Momentous Debate Ensures Autism Training For All Teaching Staff

After three long years of campaigning from local charity Autism NI, the Minister for Education Peter Weir, agreed last night to introduce mandatory autism training for all teachers and classroom assistants throughout Northern Ireland. This was the first debate within the Chamber to take place since the reinstatement of the Assembly.

Autism NI CEO Kerry Boyd states, “I am absolutely delighted that this step has been taken by Minister Weir to introduce mandatory autism training. The school environment is ultimately where a child spends most of their day and therefore it needs to be fit for purpose to support that child. If teachers are given the correct skills and strategies to understand autism, they can support autistic children to reach their full potential.”

Chair of the All Party Group on Autism and DUP MLA Pam Cameron said: “I’m pleased that the motion I put forward for mandatory autism training was well received by the Minister for Education Peter Weir and gained support from all parties. The introduction of this vital training is promising to ensure our children get the support they need to take them into adult life.”

President of the Ulster Teachers Union, Susan Thompson said: “I’m glad the Minister for Education has listened to the autism community and the teaching staff of Northern Ireland as it is vitally important that the teaching force of Northern Ireland are receiving current and relevant training to upskill and assist teachers to deliver a curriculum that can allow every child to reach their full potential.  It is a necessity to train all teachers with the basic skills needed for teaching children who are diagnosed as having autism.”

Currently one in thirty school age children are diagnosed with autism in Northern Ireland. Autism NI supports individuals and their families, and campaigns to raise awareness of autism within the wider society. A local charity, it provides life-changing services for the 30,000 autistic individuals throughout Northern Ireland.

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