A child has special educational needs if their capacity to participate in and benefit from education is restricted due to an enduring physical, sensory, mental health or learning disability.
Individual Education Plan (IEP)
An Individual Education Plan is a document which is prepared for a student setting out learning goals that are to be achieved within a set period of time. It specifies the resources, supports and teaching strategies that will be needed in order to achieve these goals. It is individual to each child and involves the child’s teacher, parents, assistants and resource teachers. An Individual Education Plan should be reviewed regularly and needs to be monitored. Under the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004, each child assessed with a special educational need should have a personal education plan.
Special Education Classes
Children with disabilities or special needs attend either mainstream classes, special education classes or a special school depending on their needs. Children attending mainstream school may get help from learning support teachers, resource teachers and care support from special needs assistants (SNAs). Some children attend special classes in mainstream schools which would generally have low pupil/teacher ratio. There are a number of special classes for children which are attached to special and mainstream schools. These include classes for children on the autistic spectrum ASD classes, early intervention classes for children of pre-school age who are on the autistic spectrum, special classes for pupils with specific speech and language disorders, classes for children with moderate and severe learning disabilities, classes for children with a hearing impairment and classes for children with multiple disabilities. In general, a child who is eligible for placement in a special class is also eligible for free transport to their nearest class.
Special Needs Assistants
Special needs assistants (SNAs) are allocated to schools to work with children who have specific care needs. They provide non-teaching care support. They may work with more than one child and can also work on a part-time basis. Special Needs Assistants support pupils who have care needs resulting from a disability, behavioural difficulties or a significant medical issue.
The Department of Education and Skills gives a grant to schools to allow them to purchase equipment for use by students with a disability in secondary schools. The scheme applies to a student with a physical disability or a student who has a communication disability that makes ordinary communication through speech and writing impossible. The purpose of the scheme is to provide the student with equipment that will be of direct educational benefit to the student such as a computer, word processor, induction loop, tape recorder, drafting machine, braille software and equipment. Schools may also apply for a grant to the Department of Education and Skills to make a school accessible for a student with a disability. This might include accessible toilet accommodation or for installation of a ramp.
Special Educational Needs Organisers
If your child has special educational needs you should talk to the school principal about the type of education that would suit your child’s needs. You can also discuss with your local SENO (Special Educational Needs Organisers). SENO’s are employed by the National Council Special Education and are responsible for allocating additional teaching and other resources to support the special educational needs of a child with a disability. They also provide support and advice for parents.
Home Tuition Programme
Funding is available from the Department of Education to parents through the Home Tuition Programme. This programme is to provide education to children at home who cannot attend school. This may be due to chronic illness or parents who cannot find a suitable educational placement for their child with special needs. The Home Tuition Scheme funds home programmes for pre-school children on the autistic spectrum who need early educational intervention. The grant aid is for 10 hours’ home tuition a week for children aged 2½ to 3 and 20 hours a week for children aged 3. The funding is not provided if there is a place in school or early education available to the child.
July Education Programme
The July Education Programme is funded by the Department of Education for schools to provide further special needs education during the month of July. Special schools and mainstream primary schools with special classes catering for children with autism and children with a severe/profound general learning disability may choose to extend their education services through the month of July. The funding also covers transport and escort services for the children. Where school-based provision is not feasible, 40 hours home-based provision may be grant aided.
Special transport arrangements are available for children with disabilities attending school. This has been put in place to support the transport of children with special educational needs arising from a diagnosed disability.
Students with specific disabilities who meet the Department’s specific criteria may apply for an exemption. This means that the student either attending primary or secondary school is not required to study Irish. A written application for an exemption is made by the parent or guardian to the school principal on behalf of their child. The application should state the reasons why the exemption is being sought. A child will only be considered for an exemption where his/her educational circumstances meet the criteria required.