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Special schools takeover would be a step back

I WAS very disappointed at the tone of your report headlined ‘State bid to take over autism schools’ (July 7).

There was a positive spin on what is actually a devastating prospect.

It read as though the proposed takeover of the 12 pilot schools is a positive development; it insinuates that the current staff within these schools are not adequately qualified as they do not possess a primary or secondary teaching qualification and, on a personal note, I cannot help but feel it detracts from my own qualifications in psychology and applied behaviour analysis (ABA).

To those who are unfamiliar, ABA operates on the basis that all behaviour is learned and serves a function. Behaviour analysts modify behaviour, increasing socially significant behaviour and decreasing aberrant behaviour.

ABA is the most renowned and scientifically proven therapy for autistic spectrum disorder. Interventions are data-driven and function-based. Ireland has too few ABA schools, but those we have are staffed by highly trained tutors, supervisors and consultants who strive to work one-to-one with the children. If the proposed takeover is approved, these schools will be staffed by primary schoolteachers and special needs assistants with little if any expertise in the area of atypical development and the education of children with autism, and the ratio of staff to students will increase significantly.

This is effectively a step back for education in Ireland and a further blow to those parents of children on the autistic spectrum who have to fight every day for effective treatment.

Denise Kelleher



Co Cork


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