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New bill to support children with autism after 20,000 people sign petition for it

About 600 children are born with autism in Ireland every year.

File photo
File photo
Image: Lopolo via Shutterstock

A NEW BILL that will give better support to children with autism will be put forward in the Seanad today, after more than 20,000 people signed a petition calling for it to become law.

The Autism Spectrum Disorders Bill calls for a Government strategy to be published on how to address the needs of people with autism throughout their lives.

The Bill, put forward by Senator James Reilly, will be considered in the Seanad later today.

It outlines how the needs of people with autism should be met in relation to:

  • Healthcare services
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Social inclusion
  • Public body services
  • Legal aid
  • Advocacy services

It will also require agencies to be held accountable and put under scrutiny in relation to the provision of autism services.

If passed, it will require the government to publish the first Autism Spectrum Disorders Strategy no later than two years after its passing.

Senator James Reilly said:

We need a concise plan in order to address what is becoming an increasing epidemic that will be a huge burden on the finances of this State.
We need to intervene at the appropriate time, diagnose early and put in place the supports that can allow people with this condition to live a much more independent life.

He said that while progress has been made in Ireland in our understanding of autism, “no consensus exists on how to screen and diagnose” the disorder.

“However, England, France, Canada, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have strategies we and need one too,” Reilly said.

The bill will go before the Dáil if passed through the Seanad.

“I hope to see this Bill become law before Christmas.”

Petition

Reilly began an online petition calling for the proposed legislation to become law.

It reads:

We need your support to lobby all Oireachtas members to ensure the Autism Spectrum Disorder Bill 2017 passes, and that a national strategy is put in place to guarantee that those who are affected, and their families receive that necessary support and help they need throughout their lives.

So far, just over 21,000 people have signed the petition.

The petition will be delivered to the Seanad today, along with Dáil Éireann.

AsIAm chief executive Adam Harris welcomes the Bill.

AsIAm is a national autism advocacy organisation.

“This is the first time that there has been a recognition of the specific challenges and opportunities that are present in the autism community,” he told TheJournal.ie. 

“For too long, people with autism have faced huge challenges in society because of a lack of understanding of the condition and a lack of appropriate support to enable people to fully participate in their community.

It’s really important that, as the Bill moves through the Oireachtas, the voices of people with autism and the experiences of the autism community are heard.
It’s really important that any strategy that arises from the autism bill really needs to have the voices of people with autism at the centre of it.

Read: Investigation underway after teacher was recorded screaming at young pupil with autism

More: ‘He pinned my arms down and he strangled me’: Couple with challenged son call for more support

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