SDLP West Tyrone MLA Daniel McCrossan has said that more support must be provided by the Department of Education for children with Special Educational Needs, following reports that the proportion of NI pupils with an autism diagnosis has quadrupled in a decade.
Mr. McCrossan, who is a former member of Stormont’s Education Committee, said:
“Children with Special Educational Needs have been failed by our education system for far too long. It is clear that as diagnoses increase, we are going to require an overhaul of how we support these young people and their families. I have heard from far too many families of their long waits for statements and inadequate support. We cannot expect parents and pupils to continue to go on without the timely and accessible provision of services that they need and deserve. Due to years of disinvestment, our schools already do not have the adequate resources that they need and if this trend continues, we are looking at a real crisis for children with special educational needs. While our teachers and classroom assistants are doing all they can, they have been failed by successive Ministers who have not treated this issue with the importance that it deserves.
“The SDLP has long campaigned for sufficient support for autism services and indeed it was an SDLP MLA that brought forward the Autism Act in 2011. The Education Minister must finally get a grip on this issue, including through the implementation of a regional plan for special schools and special educational provision in mainstream schools, as well as the provision of autism training for all our educators. The Executive must also be prepared to commit the necessary funding for the Education Authority’s statementing assessment process in order to reduce the currently unsustainable waiting lists.”