Education and Science Minister, Dr Michael Woods today announced the appointment of a Task Force to examine models of education provision for children with Autism. The Task Force, which will begin its work early in September, will report within three months. It will be chaired by Ms Sheelagh Drudy, Professor of Education at University College, Dublin.
"I am anxious to ensure that we make proper educational provision for children with Autism and that we make real progress in mainstreaming autistic children", said the Minister. He added that the report of the Task Force will be an important input into his decisions on how to improve the educational responses to the needs of these children. The Task Force will be assisted in its work by leading experts from Ireland, United States and Europe.
Dr Woods pointed out that the Government has already significantly improved the educational provision for children with special needs. For the first time children with special needs are entitled to an automatic response to those needs. "I am already allocating significant resources for educational provision for children with Autism and special classes are being established with a pupil teacher ratio of 6 to 1. However, I want to see how best to move forward for children with Autism and for this reason am establishing the Task Force to inform the development of policy in this area" he said.
The Task Force includes national and international experts. The Minister said he was setting the tight timescale because he is anxious to respond to the report as early as possible.
Details of the Terms of Reference are attached.
21 August, 2000.
Terms of Reference of Task Force on Autism
Having regard to the responsibility of the State to make adequate educational provision for all children with special needs, including children with autism.
Having regard to the distinct educational needs of certain children with autism.
Having regard to the State’s commitment to ensuring that the special educational needs of children with autism are properly addressed within the educational system.
Having regard to the range of special education provision and support services already made available to children with autism in special schools, special classes attached to ordinary schools; and in integrated settings, and
Having regard to the desirability of ensuring that the services made available to children with autism reflect best international practice.
The Task Force on Autism will:
Review the current range of educational provision and the support services available to children with autism in Ireland.
Assess the adequacy of current educational provision and support services, having regard to the range of special needs which can arise and the need to address such needs either in integrated settings or by way of special dedicated provision.
Make such recommendations as are considered appropriate for the development or adjustment of existing policy approaches, educational provision and support services, in order to ensure the delivery of an appropriate, effective and efficient education service to children with autism.
Make such further recommendations as the Task Force considers appropriate in relation to the above matters.