Autism Provision at Saint Joseph’s National School
In September 2012, an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Class was opened as part of Saint Joseph’s NS. This class caters for the needs of children with ASD’s who are of school – going age. The pupil-teacher ratio in the Unit is 6:1 and pupils are further supported by a minimum of two Special Needs Assistants per class. The rationale for the attachment of autism units to mainstream schools is based on research findings which highlighted that children with ASD’s progressed better in a structured mainstream learning setting.
Education essentially is the teaching and training of a child to
make the best possible use of his inherent and potential capacities,
physical, mental and moral.
(Ryan v. Attorney General  I.R. 294)
For children with ASD’s, early intervention is very important, as are appropriate teaching methods and behaviour management programmes. Through early intervention, the child can be helped to develop important social, communication and play skills that provide the basis for future learning and socialisation. The benefits of early identification and structured intervention are widely acknowledged.
Saint Joseph’s NS supports the findings of the Task Force on Autism 2001 in that there is no single method that should be used exclusively to meet the varied needs of children and young people with ASD’s, but rather a variety of best practice methods are employed. We place an emphasis on developing each child to their fullest potential, mindful of the need to assist children in developing their communication, play, social, behavioural and general life skills. Simultaneously, the teaching staff provides access to the full Primary School Curriculum. Using the best practice methodologies an effective programme is tailor-made for each child.
The inclusion of pupils attending the ASD class with mainstream peers and activities within the mainstream setting is sensitively managed. Detailed consideration is given to each child’s readiness to engage in an inclusive manner with the mainstream programmes.
Parental involvement in the learning and teaching programmes of children with ASD’s is imperative in order to foster consistency between all environments for the children. Saint Joseph’s BNS promotes and facilitates close liaison with parents so that the home and educational environments can complement and reinforce learning.
Saint Joseph’s NS works closely with the HSE to facilitate other multi-disciplinary support, such as the new dental initiative, in the school. The multi-disciplinary team play a central role in the assessment of pupils with autism, and the development and implementation of individualised learning programmes.