A couple with a child on the autism spectrum has tried to get a place for their son in 26 different schools — without success.
Ian Diamond spent over a year attempting to secure a place for his son in schools across the southside of Dublin, but to no avail.
His son, five-year-old Dylan, was diagnosed as having a condition that would properly require education in a dedicated class for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This would have to be provided in either one of the 134 special schools across the State or a dedicated ASD class within a school.
The Government claims that nearly all new schools are making provision for an ASD class. However, most schools have yet to include such a class and, as a result, demand for places far outstrips supply.
Ian says that his family’s experience is not unique.
“I genuinely think that people are totally afraid to speak out for fear of losing what small bit of hope or even some small amount of resources,” he says.
“But parents are spending the whole time chasing around and it is just not good for your mental health.”
He and his wife Josie have had to resort to home tuition for Dylan, but have experienced major difficulties in getting and retaining a tutor because the working conditions in the sector ensure that many leave at the first opportunity.
In 2016, the family felt compelled to get a private diagnosis for Dylan as the HSE had failed to issue a diagnosis within the statutory timeframe.
A complaint and appeal by the family at how Dylan’s case was dealt with were both upheld but no santion or remedial action was ever taken by the HSE as a result.
The complaints office acknowledged that the diagnosis had not been made because of the staff shortage problem in the south Dublin area.
So the battle goes on. The constant ringing, e-mailing, pleading, meeting — all in an attempt to access what every child in the country is nominally entitled to.
If the worse came to the worst, Ian concedes, Dylan might have to enter mainstream schooling, notwithstanding the extent of his needs.
“I know a few people who felt forced to go down that route,” says Ian. “And their children are finding that they get maybe a couple of hours schooling a day and are then sent home because that is all that can be done for them.”
The other option is to pack up and try to relocate to where services do exist.
“What am I expected to do, move down to Offaly?” he asks. “I don’t have a job there and neither does my wife. Is that what we are supposed to do? Are we expected to pack up and move because services for my son are not what they are supposed to be?”