‘The State is failing us’ – Kilkenny mother of children with special needs to lead protest outside Dáil
A KILKENNY campaigner and mother of special needs children is urging parents to come out and support a national protest to highlight the lack of support services for children with autism and intellectual disabilities.
Linda Comerford, who is spokesperson for the ‘Enough is Enough – Every Voice Counts’ campaign, confirmed the protest will take place outside Dáil Eireann next Tuesday, April 30.
Linda this week spoke movingly of her own personal battles and struggle as a mother of children with special needs in an interview with KilkennyNow.ie. (https://kilkennynow.ie/ill-be-a-carer-until-i-die-but-will-i-be-fighting-until-the-day-i-die-kilkenny-mother-of-chlidren-with-special-needs/)
And she is not alone. Linda (pictured above with her family) today said many children and their families “are being placed at a significant educational disadvantage and subjected to unjustifiable stress and anxiety”.
She added: “This is an issue that has been ongoing for years but the Department of Education and subsequently the government have yet to fully acknowledge the problem.
“The Minister for Education and Skills is obliged, among other things, to ensure that everyone living in Ireland, including people with disabilities and people who have other special educational needs, has available support services and a level and quality of education appropriate to his/her needs and abilities.
“Yet many children with autism, intellectual disabilities or other special educational needs will have no school to attend in September due to the lack of special classes and places within special schools.”
Linda said the lack of appropriate school places for children with special educational if forcing some children are attending mainstream schools without the supports they need and are entitled.
This, she added, has caused some children “to be expelled from school, withdrawn by their parents or are dropping out of education altogether”.
She said: “The social, emotional and psychological damage this causes a child is horrendous and leaves a lasting effect.”
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has told the Department of Education they are satisfied there are sufficient ASD (autism spectrum disorder) special class placements to meet existing demand nationally. However, the group disputes this.
Linda said: “Currently we have in excess of 60 stories of children who have no school to attend this coming September on our Facebook page ‘Enough is Enough – Every Voice Counts’ with more parents having contacted us privately not wanting to share their story publicly.
“There are not sufficient ASD special classes or places in special schools, these stories are testament to that. If there were, parents would not be stressed, frustrated and angry at not having an appropriate school for their child to attend.”
Linda said the campaign is inviting everyone to attend next Tuesday’s protest in Dublin and to “be a voice for children with disabilities that are being failed by the State”.
She added: “Although this can be perceived as an issue for parents whose children are just starting primary education, it is also a huge issue for parents of children who are transitioning from primary to secondary level education as even fewer secondary schools have attached ASD classes.”
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