Court rules in favour of Autist Child

The Belfast Telegraph this evening carries a report by Deborah McAleese on a “landmark ruling against the South Eastern Education and Library Board.” This strengthens the right of children with special needs to receive appropriate provision of services, and if refused to seek redress through the courts. Autistic boy wins ‘landmark’ case.

After it was recommended that a six year old boy receive specialised schooling and as none was available in the area his parents asked for a home based package and funding was refused.
At a judicial review yesterday, Justice Morgan ruled for the boy.
He said the decision “failed to give individualised consideration to the provision of a funded home-based ABA programme”.

Autistic pupils can benefit greatly from specialised teaching methods, but it is important that intervention is started as early as possible.

11 thoughts on “Court rules in favour of Autist Child”

  1. I hope that this is just the start. Our school system has been failing children with conditions such as autism, (including Aspergers), ADHD, Dyspraxia, etc. for years. There has been some developments for Dyslexia but far more needs to be done. Parents of these children pay taxes too. If our main schools were more nuero-diversity aware this would help very many more of the pupils as we are all on a continuim. This would improve educational standards in the round, feed the employment sector (public and private), reduce crimem etc. etc. People with these neurological conditions (often undiagnosed because the health service has not got to grips with this either) are thought to be vastly under-represented in employment and vastly over represented in te prison population. This is not because they do not have skills that can be of use. Often their skills are so unusual (and actually badly needed) that employment is not geared up to take advantage. IMO the private sector can be as inefficient as it wants to be, but the public sector, has no right to waste my money and compromise the service I may need, by failing to use the pool of talent that could be harnessed to improve things for us all.

    Not that I feel strongly about this or anything!

  2. This is great news indeed. My fear is that given the financial restraints facing the various ELBs will they be able to skirt round their obligations. Knowing how schools struggle they often, (through no direct fault of their own), settle for a minimum whilst aspiring to the very highest of possible targets. This can look good on paper and policy documents to be read by inspectors however, this often results in long journey times for pupils who have to travel to the schools who can accommodate their needs. Do we know where will the extra money come from or will children have to travel long distances to claim their entitlement? I hope not I fear so.

  3. Good news.
    But I’m not sure from this article whether the child was offered a “mainstream” education. Is this the case, and the parents convinced the court that the state should pay for specialised education (at home in this case, but could the courts start ordering more special schools to be built – or more special classes in schools?)?

    If so, it’s good to see a recognition that a mainstream education isn’t necessarily good for everyone.

  4. Davros

    That’s good to know, I’m afraid you have encouraged me to step back on the soap box – see below.


    Forgive the insult, but I’m beginning to think you are indeed me (you poor sod!) and that I am suffering from multi personality disorder and post under “zorro” when hosting an alternate, except that in those cases I think that the other personalities are meant to be diverse.

    It is a partcular “thing” of mine how things “can look good on paper and policy documents to be read by inspectors” in so much of the public sector and be crap in reality “icing on cardboard” a friend of mine called it. The tick box mentality also disguises inefficiency and a total lack of any quality standard, To quote Winnie-the-Pooh’s friend Rabbit, “you’ve got to respect someone who can spell Tuesday, even if they can’t spell it right.”


    “a mainstream education isn’t necessarily good for everyone”

    I agree, however for some children, it is only not good for them because, the mainstream has not made sufficient effort, including acessing the right expertise to do it properly, to accomodate the difference. The trouble is if you win the arguement to make the mainstream more inclusive, you run the risk of this becoming dogma and all children are shoe-horned into the mainstream when, as you say, that may not be in their interests.

    To expand on my earlier post:-

    We are often told that grammer schools allow bright kids from “poorer” backgrounds to flourish. To an extent this is true, but not necessarily for very bright kids with hidden disabilities such as Aspergers (part of the Autistic spectrum), ADHD, Dyspraxia and Dyslexia (although the latter probably stand the better chance because of raised awareness). Some of these kids can have MENSA level IQ’s but struggle accademically, knowing that there is something wrong but blaming themselves for being different and all too often not picked up by the education or health services. One of the most underdiagnosed group are very bright girls with ADD, but without the hyper activity, (which is not a less serious version as it tends to be ADD with hypoactivity making the person quiet withdrawn and in their one world of day dreams.). Because these girls are causing less trouble than their more rowdy male classmmates with ADD with hyperactivity, they do not get the help they need. In addition, if they are really bright, although they may be performing well well below their potential, they are not so far behind in relation to the average as to draw attention to themselves, so again they fly just under the radar.

    The link between these conditions (affecting an estimated 10% of the population severely or very sinificantly and, as it is on a contineum, another 30 % to some degree) and trauma is not fully explored but there are good reasons to believe that these neurological differences can make traumatic experiences (e.g terrorism in NI) more difficult to deal with and/or can mean that those individuals need a more tailored response. Because of the number of bomb victims NI has built up an expertise in dealing with the accociated physical injuries, we haven’t done this in relation to the psychological impact on those potentially the most badly affected by it.

    The positive side of this is that people with these neurological differences (neuro-divergents) tend to be the most creative and when they find their niche are at the cutting edge of innovation. History is full of such people who exhibit more than their fair share of neuro-divergence. Einstein and Churchill are just two examples. Einstein nearly bankrupt his family farm before he (and the family business) were saved by a patron. Churchill’s father thought he was an idiot because he did so badly at school. Neurodivergents from wealthy backgrounds often end up being very sucessful, because, even if never diagnosed, their money can help them create anenvironment where they can thrive. Where would Einstein and Churchill have been if they had tried to work their way up in the Civil Service. How many more Einstein’s are struggling in an envionment where they are trying to fit into a one size fits all employment pidgeon hole.

    It has been said that if the world was full of neuro-typicals (ie those without any of the conditions), then we would still be living in caves and no-one would have invented the wheel. It also has to be said that if the world was full of neuro-divergents we would also still be living in caves – we would have invented the wheel and lots of other things, but the lack of organisational skills would mean that they were never implemented.

    We need the employment pool to be as full and diverse as possible and for organisations more flexible in terms of facilitating us all to work to our strengths for our mutual benefit.

    lecture over (for a wee while) ;o)

    But then as I said before it’s not that I feel strongly about this!

  5. a mainstream education isn’t necessarily good for everyone”

    I agree, however for some children, it is only not good for them because, the mainstream has not made sufficient effort, including acessing the right expertise to do it properly, to accomodate the difference”

    How will these extra services be funded?
    what other services will be curtailed to provide these funds?

    Inclusion of special neeeds children in Mainstream is a recipe for total disaster

    Teachers are FORCED to deliver the national curriculum– this means that gobshite sammy (and sean) are forced into classes in subjects where they have neither interest or appitude nor do they have the courtesy to be silent- for sake of the majority left in the class. Add in an asbergers or other “nuero-diversity ” students with perhaps a teachers assistant and we have every teachers worst nightmare. The real victims are the majority of pupils whose education already disrupted by sean and sammy is now ruined.

    Finally -cost- on foot of the legal ruling how will the additional resources needed be funded- who will pay -what other services will be curtailed/cancelled to fund these additional resources. How will other parents react?

    (Some might say three cheers for the 11+ where a pass removes you largely from this hassle at least)

  6. Barnshee

    Children with special needs (and those with no special needs at all may be only 60% only just a majority, but actually are more likely to be a minority) are already in mainstream education but with their needs not met, which also impacts negatively on the other children. I am advocating that they are accomodated properly and that when they cannot be, that other options are considered. As I said the parents of these children pay taxes.

    In some case the childs needs may be so special, that they cannot be accomodated totally in mainstream schools. For example, those who may be so intellectually advanced that they need some additional outlet for this and a need for contact with their intellectual peers to prevent social isolation.

    We would need to spend to save. Money that we waste through inefficient public services plus the savings from the Criminal Justice System could be ploughed back, we’d just have to work out what to do with the surplus!

    In the long term and when I am in my old age, I will have the advantage that less of my saving need to be taxed to feed the public sector as higher educational standards and a larger pool of talent, will have made it more effective and those at the more creative end of the spectrum will have advanced technology and health care to such an extent that my quality of life as a ninety year old will be A1 (and they will have discovered the cure for dementia).

    I do not want to have my well being as an OAP to be entirely in the hands of the average, majority of today’s children.

  7. bertie

    You will be pleased to know that the first of the special needs teachers are currently winging their way to England for specialised teaching for autistic kids in the NI boards.

    It’s my wee sister, believe it or not…

  8. I wish her all the best. I’m sure what she learns would also help her teach so called “normal” kids. As I say we are on a continueum (I must learn how to spell that).

  9. I have just finished a series of public meetings with parents, carers and people with learning disabilities – it included people with autism, aspergers etc. They were saying that the key to educating their children came down to choice.

    Some felt that their child (and indeed other children in school) would benefit from mainstream education by making their *difference” more understood by other parents, pupils and kids. Others felt that their disabilities made mainstream too much of an ordeal for their children and wanted specialist provision.

    While there are a growing number of kids being diagnosed with autism. aspergers etc the majority of kids who need special education are not the troubled geniuses. Many will need training to use buses or live independently, many will never even get there, but we have to ensure that the education system takes each child as far as they can go.

    It is the public, through their politicians, who decide the role of schools and I believe that there is a majority of people who want to see an emphasis placed on special needs education.

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