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Saturday 17 August 2019

No place: 'My son is at home alone because he is autistic'

No school place: Trish O’Neill and her son Conor (6) at home in Co Cork, where he is being tutored. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
No school place: Trish O’Neill and her son Conor (6) at home in Co Cork, where he is being tutored. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Laura Lynott

Laura Lynott

The mother of a child with autism and an intellectual disability has said her son will have to wait at least two years to gain a school place in a case of educational "discrimination".

Trish O'Neill (38), from Donoughmore, Co Cork, said her son Conor (6) hasn't been able to gain a place in a special school since losing a place in December.

The previous educational situation - an ASD unit attached to a mainstream school - was no longer suitable for Conor.

Conor needs a special educational setting catering for autism and intellectual disability specifically.

But Ms O'Neill says that for the past three months he has been upset, watching his two siblings Aoibhínn (3) and Ben (18 months) leave the house every day for crèche while he sits at home.

Conor receives home tutoring until 1pm but this isn't good enough, said Ms O'Neill.

"The only suitable school anywhere near has told us it could be two years before Conor gains a place," she said.

"There just aren't any places. The Special Education Support Service recommended home tutoring and the tutor's great but had I known how isolated Conor would be, how he'd go back on himself, I'd never have agreed.

"He's regressed. My son needs to be around other children. There's tears, he's visibly anxious, he lashes out.

"This is a child with autism and a learning disability, very little communication. He was accustomed to routine and when that was all taken away he was incredibly distressed.

"My son is being discriminated for having autism and an intellectual disability because if he didn't have these conditions, he'd be in a school, not sitting at home. Education is a right for all children and I'm Conor's mother - I love him and am determined to fight for his rights."

A Department of Education spokesman said they do not comment on individual cases, but added: "From time to time, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), an independent agency of the department, identifies local areas where additional special school provision is required.

"In those circumstances, special educational needs organisers work with the schools and families concerned to resolve the issues involved.

"The NCSE is actively engaging with special schools in Cork in relation to ensuring that there will be sufficient placements to meet the identified need for the 2019/2020 school year."

Irish Independent

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