The parents of two 11-year-old autistic twins who have been denied proper schooling have been told by the Minister for Special Education that their children will be placed in a special school.
Gillian Milne and her husband, Darren, have pleaded for the state to step in and provide such a place for the twins, who are non-verbal and have a range of other special needs.
The family has repeatedly received rejection letters stating that local special schools are oversubscribed.
Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan met the Milnes this morning and confirmed the twins would be placed in a special school.
The meeting followed a Prime Time report on their situation on Tuesday.
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“Let them have a place in school” – Mother of autistic boys
She has committed to contacting them weekly until the locations are finalized, Ms Milne told Prime Time.
“We’re thrilled for the boys. It doesn’t seem real. If it was that simple, why did it take all these years to fix it? But we’re so happy for Ryan and Kyle,” Ms. Milne.
Although Mr Milne said he was delighted with the result, he noted that the family had to tell their story twice before it happened.
“We had to open our family story twice in prime time to get this result. It’s terrible that this is all we had to do to secure a place in school for our boys because they have special needs,” he said.
“Our end goal was to get a place at the appropriate school that matched the needs of the boys and we have achieved that. I hope this will open the doors for all other children with special needs to get places in the parameters appropriate to their needs.”
On Wednesday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin apologized to the Milne family of the Dáil, saying the state had failed to provide their children with an education suited to their needs.
Minister Madigan pledged yesterday to increase the overall number of places in special schools.
John Kearney, the chief executive of the National Council for Special Education, said this week that there are “about 160” children nationwide who do not have such a place.
Identical twins Ryan and Kyle were born in 2011 and diagnosed with autism when they were two and a half years old.
In addition to autism, they also have ADHD and a severe learning disability.
Mr Milne quit his job to help care for the twins. Faced with the threat of repossession, the family would also have to become tenants of their own house when a housing charity acquires the house.
While the Milnes are delighted to receive the minister’s pledge, Ms Milne said on Wednesday the Taoiseach’s apology was “too little, too late”. She said it couldn’t make up for what her family had lost.
“We lost our home. Can you give us back this Taoiseach? Darren had to give up his job. We will never be financially stable,” she said.
UCC law professor Conor O’Mahony suggested that a delay in meeting the educational needs of children like Ryan and Kyle had constitutional implications.
He told Prime Time that every child has the constitutional right to an education tailored to their needs.
“If you have a child who reaches the age of 11 without having received a proper education, then I think it is quite clear that the state will have failed in its constitutional obligations towards that child.