‘Not all children are equal’ says frustrated mum.

by Gazette Reporter
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By Rose Barrett

For Sarah Reynolds, mother of two boys Luke and Ryan, securing a starting place for her sons in primary school has brought two very different experiences.

“I had no problem finding a school place locally for my eldest boy, Luke, but for Ryan, it’s a totally different experience,” said Sarah from Finglas.

“Why? Because Ryan has autism. And Ryan is only one of 20 children based between Dublin 9 and 11 needing a place for September 2021 within an ASD unit in a local school.

“There are two ASD classes in the Finglas/Ballymun area, one in St Brigid’s NS and one in St Fergal’s NS.

“Ryan is non-verbal, has sensory issues, he is not toilet trained and uses a communication device to express his needs. It has been recommended by a psychologist that he attends a setting catered for children with a diagnosis of ASD.

“I have applied to 10 or more schools and so far, I’ve had five refusal letters. The rejection of my child to an education is awful. I really don’t feel that all children are equal under the Constitution.”

Ryan, who attends PAL pre-school facility in Blanchardstown, will be five years and nine months old in September – he would be almost seven starting next year and would have to seek another year’s pre-school if he doesn’t get a place.

Sarah feels there is a lack of commitment from local schools to provide a class for children with autism, and parents are forced to travel well outside their area.

“There is a transport grant available to have a bus or taxi to collect and return the child home accompanied by a SNA. But if a child gets sick or distressed, if we are asked to collect them early, not every parent can drive or has a second family car.

“I have no choice where Ryan will attend national school. If we’re offered a place – Coolock, Blanch, city centre – we have to take it, otherwise, Ryan could lose his home tuition supports.”

Sarah wants the Minister for Health to immediately release funding for training, resources and sensory equipment so as to afford every child an equal opportunity to a suitable education within their local area.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said: “The NCSE is proactively working with schools, patron bodies, parents and others to ensure there are sufficient special education placements available to meet local need.

“It is open to any school to make an application to the NCSE to open a special class.”

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