A County Longford family has warned they may have to leave Ireland for good unless controversial plans to close a specialist autism preschool unit in Edgeworthstown is reversed.
Patrick Hallinan-McCauley and his partner Sinead have been told they face having to send their children to two different schools because of the government led cutbacks at St Mary’s National School.
The decision, which was confirmed by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) last week, has prompted an angry response from worried parents.
Mr Hallinan-McCauley, whose two children both suffer from autism, said he would seriously have to consider leaving Longford for good.
“Our five year-old son Callum has autism and my youngest, Shane was only diagnosed with the same condition three weeks ago,” he revealed.
“Now we are being told that Shane will have to go to Killoe which is just not practical.”
Given that both he and his partner rely on social welfare to make ends meet, the father of two said the options left open to the family were limited.
He also criticised the announcement which, he said, would have far-reaching repercussions for his eldest son, Callum.
“I don’t know what we will do. We, as a family, have one car between us and we just can’t afford to send our children to different schools.
“Callum has speech and language difficulties, but he has shown great improvement and that’s all down to the trust he has built up with the teachers there and with the other children.”
“If this goes ahead, all the progress Callum has made will be swept under the bloody carpet.”
Many of those fears were expressed by the Hallinan-McCauley’s and other families at a public meeting last week.
Principal of St Mary’s NS, Helen O’Gorman said the anticipated removal of the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Unit in Edgeworthstown was worrying for teachers and parents alike.
“It means children will be placed in a class setting which is not suited to their needs,” she said, revealing also as many as five children were waiting to be enrolled at the unit.
“This decision discriminates against parents who have children within the ASD spectrum and because of this I’m not even in a position to issue enrolment forms because if I do it’s an invitation for those parents’ children to attend.”