Autism tutors given 7 years to get primary qualification

TUTORS working at the country’s 13 applied behavioural analysis (ABA) schools will be allowed up to seven years to acquire formal teacher training as part of the Department of Education proposals to transform the schools’ structure.

It emerged this week letters of offer proposing how the Department of Education could take over the schools’ funding, including recognising Saplings School Ltd and Autism Ireland as patrons to the schools, were posted. Cope Foundation’s application to be accredited as a school patron at the Cork ABA School has also been accepted by the department.

The Department of Education are eager for all the ABA schools to have fully trained teachers and not just ABA-trained tutors in place. It’s not yet known how parents will react to these suggestions as the schools are closed and principals have not been in contact with parents to discuss the contents of the letters.

It’s understood during negotiations with the department the patron bodies fought hard to have the ABA ethos maintained at the Special Schools for Children with Autism and Complex Needs. The Department of Education has however stressed they want a variety of education methods available for the children including TEACCH and Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).

The boards of management of the schools will be under pressure over the next eight weeks to decide whether to accept the proposed transformation.

Last night, the Autism Society of Ireland said it welcomed the proposed changes being made by the Department of Education.

“We would welcome any move that makes a child with autism’s school place more secure.

“We would also support a more eclectic approach to teaching as each child is an individual and will have individual needs that may respond differently to different programmes,” said head of administration, Tara Matthews.

Negotiations between the 12 schools and the department had been under way since 2007 as the long-term funding of these pilot projects formed part of the Programme for Government.

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