| 4.3°C Belfast

240km school run for autistic girl's mum

Every day a children's bus travelling to a special needs school passes by Annagh Minchin as she begins her daily 240km journey to bring her daughter Aife to the same school - because the six-year-old girl is not allowed on the same bus as her classmates

The ruling by the Republic of Ireland's Department of Education has forced Ms Minchin to drive 1,200km each week on school trips.

Aife - who has numerous health complications, including autism, a rare chromosome disorder, fluid in her spine, ADHD, limited speech and a hole in her heart - started school at St Anne's Special School in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, last September.

Lone parent Annagh, of Ballina, Co Tipperary, said: "Aife had been attending the autism unit in Boher primary school near our home in Killaloe, but the teachers there recommended St Anne's as being best for her educational needs.

"She was also assessed by an early intervention team, speech therapist and psychologist who all recommended St Anne's," Ms Minchin said.

The brave little girl has improved immeasurably since beginning in St Anne's, but she cannot travel to the school with her friends or neighbours because of Department of Education protocol.

"The SENO (special education needs officer) said she could not go on the minibus as Aife is not going to the nearest school that can accommodate her -- St Vincent's in Lisnagry, Co Limerick," her mother said.

Aife suffers a rare disorder that less than 10 children worldwide have.

"She has improved like you wouldn't believe in Roscrea. Before she would only have said one word -- now she tries to speak coherently in full sentences," her mother added. The Department of Education said they cannot comment on individual cases. Local Labour MEP Alan Kelly said: "It is Irish bureaucracy gone mad."

"It is insane that a child who has shown progressive development since beginning in Roscrea cannot get on a bus that passes by her door. It is of no extra cost to the Exchequer," Mr Kelly said.

Source Irish Independent

Belfast Telegraph