Train Our Teachers!

  • 12-09-2019

Hundreds of supporters attended a rally at Stormont today (11th September) where Autism NI handed over a petition calling for mandatory autism training for all Northern Ireland teaching staff.

Over ten thousand local supporters signed the online petition asking for the Department of Education to introduce this vital training, to ensure the best possible educational outcomes for all autistic children in Northern Ireland.

Autism NI parent, Shelley Armstrong handed over the petition to the Chair of the All Party Group on Autism, MLA Pam Cameron to cheers from the autism community.

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Autism NI CEO, Kerry Boyd said: “Our Helpline receives thousands of calls per year, with education remaining one of the top reasons why parents and professionals contact us.  In a recent survey conducted by Autism NI, one third of our parents told us that their children are on a reduced timetable at their current school. This is completely unacceptable. As the vast majority of autistic children, 78%, are placed in mainstream education, all teaching staff in Northern Ireland should be sufficiently trained to work with an autistic child so reduced timetables become a thing of the past.”

Kerry continued: “If teachers are given the correct skills and strategies to understand autism, they can support our children to reach their full potential and give them the same opportunities in life as every other child has. As it stands now, this is not happening. All we are asking is to have an equal playing field where autistic children have access to achieving the same supportive educational experience as other children do. I therefore urge the Department of Education to listen to our community, so that no child with autism should miss out on a full and supportive education.”

Pam Cameron MLA and Chair of the All Party Group on Autism (APGA) said: “The volume of support this petition has attracted reflects the strongly held view of people right across Northern Ireland.  More needs to be done to support teachers to enable every pupil to reach their potential. No child should be left behind. I urge the Department to listen to the people who have signed this petition and introduce mandatory autism training as soon as possible, to bring us into line with other parts of the United Kingdom.”

President of the Ulster Teachers Union, Susan Thompson said: “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.

“After gaining a further understanding about the rise in numbers of children diagnosed with autism and the recent research Autism NI have produced to date, it is a priority and a huge concern that teachers are not equipped or trained to manage these quantities in our classrooms. 

“It is a necessity to train all teachers with the basic skills needed for teaching children who are diagnosed as having autism.  It should be statutory and an educational right for the child and for teachers to feel adequately trained to deliver that broad and balanced curriculum for all.”

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.

For further information visit www.autismni.org or call Tel: 028 9040 1729.


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