PLANS to close the successful early intervention unit (EI) at Kilbrittain National School in June have been described as a backwards step.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) informed the school that the unit – set up in 2019 with capacity for six children and attached to the ASD unit – will close as part of a plan to ‘phase out’ early intervention classes nationally.
Kilbrittain NS has two ASD classes and one pre- school early intervention unit, staffed by a teacher and two SNAs.
Principal Karen O’Donovan said the school wants the NCSE to reconsider the decision. ‘We wish to cater for all the children in our locality and that goes from pre-school level to national school,’ she said.
In a letter to the editor in this week’s Southern Star, Susan O’Leary, who has a child with additional educational needs, said that to hear that an established and proven EI class is to be closed ‘is beyond heart-breaking and utterly infuriating.’
‘We have to fight from the beginning for our children, make constant calls, send endless emails to try and get what we need for our children. Why are our children treated with such disrespect?’ she asked.
‘Early intervention are the two words we hear from all the professionals and yet now the NCSE want to close a class that does exactly that.’
Cork South West TD Michael Collins (Ind) pointed out that there are three children enrolled for the EI unit for September. The decision is a ‘retrograde step’, he said, and one that will have huge repercussions for children and in particular children with ASD.
‘The demand for places in this unit will always be high and three senior psychologists with the Brothers of Charity have stated that they do not support the closure of EI units,’ said Deputy Collins. Fianna Fáil TD Christopher O’Sullivan said the unit is ‘an invaluable resource’ to the children who have been diagnosed with autism and has written to Minister Foley to request the unit remains open.
Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns said the decision to close the unit is ‘disgraceful’ and must be ‘reversed’ and said she would be raising the matter at the disability matters committee.