Only one special school place in East Meath available for twins

By Eoin Ryan

Two children with autism may be forced to attend a school outside of their county due to a lack of ASD classes in their area. 

Grainne Cannon, a resident in Dunshaughlin, has only found one open space when searching for ASD classes has twins aged 5 with autism. This is after applying for places in Ratoath, Dunboyne, Rathbeggan, Ashbourne, Trim, Clonee and Ard Cath and searching since their autism diagnosis.

Ratoath Junior School was sanctioned a special class in November 2021 but funding only came in September 2022 and a report for Stage 1 of construction is still being prepared.

“Ratoath is a growing town and there is an acute shortage of appropriate accommodation for school children with additional needs,” Cannon said. “This project is much needed and it is welcome that it is funded, however, it is frustrating that it isn’t progressing more quickly.”

“We are not the only family to face a dilemma such as this. I really don’t want my children to have to face a situation such as the Milne Family faced last year, but that’s what seems to be happening at present.”

“It is very frustrating that the wheels turn so slowly,” TD Darren O’Rourke said. “Five months on from 2 September and we don’t yet have an indicative date for project design. More importantly, we still don’t have an indicative date for when the project will be delivered.

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman said Children’s Disability Network Teams were set up across the country “But too many of them are understaffed.”

Speaking in the Dail, Louth TD Peter Fitzpatrick said there are no psychiatrists for children with disabilities and “the only paediatrician available in Louth and Meath is Dr. Maeve McCormack. Dr. McCormack will see only children who are 16 years of age or younger.” 

Mr Fitzpatrick said there is a “four-to-five month waiting list” for Dr. McCormack and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services are not seeing teenagers who have a dual diagnosis.

Where we do not have staff, we have backlogs in terms of not only the assessment but also the delivery of those much-needed therapies,” Roderic Gorman said.

Gorman and Minister of State Anne Rabitte are currently working on a roadmap for progressing disability services. 

The Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, and I, working with the HSE, will bring forward a roadmap on progressing disability services. This will attempt to tackle issues regarding the retention and recruitment of staff

“Where we do not have staff, we have backlogs in terms of not only the assessment but also the delivery of those much-needed therapies,” he said

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