Pilot project in schools to focus upon speech skills
The first ever project to provide speech and language and occupational therapy services to children in school and pre-school is being announced today.
It will bring together therapists and educational professionals who before now have often operated separately.
The joint Department of Education and HSE initiative will start in 150 primary and pre-schools - 75 of each - next September, with funding of €2.5m.
Speech and language therapists assess, diagnose and deliver therapy to those with communication difficulties.
Occupational therapy services are designed to help people who have a disability to achieve the maximum degree of independence in ordinary living.
Some 19 speech and language therapists and 12 occupational therapists will be recruited to work in the schools, and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), which will manage it, will also recruit two national co-ordinators.
The project will take place in the HSE region that covers west Dublin, Kildare and west Wicklow, involving schools in urban and rural locations and a mix of school types.
It will test a model of tailored therapeutic supports that allow for early intervention in terms of providing speech and language and occupational therapy within educational settings.
It will focus on early intervention and tailored supports by specialist therapists, greater linkages between therapists, parents, teachers and other school staff, and professional training for school staff and parents in supporting children's needs.
Launching the project, Education Minister Richard Bruton said identifying a speech and language issue in a child, and dealing with that issue, could have a dramatic impact on that child's life prospects.
He added: "The Government's aim is to help every child to fulfil their potential.
"We have set the ambition to make Ireland's education and training service the best in Europe by 2026.
"Parents tell us consistently that they would like to see greater levels of co-operation and integration between different services.
"A more cohesive, collaborative approach to delivering tailored supports to children in our schools is key to becoming the best.
"This model will bring together therapists and educational professionals who have until now often operated separately."
He said the initiative would allow therapists and educational professionals to work together to plan, collaborate, and share their professional knowledge and expertise, and allow therapists to use their time more efficiently.
Children's Minister Katherine Zappone said she was especially pleased that pre-schools would be central to the project, demonstrating the importance of early intervention in supporting children with additional needs.
The pilot will be evaluated to inform decisions about a possible future roll-out of a nationwide programme.