- Early childhood education
- Questions to ask when choosing an **ECE setting
- Pre-school options for children with Autism
- Private Pre-school for children with Autism
- Education Options
- Attending a local school
Early childhood education
Early childhood education (ECE) refers to education before the start of formal schooling, or before the age of six; which is the age that children are required to start their education, by Irish law.
In Ireland, early childhood education is generally understood to include infant classes in primary schools.
The State supports early intervention for children with special educational needs by providing funding to a number of crèche/pre-school settings including:
- Early intervention settings attached to mainstream and special schools
- Early intervention settings attached to HSE funded service providers
- Private pre-school settings supported by the ECCE scheme
- Private pre-school settings supported by HSE grant aid
- Private pre-school supported by home tuition grant
- Home Tuition
A child can access one or more of the above-mentioned early intervention settings, if he/she meets the eligibility criteria for support, and if the service is available in the area.
Questions to ask when choosing an ECE setting
- How much one-to-one attention from an adult will my child receive?
- Will the adult have the skills and experience to support and build on my child’s ability to communicate?
- Will the adults have the skills and experience to address and support my child’s behavioural, social and sensory needs
- Can activities be adapted to meet the needs of my child?
- Will my child’s time in the setting be structured and consistent?
- Will any necessary therapies (speech and language therapy, behavior support) or supports (special needs assistant) be provided or welcomed in the setting?
Pre-school options for children with Autism
The Department of Education and Skills provides for early intervention classes for children with autism from the age of three. These classes are run by the Department of Education and Skills, and use an eclectic approach to education.
These classes usually have 6 children with one teacher and 2 Special Needs Assistants (SNA) per class. Places are usually allocated by the SENO (Special Education Needs Organiser). If you are looking to apply for Home Tuition, it is important to note that you will not be approved if there is a placement available in one of these classes. You can find more information on home tuition in our Benefits & Entitlements page.
The list of special classes published here each year on the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) website, under Special Classes.
The list of specialist classes is published on the National Council for Special Education website each year.
The SENO contact list can also be found on the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) website.
Private Pre-school for children with Autism
There are a number of private preschools in Ireland that are set up specifically for children with autism. Funding for these placements is generally via Home Tuition Scheme.
The scheme requires a parent to apply to the SENO for funding and then payments are made directly to the preschool.
Because the funding is via the Home Tuition scheme the same conditions apply funding private pre-schooling, which carries a maximum of 20 hours education per week.
Keep in mind, this option is usually only approved if there is no Department of Education pre-school placement available.
In Ireland, there are generally 4 education options for children and young people Autism.
- Attending a mainstream class in a National Primary School with some assistance provided by specially designated support
- Attending a ASD Unit in a National Primary School. An ASD Unit usually has up to 6 students and is taught by a National School primary teacher and two Special Needs Assistants.
- Attending a Special Needs School. These schools are specially equipped for children with a wide range of special needs and/or learning disabilities. Your child may be in a class with children who have a variety of conditions and differing
levels of intellectual difficulty; unless he or she is placed in a Autism-specific class that only caters to children with ASD.
- Attending a special school for Children with Autism and Complex Needs. These schools are specifically equipped to educate children with complex needs and have much lower student-teacher ratios, often at or close to 1:1. They also employ Behaviour Analysts to assist with students’ behavioural health needs and support and support evidence-based practices throughout. Unfortunately, there are only 12 such schools throughout Ireland, and there are significant wait lists for each.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) provides Special Education Needs Officers (SENOs) to assist families with children who have special educational needs find and access the appropriate educational placements.
If you are considering one of the above education options for your child, contact the SENO (see here for details) in your local area to get recommendations. Any reports you have are sufficient for them to sanction any additional supports that are required for your child/family member.
It is ultimately the parents/carers’ responsibility to find a school placement. You will need to contact any schools you are interested in to see if there is a place available for your child.
Listing of schools with ASD classes are available Click here . Should you be unable to find a school placement, a SENO will try to find one for your child.
If a placement is not available, the SENO may sanction the Home Tuition Grant Scheme application. This is a grant scheme from the Department of Education and Skills (DoES) that provides children with ASD with education through home tuition (home school) until a placement in a school becomes available. In addition to this, children with Autism that are of a pre-school age may avail of this scheme.
Attending a local school
The Department of Education’s policy of inclusion in relation to students with special educational needs (SEN) encourages children with a diagnosis of ASD to attend their local school, with the appropriate support.
Before choosing a school setting for your child, it is strongly advised that you consult with the relevant professional(s), (multi-disciplinary team, psychiatrist, clinical psychologist), for recommendations on what would be the best educational setting for your child – whether that be a mainstream school, a special class in a mainstream school or a school specifically equipped to educate children with ASD or other disabilities.
Education recommendations will be based on an assessment of the child’s individual needs, taking into account their level of intellectual ability, the severity of impairment and the child’s emotional health.
The process of determining a school setting involves:
- A thorough assessment of the child’s educational needs
- Recommendations on the appropriate educational and/or therapeutic support required for the child’s needs.
- Consultation and discussion with the parents on the best education setting recommended for the child, including a discussion around local availability and alternative options.
Following this process, if you decide your child should attend a mainstream school, you may apply to the school principal and request a placement for your child. You will be required to provide any relevant professional reports and assessments to support your request.
The school will then seek the appropriate resources necessary to provide your child with the required educational and therapeutic support.