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School forgot about our children with autism, angry parents claim

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Cecilia Semple and her daughter Kelly pictured outside St Conleth’s Vocational School

Cecilia Semple and her daughter Kelly pictured outside St Conleth’s Vocational School

Cecilia Semple and her daughter Kelly pictured outside St Conleth’s Vocational School

Six children with autism will start secondary school today - after building delays left them stuck at home for nine weeks.

An extension to St Conleth's Vocational School in Newbridge, Co Kildare, which includes two new units for children with autism, was due to be completed by September 1 in time for the school's reopening after the summer break.

However, delays in signing off on the new building by the Department of Education and council meant the school could not fully reopen in time, leaving the six children at home for the first half of the term.

Invisible

Cecilia Semple, whose 13-year old daughter Kelly will attend the school from today, said parents felt their children had been "forgotten about" and were treated as "invisible" by officials.

"The day I got the letter I was devastated. I sat down and cried, and I just felt like Kelly was unwanted because of her disability," she said.

"We had all bought the uniforms. We were getting them ready and doing social stories with them to get them prepared for school.

"The pure and simple fact is they have a right to education just like their peers."

A shortage of spaces in the area led the National Council for Special Education to grant permission for the two ASD units to open, with all spaces being filled immediately.

But with two months of the school year lost for the pupils affected by the delay, some parents fear their children are now at a disadvantage.

"They're going in now with seven weeks to Christmas and it is going to take that for them to settle in so they have missed the term," Ms Semple said.

"Because they've been at home this long they might not be able to settle in now. The wheels seem to turn very slowly.

"We were promised that if any delay occurred, alternative accommodation would be put in place but instead we were just left hanging and hanging."

A spokesperson for the department said the teaching team would "assess their needs and adapt their teaching programme so that any deficits can be addressed".


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