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Autistic boy's mother in persecution claim

THE mother at the centre of row over specialised treatment for children with autism yesterday said her family has been "persecuted" by the State.

Yvonne Ui Cuanachain owes €5m in costs arising from a failed legal action taken against the State on behalf of her son, Sean.

The O Cuanachains, from Arklow, Co Wicklow, lost their battle seeking to oblige the State to educate Sean through the applied behaviour analysis (ABA) method.

"We've been under the most severe, aggressive and adversarial action from the Department of Education -- we've been persecuted because we raised our head above the parapet and said this is not good enough," she said on TV3's 'The Political Party'.

Ms Ui Cuanachain accused the Department of Education of being "cynically misrepresentative" and of not supporting ABA and criticised Education Minister Mary Hanafin's stance.

"Well I would reject the Minister's position quite completely and I feel it's actually quite cynically misrepresentative of the situation on the ground. The Department of Education does not support ABA, it does not support ABA within the ABA schools and neither does it support ABA within the eclectic classes."

Ms Ui Cuanachain said the family was 68 days in court, spread over seven months -- when a normal High Court case is three weeks.

"If you can imagine, if you have a young family at home and when all the resources of the State are being borne down upon you. And I think that is what needs to change, if there is a change in ethos, it has to be working with parents and stopping this threatening and bullying and intimidatory behaviour," she said.

Accusing Education Minister Mary Hanafin of being less understanding than her predecessor, Ms Ui Cuanachain said the family's experience with former Minister Noel Dempsey was more positive.


"With Minister Dempsey, just before he left office, we were given positive communications from the Minister that this was a situation he was going to resolve because ABA schools up till then were being rolled out on the basis of needs and then when Minister Hanafin came into office she said she didn't want to see parents fighting for services anymore," she said.

Fianna Fail TD Mary O'Rourke said she has spoken to the Taoiseach about the issue and will also discuss it with Minister Hanafin.

No single approach can help all children: Mary Hanafin, Page 28