Father asks why Irish state has not apologised for delay in diagnosing and treating autistic son|
DUBLIN, Ireland: The father at the centre of a landmark court ruling has questioned why no Irish state body had said sorry for delays in diagnosing and treating his six-year-old autistic son.
Cian O Cuanachain and his wife Yvonne were told by the High Court this week that they were not entitled to an order for an estimated 5 million euros in court costs.
The costs arose from their legal action against the state on behalf of their son, Sean.
The O Cuanachains, of Arklow, Co Wicklow, lost their battle seeking to oblige the state to educate Sean through the Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) method. About 150 similar cases have been lodged.
But Mr O Cuanachain referred on January 30 to an earlier judgment from the court, awarding the O Cuanachains 61,000 euros in damages because of "unreasonable delays" by the Health Service Executive (HSE) in diagnosing and treating Sean's condition.
"The High Court found that the state damaged our son and, to date, no-one from any state body has expressed any sorrow or regret for doing so," said Mr O Cuanachain.
On January 30, the Irish Education Minister, Mary Hanafin, said they recognised that ABA was a valuable teaching method, but it was only one method of many.
She said: "We should also do other methods because all the children are different".
The Minister said that the state - whose share of the legal bill is about 2 million euros - made it quite clear that it would not be seeking costs, and that counsel for the O Cuanachains said in court that the burden of costs for their side would not fall on them "and I hope that holds true."
Ruling out any expansion on the 12 ABA schools currently funded by her department, she said needs were being met in other ways, such as special classes in mainstream schools, where children with autism had access to the curriculum.
"We've invested very heavily with people and teachers in this," she said.
But Irish Autism Action (IAA) has challenged the Minister's contention that the education provision for children with autism was being carried out to " best international practice."
"This is not the case. Best international practice allows children who need an ABA-based education to be provided with it. The department's approach does not."
IAA also said that 40pc of children on the autistic spectrum had to be taught how to learn before they could start on the national curriculum and they also had to be taught how to socialise.
Fine Gael Health spokesperson Dr James Reilly said ABA education was a tried and tested method which delivered results for countless children around Ireland. "Most schools, though calling themselves ABA schools, use multiple methods including ABA, based on one-to-one intervention," he said
Fine Gael education spokesperson Brian Hayes said the Department of Education had "a history of trying to deliberately wrestle parents to the floor through the courts."
(Source: Irish Independent, January 31, 2008)