Cathaoirleach of Westmeath County Council Cllr Frankie Keena.

Call for action on shortage of autism units in local secondary schools

The shortage of autism units in the post-primary sector in the Athlone area needs to be urgently addressed, according to Cathaoirleach of Westmeath County Council, Cllr Frankie Keena.

He is calling on Athlone-based secondary schools to take immediate action and provide a unit on their campus.

“The fact that there are presently eight students on the waiting list for such places in the Athlone area is unacceptable and therefore it is incumbent on all the Athlone- based secondary schools to take immediate action and provide a unit in their campus.

"If schools are unsure of the ongoing demand it is very easy to do a needs analysis by linking with the various primary schools who have autism units,” he remarked this week.

Cllr Keena, who is also the Chairman of the Athlone Community College Board of Management, continued that the need for an autism unit within this school has been identified by the board and he has also raised this matter with the Longford Westmeath Educational Training Board.

“One of the first steps for the provision of such a unit is for the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) to consider the request which involves school visits, assessments and consultation. I am delighted to confirm that the NCSE has now approved the provision of same for Athlone Community College,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we are still not over the line yet as this matter is now with the Department of Education Building Section for consideration. It is so important that a favourable decision is made on this as soon as possible as I am very aware that September is fast approaching and parents and students need clarity and reassurance,” he ended.