ERG SES E 08, Special Education
In recent decades, the achievement of ‘Education for All’ (UNESCO, 1990) movement has enabled discussions of the theory and practice of the implementation of inclusive education in many countries. The EFA Assessment (2000) indicated that in worldwide the progress had been made towards the goals which were set in World Conference on EFA, Jomtien in 1990. Enabling children and young people with special educational needs to be included and participated in mainstream schools, and to be achieving full involvement in schooling has become essential in education systems in most countries all over the world. Like many other countries, policy making and establishing legislation has focused on ensuring the implementation of inclusive education in Ireland (Shevlin and Rose, 2008). A Special Education Review Committee was established by the Department of Education and Science for examining the existing special education provision and making recommendations. The most important issue that the SERC report (1993) emphasized was the provision of adequate resourcing for pupils with disabilities and/or special educational needs. After that there have been major changes in disability policy in Ireland. The Education Act (1998) was the first time in Irish education system to have a statutory framework for operating and continuing the development of publicly funded schools; and was the foundation of achieving Education for All in Ireland by putting emphasis on ensuring provision for persons with disabilities or other special educational needs (Oireachtas, 1998). The Equal Status Act (2000) could be the guarantee for promoting Education for All, by offering equal opportunity for each child with disabilities or special educational needs being included and educated within mainstream schools in Ireland (Oireachtas, 2000). In addition, the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act (2004) can be seen as a significant milestone in education legislation provision for persons with SEN (Oireachtas, 2004). This Act focuses on making further provision for supporting children with SEN, and particularly, The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) was established under the EPSEN Act (2004), with the aim to improve the delivery of education services to persons with special educational needs, with particular emphasis on children.
A considerable increase in the number of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been reported (Brugha et al., 2012; and NAS, 2015) in recent decades.The number of pupils with ASD being educated in mainstream schools is increasing (Emam and Farrell, 2009). The Report of the Task Force on Autism (DES, 2001) embodied key policies and practices on educational provision for children with ASD in Ireland. DES (2008) reported there were 129 special schools catering for pupils with 14 categories of SEN, and there were just 6 special schools in Ireland for pupils with ASD. Over the last number of years, significant progress has been made in ensuring that sufficient places are available for children with autism who require a special class setting (DES, 2001). Autism units/classes attached within mainstream schools and school provision for facilitating children with ASD in mainstream schools have increased dramatically since 2001 (NCSE Annual Report 2005-2014). Significant progress in supporting children with autism being included in mainstream schools has been achieving, but recommendations are suggested for fulfilling the areas including: training for teaching staff; school provision for supporting children with autism; liaison with families and transition plan for children with ASD (NCSE, 2009).
This paper is investigating learning experiences and school provision for children with ASD in mainstream schools in Ireland. Developments of educational policies and school provision for facilitating autistic children’s need will be explored and how the educational contribution has been helping autistic children and their families will also be illustrated.
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