Around 15,500 children with autism have to leave their local area to go to school.
The Labour Party is calling for a National Autism Strategy to address the issues people with autism face accessing education and healthcare.
The party launched a bill this morning that would see the introduction of a strategy similar to those already in place in Northern Ireland and England – where officials must report back to Government on their progress every three years
On The Hard Shoulder this evening, Labour education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said the situation for young people with autism in Ireland is not improving – with hundreds of kids struggling for school places each year.
“There are about 268 young people who do not have school placements for September,” he said.
“There are about 15,500 children and young people who have to leave their own catchment area to access education
“So, from education to health to employment and other areas of Government policy, we need a national autism strategy that can knit all of these things together.”
He said the situation is no better when it comes to accessing healthcare.
“There are parents talking to me and they are waiting about 36 months for basic interventions and assessments,” he said.
“What is happening unfortunately is these families are turning into exhausted campaigners.
“They have a diagnosis they have to learn an awful lot about, they have to parent and they have concerns about their other children and making sure they balance everything properly in the home.
“Then, they find that all their spare time is being tied up with emails and phone calls looking for schools.”
On The Hard Shoulder yesterday, Michelle Lynch said her 12-year-old son will finish primary school this week – and no schools in his home town have places for him next year.
The only place she can find for him is a 100km round trip each day and she is now considering home-schooling.
Deputy Ó Ríordáin said the situation is “absolutely outrageous”.
“Imagine a three-year long waiting list,” he said. “How devastating must that be for a family.”
“That their child is considered so second class they have to wait three years for an assessment or for a basic intervention for occupational therapy or speech and language therapy.”
He said a national strategy would ensure officials would have to justify the situation every year and would force the Government to invest.