Autistic education support discussed at NCSE conference

NCSE Conference

MIC team who conducted the research pictured at an NCSE Conference in Croke Park.

A report compiled by Mary Immaculate College (MIC) researchers on behalf of the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) about the support for Autistic education in Ireland was discussed at the NCSE conference at Croke Park.

The report finds that, while there is a wide range of positive practice in provision for children with autism spectrum disorder in Ireland, improvements are needed in a number of key areas. NCSE conference

The report is one of two commissioned by the NCSE to inform the first major policy advice report on the education of students with autism in almost 14 years. NCSE conference

The report conducted by MIC, entitled ‘An Evaluation of Education Provision for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Ireland, ’ details positive practices in learning and teaching, school management, staff development and the promotion of an inclusive school culture. Inclusion of the child’s voice, curriculum access, the availability of external support services and parental involvement emerged in the research as areas for further improvement.

According to Head of the Department of Reflective Pedagogy and Early Childhood Studies at MIC and co-principal report investigator, Dr Emer Ring, “Policy and provision in relation to education provision for children with special educational needs, including children with autism have continued to expand and develop in Ireland with one in every 65 school children in the State currently being assessed as having autismThis report provides a unique insight into the current education provision for children with autism and in particular highlights the good practice that has been developed across the education continuum in our schools. It is hoped that the report will provide valuable guidance for policy makers and schools in relation to ongoing development of this provision. Most importantly, it is hoped that the research findings will provide parents with a reference source to support them in understanding the range of education provision available for their children in the State.”

The range of provision evaluated  included placement in mainstream classes with support, placement in special classes (including early intervention classes), placement in special schools, state-funded early intervention in the home under the Home-Tuition scheme and the extended school year as provided for by the July Education Programme (JEP) both at home and in school.

Head of the Department of Special Education at MIC and co-principal report investigator,  Dr. Patricia Daly adds; “A unique feature of this research project was the attention to the voices of the children with autism spectrum disorder in all settings. Of the 292 data sources underpinning the findings, 61 were the children themselves, who either participated in conversations with the various members of our research team or made drawings reflecting their perceptions of their schools.

The Evaluation Framework that informed the compilation of the report was based upon work carried out by the NCSE and the Middletown Centre for Autism (MCA), Armagh, Northern Ireland in response to a request from the then Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn to prepare policy advice for children with autism in Ireland.

Speaking about the NCSE Policy Advice Report , CEO of the NCSE, Ms Teresa Griffin said: “We know that students with autism have different individual needs and can respond differently to interventions. Research does not support any one approach or methodology as being best for all students. We need a flexible and responsive educational system which can draw on, and use, a range of evidence-informed interventions in line with each student’s needs”.

The NCSE’s report’s key recommendations include but are not limited to; More investment is needed to develop teacher knowledge, skills and understanding of autism,. A need for better resourced multidisciplinary health teams for children with autism and The development of a safe, social summer day-activity programme for all students with complex educational needs to replace the July Provision scheme.

The NCSE estimates that implementing the school based recommendations in this report will cost an additional €20m per annum. The Department of Education and Skills has established an implementation group to consider the recommendations arising in this report. NCSE conference

The full MIC report and NCSE policy advice report can be accessed here.

Check out Mary Immaculate College here.

 

 

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