System 'failing' children with autism

Published Thursday, 19 April 2012
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Significant numbers of children with autism in Northern Ireland are being forced to wait over a year for the proper educational support, according to a charity which is lobbying MLAs in a bid to secure better services.

System 'failing' children with autism
A charity is calling for better access to education for children with autism. (© UTV)

Research carried out by the National Autistic Society NI has found that over 80% of parents say that the lack of support has harmed their child's social and communication skills.

A further 65% said that their child's mental health had been adversely affected.

"Every area of Northern Ireland needs to have education provision that understands autism," NASNI Co-Director Shirelle Stewart said.

"It is completely unacceptable that so many parents have to battle to secure their child's fundamental right to an education - the Assembly must listen to parents when they say the system must do better to meet their needs."

Politicians have been debating reforms to the Special Educational Needs system, prompting the charity to launch its A* for Autism campaign.

"We hope that this campaign will enable children with autism to access an A* education that sets them up for life," Ms Stewart added.

The charity is campaigning for a coherent strategy specially geared towards providing education to children with autism, which ensures all teachers and classroom assistants working with those children are properly trained.

NASNI also wants to make sure any changes to the SEN system retains clear and enforceable rights for children and their parents and that parents remain genuinely involved in decisions about their child's education.

Autism is a lifelong developmental condition that affects how a person communicates with and relates to others and also affects how they make sense of the world around them.

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It is a spectrum condition which means that people with autism may share certain difficulties, but they will be affected in different ways.
© UTV News
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