Now that the Irish economy is utterly banjaxed, the minister in charge has declared that they will be withdrawing funding from the centre and his Northern Irish counterpart is annoyed and has said, "This project has to go ahead, this project will go ahead. It is important, especially in times in economic difficulties, that we don't disadvantage our most vulnerable children, our children on the autistic spectrum."
Well that's an admirable sentiment, but the Middleton centre would be about as useful to the lives of Irish autistic people as a chocolate teapot. Middleton is in the middle of a country with appallingly bad public transport links, miles from any sizable city. The centre has a 1 page website which sets out its aims:
- Training, Advice and Guidance
- Research and Information
- Educational Assessment
- Learning Support
Research and information- are we really expected to believe that a world class autism research centre can be built from scratch in a village of 240 people? Where is the nearest university? Are the very best in autism science going to move to Middleton? Are they going to equip a new lab space? Are there not already bodies like the admirable Research Autism set up to share "information resource[s] for parents and professionals" and with a charter to "publish and disseminate research findings"? It sounds like more wastage to me.
Educational assessment and learning support can be carried out in the child's home or school. It is important to have more well trained and knowledgeable people who can do this work. Again, the funds can be put to better use to improve the training of teachers, to employ more speech and occupational therapists, well paid and dedicated classroom assistants and educational psychologists.
There is so little help for parents in NI when they are told their child is autistic. There needs to be much better access to diagnosis, more of a support system in place in each area post diagnosis, more opportunities for our children to join in with groups and classes, and an overhaul of the educational opportunities available for those (the majority) who opt to have their children educated at school. However, all changes must be based on the evidence and not on the loudest voices and special interest groups calling for ABA for all or unproven biomedical treatments.
I can't even begin here to address the dire state of provision for autistic adults in Ireland.