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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tough Times in the English-Speaking World

Fiscal constraints are affecting autism programs around the English-speaking world.

A case in Ireland, from the Irish Times:

THE LAST school in the State providing specialist Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) education to children with autism has closed, despite promises from Ministers Eamon Gilmore, Ruairí Quinn and James Reilly when in opposition that they would support ABA education.

The Achieve ABA school in Donaghmede, Dublin, which has been providing such education since 2006, closed yesterday as the parents of the eight children there could no longer afford to pay for it.

It has never received direct State funding. Up to now it has been funded in part with the home tuition grants, to which some of its pupils were entitled, and through fundraising. The grant is available to children with special needs between the ages of two and five years.

The funding shortfall had grown to €100,000 a year and, said Pat McCormack, parent of Méabh (5), “that is just not sustainable”.

The ABA method involves analysing the child’s skill levels and applying intensive one-to-one teaching which breaks down whole tasks into small, achievable steps. It applies particular methods to each child’s needs.

Though there were 13 such schools in the State, none was supported by the Department of Education, which says ABA is not “within the department’s policy parameters”.

All have now closed.

From the Waikato Times in New Zealand:

Parents of children with autism have been left angered and upset by the news Autism Waikato will close.

Six paid staff have been left without jobs, and more than 700 families no longer have the support network of the organisation.

Carolyn Jury, whose teenage son has Asperger's syndrome, was "disgusted" that the branch had to close due to a lack of funding.


Hamilton-based Labour MP Sue Moroney said funding for not-for-profit organisations had worsened since National made agencies reapply for funding each year through its community response fund.

"Autism NZ has successfully got money for that every year until this year because they have been told it's not regarded as a social service, it's more of a health service and it needs to be funded by a different budget."

BBC reports on a case from Wales:

A psychology professor has accused council officers of presenting inaccurate information to justify closing a unit for autistic children.

Council officers say the Westwood Primary School in Buckley, Flintshire, has not succeeded.

But Prof Richard Hastings says Bangor University research proves the claims inaccurate.

Opponents of closing the unit accused council officials of "unfounded claims, flawed evidence and misinformation".

A report to members of Flintshire council's executive argues children at the Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) unit "often fail to generalise... skills they have learnt".

It says unnamed parents complained the unit "restricted the development of their child's independence skills" and left them with "increased dependency on adult support".

Parents supporting the unit say that is not true and have been backed by Prof Hastings who previously oversaw the Westwood ABA unit.

More on Wales here.