Three of the four children from Carrick-on-Suir seeking a place at a primary school Autism Spectrum Disorder class next September have been accepted at a new unit being established in a national school seven miles away in Portlaw in county Waterford.
The Carrick-on-Suir ASD Unit Campaign Group says the families of the three young children are delighted and relieved they have secured a place at Portlaw National School’s new ASD Unit as they feared no place would be available for them for the new academic year.
The news follows an outcry by the campaign group and local politicians at the National Council for Special Education’s decision not to approve Gaelscoil Charraig na Siúire’s application to set up an ASD unit. The parents of four children with ASD requiring a primary school place next September had applied to the Gaelscoil in the hope the school would be approved for the unit.
The rejection of the school’s application led to renewed political pressure being placed on the NCSE last month by five of the county’s TDs to sanction a primary school class for children with autism in Carrick.
Carrick-on-Suir ASD Unit Campaign Group spokesperson Breda Tobin said it was unlikely at this stage that a new ASD unit will open at one of Carrick-on-Suir’s primary schools in September but the group welcomed the fact three of the four local children have secured a place at the new ASD unit at Portlaw NS.
These parents had previously received rejection letters from schools with ASD units in Carrick’s hinterland and beyond.
“The parents are ecstatic to have something in place. They have been looking for this for the past three years. It’s such a relief for them. The ASD class is perfect for these children. They wouldn’t survive in a mainstream class,” said Breda, who is an early years educator in Carrick-on-Suir, and she stressed the campaign to open a primary school ASD class in Carrick-on-Suir continues. She said the fact half the students in the new ASD unit at Portlaw National School will be from Carrick-on-Suir while half the students attending the ASD unit at Carrigeen NS, Mooncoin are also from Carrick, highlights the pressing need for opening this education facility in her hometown. Meanwhile, Breda estimates there will be at least six children from Carrick-on-Suir requiring a place at an ASD primary school class in September 2023.
She asked why primary school children with autism from Carrick-on-Suir have to travel outside their town and county to get their education. “Why is it okay that our kids have to travel outside their community?”
She questions why two of south Tipperary’s largest towns – Carrick-on-Suir and Clonmel – haven’t primary school ASD units. A key difficulty Carrick-on-Suir parents have faced in their efforts to secure a primary school ASD unit in their hometown is that the Special Education Needs Officer (SENO) post for South Tipperary has lain vacant for months. This officer’s work includes identifying if there is a demand for an ASD unit in an area and liaising with parents and schools to get one established.
Breda said the Special Education Needs Officer the campaign group’s members deal with at the moment is based in Cork. The Nationalist contacted the Department of Education for comment on the questions Breda Tobin posed but hadn’t received a response at the time of going to press.
In a previous statement issued to the paper, the Department of Education stated it had carried out a review of the requirement for special class places for students with autism for the 2022/23 school year in the south Tipperary region.
This included a review of the available accommodation in the Carrick-on-Suir area and a review of the students known to the NCSE with recommendations for special class places. The Department outlined that there are currently 95 special classes in Tipperary of which 72 are special classes for students with autism. Of these, 24 classes catering for students with autism are attached to mainstream schools in south Tipperary including 12 at primary level.
It said four new special classes were established in south Tipperary for the 2021/2022 school year, two at primary level and two at post-primary level and five new autism special classes have been sanctioned by the NCSE in south Tipperary for the 2022/23 school year – four at primary level and one at post-primary level.
The Department of Education didn’t state where these new classes will be located in south Tipperary.
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