that quarter thus far amounts to nil, according to Neil van Dokkum of Kilmacthomas, chairman of the School Board of Management, the establishment of which is one of several requirements before funding will be sanctioned.

He accuses the Department of criminal neglect of the children, stating that it will not release funding until the building of a school is completed, yet ensuring through constant delaying tactics that it will never be built.

“We are being frustrated at every turn in our attempts to have our children educated and this cannot be allowed continue. The school must be available, with specialist teachers in place, by next September and any further delays are entirely unacceptable”, he said.

Another board member, Lucy Phelan of Grantstown Village, who has two autistic sons, said some staff had been appointed but lost again, because they could not wait indefinitely for employment. Meanwhile children now aged from 8 to 12 had been on a waiting list for the past five years for what was essential specialist education. Their most responsive years had, in fact, passed and the drive for a special, one-on-one school, was now essentially for younger children coming down the line. There was a waiting list of 43 altogether and she invited parents of others to contact her (at 086-8275192).

She said a suitable building had been identified at Cleaboy Business Park but there was a delay in finalising a rent agreement.

Meanwhile, she said, the Department was proving intransigent, meddling unnecessarily and failing to show any interest in providing care for children who so desperately needed it.

She demanded of the local Dail Deputies that they pursue the matter until they got positive results.

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