Irish Mirror Campaign: Education for Autistic Children - Take a Good Look at These Kids Minister, Every One of Them Deserves a Proper Education. Exactly like the Rest of Us

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Byline: CAOIMHE YOUNG

THESE are the forgotten autistic children the government has cast aside.

Ireland does not have the facilities to give children with learning difficulties the education they deserve.

The landmark case of 23-year-old autistic man Jamie Sinnott was the first step towards a bright future for Ireland's disabled children. Jamie was awarded pounds 200,000 and his mother Kathryn pounds 55,000 in damages for breach of their constitutional rights more than three months ago.

The profoundly autistic Cork man was never given the education he needed. But in a bid to prevent hundreds of parents with disabled children from suing the state, the Education Minister Michael Woods launched an appeal. He has agreed to pay Kathryn and Jamie Sinnott their cash.

However, his lawyers claim the government only has to give free primary education to children under 18 years old.

Seven Supreme Court judges are considering the appeal.

But in the meantime Jamie is not the only one who has been cast aside by the state.

After the court's ruling the Irish Mirror launched a campaign for a proper education for Ireland's autistic children.

Yesterday furious parents supported our campaign - with a plea to the government.

In a bid to convince Dr Woods to give autistic children their constitutional rights, three parents presented him with letters.

Dad Cormac Rennick urged Dr Woods to help their children, before they no longer have the ability to learn. Cormac said: "The government is spending all its money on court cases.

"At the moment there are more than 100 cases being processed through the courts by parents of children with learning disorders who want their kids to be educated.

"If they put this money into providing our children with a one-to-one education they could make such a difference to our lives."

MY GIRL IS 4 BUT STILL CAN'T TALK

CATHERINE RENNICK

LITTLE Catherine Rennick has begun to communicate with her brother for the first time.

The four-year-old was diagnosed as autistic two years ago.

At first her parents, Sarah, 34, and Cormac, 38, of Blanchardstown, Dublin, thought she had a hearing disorder.

Cormac said: "She couldn't concentrate on any one thing and she just completely blanked us.

"When we were told he was autistic I didn't really know what it was. I'd seen the film Rainman with Dustin Hoffman but I was ignorant."

Catherine was eligible for a pre-school programme. But now she is primary school age there is nowhere for her to continue her special education.

Angry Cormac said: "I am calling for Minister Woods to resign unless he begins to educate Ireland's autistic children.

"If Cathy does not get autism - specific education she is in danger of regression.

"She could lose her language and her behaviour is bound to deteriorate.

"Her seven-year-old brother Conor is only beginning to like her because she can now play with him.

"She has come on leaps and bounds.

"There is NO school place in an Outreach programme available to my daughter from September 2001.

"My daughter can't speak and she is four. She needs help."

CLASS FAILED BRIGHT AS A BUTTON SON

ADAM McCABE

WHEN loving mum Caroline McCabe discovered her son Adam was autistic she didn't know who to turn to. …