PARENTS of children with autism are being encouraged to join a postcard campaign to protest plans to transform the country’s 13 ABA schools for children with autism into special schools using a range of different teaching methods.
Tish Durkin, who is a mother of a child with autism, has ordered some 10,000 postcards in the shape of a stop sign.
Her plan is for people from all over the country to send the cards to Education Minister Mary Coughlan with duplicates going to the senders’ local TDs.
The department is proposing to change the 13 ABA schools, which have up to 300 pupils on their roll, into a mixed model, whereby other teaching methods, such as PECS and TEACCH, are used along with ABA. Such methods are already used in the ABA pilot projects but ABA would not remain as the guiding philosophy.
The department also wants ABA tutors to be replaced with trained primary school teachers and ABA tutors renamed as special needs assistants (SNA).
The typical ABA tutor has a psychology degree and has attended ABA training courses or completed a masters degree in the discipline.
Ms Durkin is hoping the campaign will make the department stop and think about its current proposals, as well as raise awareness about the issue among the wider public.
“I think very, very big mistakes are close to being made on this issue. These postcards protest not only the effective abolition of real autism schools in Ireland, but also a condition that, given the urgency of early and effective intervention, may be even worse.
“This is the Department of Education’s frankly farcical requirement that, in order for their parents to receive the home-tuition grant for children with autism under five, these children must be tutored by a primary-school teacher, who almost never has any expertise with autism or with children under five,” she said.
* Postcards can be obtained from Tish Durkin at firstname.lastname@example.org
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