The father of a 14-year-old boy with autism says his son’s Constitutional rights are being breached because his Special Needs Assistant’s hours were cut.
Garbhán Hutchinson from Bundoran and another student at St. Cecilia’s School, Sligo were sharing 1.25 of an SNA allocation between them, but this was reduced to .75 hours on May 9.
Garbhán’s father Chris wrote to the Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn, asking him to reverse the cut. A spokesperson for the Minister said “enquiries are being made about this matter.” Pearse Doherty TD is to raise the issue in the Dáil and the school is also understood to be appealing the cut.
Mr Hutchinson told the Democrat: “Garbhán is on very strong psychiatric drugs to control his mood swings. Nevertheless, he is extremely strong and has injured both himself and staff at the special school he attends. Last year, one SNA had to take time off after Garbhán injured her fingers and kicked her in the chest.
“Garbhán’s severe behavioural problems require him to wear a boxing helmet to protect his head due to his extreme self-injurious behaviour. Only last November, he ended up in hospital with a serious head injury when he smashed the back of his head onto the corner of his classroom wall.
“He is so strong that he needs a male SNA so that he can be restrained. The whole multi-disciplinary team that works with him, doctors and the school, are in agreement that he should have a full SNA to himself. “I gave the school permission to video any incidents so that they could show them to the Special Education Needs Officer. On his last visit, they showed him a recording Garbhán throwing a chair across the classroom. The very next day, Garbhán hit an SNA on the back of the neck and pulled out his own gastronomy feeding tube. Despite this, the hours were cut because it was deemed that there was ‘a reduction in care needs’.
“My son is an Irish-born citizen and the Constitution provides for an education suitable for Garbhán needs.
“The decision taken to cut his SNA hours means the Department of Education is now in breach of my son’s educational rights. The Department is putting my son and others at risk.“
How can it ever be justified to reduce special needs provision in a school that is especially for children with such severe problems that they can’t attend a regular school? The government can pump billions into the banks and spend millions on two state visits but can’t see fit to provide for my son’s education in a safe environment.”