For Written Answer on : 08/03/2022
Question Number(s): 319 Question Reference(s): 12395/22
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Education the diagnosed disabilities and or medical conditions which need to be confirmed in order for assistive technology to be provided to primary school pupils; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
Under the Assistive Technology scheme, as set out in my Department’s Circular 0010/2013, funding is provided to schools towards the cost of computers and specialist equipment, which are required for educational purposes.
All equipment provided under this scheme supports children with more complex disabilities who, in order to access the school curriculum, require essential specialist equipment.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) is responsible for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports. SENOs also make recommendations to my Department where assistive technology/specialised equipment is required. The NCSE operates within my Department’s criteria in making recommendations for support.
In order to qualify for equipment under the assistive technology scheme, a student must have been diagnosed with a physical or communicative disability and must also have a recommendation in a professional assessment that the equipment is essential in order to allow the student to access the curriculum.
It must also be clear that the existing I.T. equipment in the school is insufficient to meet the child’s needs. Where necessary, schools may also purchase new or additional equipment or software for students from normal school resources or funds.
Schools make applications directly to the SENO, providing details of the student’s special educational needs or disability, including details of the approach taken by the school in making relevant interventions.
SENOs will review the application, and professional reports provided in support of same, in order to establish whether the criteria of the scheme have been met. They will then make a recommendation to my Department as to whether or not assistive technology is required; and based on this recommendation, my Department will decide on the level of grant, if any, to be provided.
The type of equipment provided under the assistive technology scheme is varied, and includes audiological supports for students with hearing impairment, braille equipment for children with visual impairment, and computer equipment with associated modified software for students with physical or severe communicative disabilities.
Communication devices or medical or therapy related devices which are not specific educational interventions or equipment specifically required as essential for school educational access, and which have a general application outside of school, are not provided for under the Assistive Technology scheme, however. Such equipment is normally provided for children with disabilities by the Health Service Executive (HSE).
Although equipment is sanctioned under the Assistive Technology scheme for use by particular students, it is the property of the school, and the school’s management authority is responsible for maintenance, repair, and insurance of the equipment.