School secures funds for a new autism unit

by Gazette Reporter
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COLAISTE Choilm School in Swords has been allocated funding for the development of an autism spectrum disorder unit classroom.
The amount of funding sanctioned has not been released by the Department of Education and Skills, as the publication of the amount of grant aid could prejudice the tendering process.
A spokesperson from Colaiste Choilm said that as the funding has just been sanctioned, the school does not know when development of the new unit will begin, but they are very happy about the allocation.
This will be welcome news to the parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who live in the area.
Typically, these classes facilitate six children with ASD and the educational intervention is delivered by a teacher who has the help of a special needs assistant (SNA).
Dennis Sexton of the Irish Autism Society, says that things have improved dramatically in the past eight years.
He said: “In about eight years, we have come from a base of nearly nothing to many hundreds of schools with units in them.
“Before 2004 they didn’t exist, more or less, [but] we now have 8-9,000 SNAs in existence, so it’s improving all the time.
“[Autism] diagnosis has rocketed. When I got involved, 20-odd years ago, you were talking about one in 500 [diagnoses], we’re talking about one in 100, now.
“Of course, there will be parents who are finding it difficult to get a place because we’re perhaps not keeping pace with the demand, but things are improving all the time,” he said.
Deputy Alan Farrell (FG) welcomed the allocation of funding from the Department of Education and Skills. He said: “I am glad to see that the department is providing funding to Colaiste Choilm for an ASD unit classroom.
“I would like to compliment the school authorities on what was, without doubt, a considerable work which they had to undertake to achieve this result.
“Facilities such as ASD units are essential in supporting children with autism throughout their time in education.
“Making sure that students who require extra supports and assistance receive them must be a priority for teachers, schools and the Government.
“Providing the necessary resources is the only way to guarantee that all children get the greatest benefit from our education system.
“With the youngest population in the State, Fingal is home to a large number of families with children in full-time education. The provision of educational supports to schools throughout the constituency is of the utmost importance, in order to ensure our children receive a high-quality education in an environment which is conducive to their learning.
“I will continue to support all schools in the constituency in relation to their future development and upkeep,” said Deputy Farrell.
Senator Darragh O’Brien (FF) said: “It’s actually great news, because Colaiste Choilm is a secondary school. I’ve done a lot of work over the years with Irish Autism Action, and a lot of the work has been focused on improving education for kids with autism in national schools, and rightly so.
“One of the bigger complaints we often receive though is the lack of support going into secondary school. In Swords, we have a very good autism unit in Brackenstown, so it’s great to see this happening now in Colaiste Choilm.”

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