Parents protest over lack of autism teacher training

Campaigners for autism training for teachers made their voices heard at Stormont. Credit: UTV

Parents of autistic children have protested at Stormont over the lack of mandatory training on autism for teachers in Northern Ireland.

More than 10,000 people have signed a petition calling for improvements to be made in schools.

Campaigners feel it would improve life for autistic children, not just in the classroom, but also at home and in the future.

Kerry Boyd from Autism NI told UTV: “We felt that this would, in the future, help support those children and possibly prevent things like mental health issues.

“We have a lot of autistic adults who tell us that they had a terrible time during school because the teachers didn’t understand them.

“If you think those adults are now in the mental health system - that is costing the government more money.”

Around 10,000 children in Northern Ireland are autistic. Credit: UTV

One in 30 children in Northern Ireland are autistic – around 10,000 children aged between four and 15 years of age.

In the past five years, the rate of diagnoses has increased by 67%.

Around 78% of autistic children are taught in mainstream schools.

The Department of Education says that work around assessing training provision is ongoing, but that it would be premature to introduce the change before that has been completed.

A spokesperson added: “Many of our teachers, both in special and mainstream schools, are already highly skilled in supporting pupils with autism.”