Leinster House Cross Party Briefing

On Wednesday last in Leinster House, Jonathan O’Brien TD (Sinn Fein) hosted an all-party briefing on Applied Behaviour Analysis and Autism. The meeting, well attended by members of the Oireachtas Education Committee and other interested parties, was address by Professor Julian Leslie, Chair Division of Behaviour Analysis Psychological Society of Ireland, Dr Neil Martin of the European Association of Behaviour Analysis, and Professor Mickey Keenan, University of Ulster.

All three speakers stressed the sound scientific basis of the methods of ABA and their well-established effectiveness in improving the quality of life of and educational progress of children of children with autism. This contrasts with the unproven effectiveness of the eclectic approach currently favoured by the Department of Education. The outcome of scientific studies comparing the Department of Education’s preferred eclectic approach and ABA indicate that children with autism learn significantly better when they receive ABA.

Professor Keenan stressed the difficulty in Ireland, North and South, of getting policy makers to consider the scientific evidence for ABA and move away from supporting methods which have no scientific basis. Dr Martin spoke of the importance of ABA programmes being managed by properly trained ABA professionals, with qualifications in ABA at Masters level at least. Currently, the Department of Education does not provide teachers with access to Masters level training in applied behaviour analysis and while the NCSE has recommended that teachers using ABA should always be regularly supervised by qualified behaviour analysts, the DES only provides teachers with access to optional introductory level courses.

While the Division of Behaviour Analysis recognises the value of introductory courses in ABA, Professor Leslie summed up the feelings of many present when he said “ You can’t deliver a 5 day workshop and expect teachers to have the necessary skills to work with autism. A parent wouldn’t do a 5 day workshop on dentistry and then pull out their own child’s tooth”.

Professor Leslie concluded by saying, “ABA is an over-arching approach, not one technique, and it is the only intervention which has been shown to work [in improving educational attainment and social functioning in children with autism] when used systematically. A few years ago, Ireland was in the fortunate position of having 13 ABA schools that had been set up and staffed in a way that made possible comprehensive programmes for children with autism. However, the changes implemented from 2010 mean this is far from being the case now. This seems like wanton destruction of opportunities for children in this community.”

Following the briefing, those attending were afforded the opportunity to ask questions of the professionals It was clear from the questions asked, that people are concerned that the minister does not have access to the correct information in relation to ABA and that there appears to be a difficulty in getting this information to him. The Division of Behaviour Analysis has offered to meet directly with the minister and his officials to help in any way to provide a more accurate understanding of ABA and it’s outcomes for individuals with ASD.

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2 Responses to Leinster House Cross Party Briefing

  1. Geraldine Smith says:

    Good luck with trying to show the current Minister the scientific evidence of aba intervention.First you will have to get past the Nazi organisation that is the Department of Education.A department that classifies ABA Tutors as unqualified to provide Home tuition unless they have a teachers union number.Then you will have to get past a union that is so heavily armed and supported from behind by a Labour minister.Remember it was only a short time ago,the 7th march this year,that the Minister replied to a Dail question on Aba as a form of education,by saying that there was no scientific proof that any one intervention works and his department prefers the eclectic approach as per the findings of NEPS and other organisations.That NEPS report was done in 2001.Now,if we have a department that allows itself to be run by a union that will not have its members discomoded in any way,a Minister who,lets face it,is of a strong union background party,running this department,relying on a twelve year old report and spouting uneducated statements like,”no scientific evidence to support ABA “,then one would have to come to the conclusion that there are other underlying reasons for the lack of support for ABA as a form of education for children on the spectrum.Those underlying reasons are very simple and straightforward.1:MONEY and 2:The hiring of highly trained ABA tutors and the upskilling of current primary school teachers( not a weekend course on teaching children with special needs!!).I hope but doubt anyone will get past these two underlying factors,but all of us Parents out there who have been and are still going through the mill between the Departments of Education and that other Disasterous organisation known as the HSE,wish you luck.

  2. Pingback: ABA Experts to address cross party briefing in Leinster House | Behaviour Analysis in Ireland

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