Thursday 20 September 2018

'I feel like I'm caught between a rock and a hard place' - Mother of son (9) with autism still fighting for a school place in October

Linda Hansard and her son Kyle (9) from Dublin
Linda Hansard and her son Kyle (9) from Dublin
Kyle Hansard (9) from Dublin

Sasha Brady

A mother of a young son with autism has been fighting to find him a school place for five months.

Linda Hansard, from Donaghmede in Dublin has been trying to find a school place for her nine-year-old son, Kyle.

Kyle has autisim and is non-verbal. He had been a pupil at Scoil Bhríde in Donaghmede for five years which had an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) unit.

The school caters for children with autism up to the age of eight and Kyle finished up for good in June when the school term ended.

His mother has been applying for schools but has been unable to find a place for Kyle.

"We've been applying since before Christmas, he needs to be in a special school. Unfortunately, the waiting list is too long and it hasn't reached him yet," Linda said.

Kyle Hansard (9) from Dublin
Kyle Hansard (9) from Dublin

Linda had Kyle's name down in another school for four-and-a-half-years so he could join as soon as he finished Scoil Bhríde.

However, just before Christmas she got a letter from the school advising her that they were changing their application policy and from January they would no longer be accepting children from the waiting list.

They had adopted a first come, first served policy which subsequently reduced his chances of getting a place.

"I had his name down for so long. I'd been prepared. He was in the top ten of that waiting list. I'd no chance of getting him in once they changed their policy," said Linda.

Frustrated with the lack of opportunities available to Kyle, she met with Minister for Education, Richard Bruton, in February and various TDs who brought her case to the Dail.

"I'm still in the same situation though," she said. "Nothing has changed. Kyle is still without an education.

"He needs a routine. All children need routine but for children with autism it's especially important.

"He's at home, completely out of his routine, and he's destroying the house. I don't want to see him getting steadily worse when I know it doesn't have to be this way. It's really tough.

"He got on well in his old school because he loved the routine of getting the bus in the morning and they had a proper schedule for him every day. It was really good for him and I could see how important it was to have that steady school education."

In June she was advised that Kyle is entitled to 20 hours per week of home tuition. It's a solution of sorts but one that doesn't suit the family's situation.

"I applied because I didn't have any other choice but it doesn't suit. It wouldn't suit Kyle to be educated at home and it wouldn't suit me. I work nights and I can't be around during the day to supervise.

"I work for Cadbury's and they've been very good to me and allowed me to make some changes to my hours but if it comes down to my job or Kyle being home schooled, I'd have to chose my job. Without my income, what could we do?

"I feel like I'm caught between a rock and a hard place. Every mother wants the best for her children. Kyle needs to be in a school. He deserves an education like any other child."

The Department of Education told Independent.ie that they are aware of the situation but they cannot comment on individual cases.

"Of the 1,300 special classes currently in place nationally for the 2017/18, 115 special classes are in the North Dublin area, of which 92 are ASD special classes," a Department of Education spokesperson said.

"The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through their network of Special Education Needs Officera (SENOa), continue to work with the relevant education partners in north Dublin to ensure that the required additional special class placement(s) are available."

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