- WHAT IS AUTISM?
- WHAT ARE THE GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF CHILDREN WITH AUTISM?
- WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF AUTISM?
- HOW DOES AUTISM AFFECT BEHAVIOUR?
- WHAT ARE MY ENTITLEMENTS?
- WHAT ARE THE EDUCATIONAL OPTIONS AVAILABLE FOR THE CHILDREN WITH AUTISM?
Autism is a condition which is characterised by severe problems in communication and behaviour and an inability to relate to people in a normal manner.
Autism apparently occurs more frequently in males. Surveys reveal a general incidence of about fifteen in every 10,000 children. It can be suspected as early as a few weeks or months after birth, or not until two-and-a-half years of age.
Because of its rarity, little is known about possible causative factors or conditions preceding or accompanying Autism. There is as yet no cure but a growing body of research points to biochemical error and some treatments appear to be promising.
Q: WHAT ARE THE GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF CHILDREN WITH AUTISM?
- Healthy, intelligent and attractive in appearance.
- Speech difficulties.
- Withdrawn, apathetic and unresponsive.
- Disinterest in people and surroundings.
- Unusual interest in inanimate objects.
- Sleeping difficulties.
Birth to 18 Months:
- Feeding Problems, such as poor sucking.
- Apathetic and unresponsive – showing no desire to be held or cuddled.
- Constant crying, or an unusual absence of crying.
- Disinterest in people and surroundings.
- Unusual fear of strangers
- Repetitive movements, such as hand shaking, prolonged rocking and spinning, and head banging.
- Obsessive interest in certain toys or mechanical appliances.
- Insistence on being left alone and that physical environment remain unchanged.
- Sleeping problems.
18 Months to 2 Years:
- Difficulties in toilet training.
- Odd eating habits and preferences.
- Late speech, no speech or loss of previously acquired speech.
After 2 Years:
- Continued aphasics or unusual speech pattern, such as repeating word and phrases, failure to use “I” or “Yes”.
It is not surprising that children with such characteristics have many behavioural problems. Children with Autism may appear to be indifferent to their parents and unaware of the existence of anyone at all. Since their world is so confusing, they try to cling to a few things which they do understand, such as keeping to the same routines and becoming attached to certain toys or objects. This can make life very difficult for the whole family, since the child may insist on everyone else fitting into his demands. Children with Autism may be frightened of quite harmless things, and on the other hand, ignore real dangers. They have less than normal understandings of social requirements and often behave inappropriately.
Sometimes there is some confusion regarding childhood autism and other developmental disorders. Due to lack of responsiveness, children with autism are sometimes mistakenly thought to be deaf.
Q: WHAT ARE MY ENTITLEMENTS?
We have listed below some of the entitlements for people with Autism and their carers. The list is not exhaustive and changes from time to time. It is for information purposes only and the final decision on granting any of these issues is with the relevant authority.
- Domiciliary Care Allowance is paid to parents of a child with a disability. Further information can be obtained from the Department of Social Protection’s Website here.
- Disability Allowance is paid to a person with a disability over the age of 16 years. Further information can be obtained here.
- Carers Allowance is a means tested allowance paid to carers who live with and look after people who need full time care and assistance. Information on the Carers Allowance can be found here.
- Carers Support Grant (formerly called the Respite Care Grant) – Information on on the Carers Support Grant can be found on the Department of Social Protection’s website here.
- Medical Card – Some people with autism and their families may be entitled to a medical card – Further information on guidelines for a medical card can be obtained from www.medicalcard.ie
- VAT refund – some children may require special equipment. Further details on this can be obtained from www.revenue.ie
- Home Tuition Grant – A grant paid by the Department of Education – Further information can be obtained here.
- A variety of tax free allowances such as health and medical expenses/incapacitated child allowance etc. Further information on these allowances can be got from www.revenue.ie
- A Home Support Worker – this service is administered through the Health Service Executive. Families who have a member with a disability in some cases are entitled to an assessment for this service. Families can apply for an assessment through a public health nurse or local health centre.
As Autism is a spectrum disorder there is are a wide range in levels of individual needs and this is reflected in education provision.
There are some pre-schools which cater for children with Autism situated in different parts of the country. If there is no preschool available in your area there is an entitlement to 10 hours per week Home Tuition from diagnosis to 3 years old. From the age of 3 years until placement in education this entitlement increases to 20 hours per week.
Some special schools cater specifically for people with Autism. Other long established learning disability schools cater for general learning disability and also have Autism specific classes.
Main Stream (Classes)
Classes for children with Autism in main stream schools have approximately six pupils with a teacher and two special needs assistants (SNA’s). There are many of these schools around the country.
Main Stream (Individual)
Some higher functioning children are capable of progressing in a mainstream class with the assistance of personal SNA’s and five hours withdrawal support teaching.
In recent years since the EPSEN Act of 2004 there is a growing number of special classes and units for children with Autism in main stream post primary schools (currently between 30-40). As in the primary schools there will normally be a ratio of 6:1 with two SNA’s.
The above list is the education provision of the Department of Education, there are other methods and groups who provide education. This information is only a guideline, for further information please contact the Department of Education www.education.ie