Justice for Aaron Byrne as Department approves application for funding

Debbie Byrne, the mother of autistic child Aaron Byrne, has won her battle with the Department of Education and Skills (DES ) and had her application for funding for her son's education approved.

Ms Byrne began a public protest last week by chaining herself to railings outside the Department of Education building in Athlone after learning that the DES had refused her son's application for a home tuition grant.

The funding, which amounts to around €2,000 per month, would have allowed Aaron to continue his education at Jonix Educational Services, which specialises in working with young children who have an autistic spectrum disorder.

Aaron Byrne is three and a half years old and severely autistic. He also has anxiety and mobility issues. DES has an early intervention scheme for children with autism, which provides for children attending early intervention classes in a school setting. The DES also operates a home tuition scheme, which is only provided when a place is not available in these settings.

Aaron was not awarded a grant this year due to a place opening up in a state run school. However, the school identified for him by the National Council of Special Education (NCSE ) was some 30 miles away from his home and is not equipped to cater for a child with his needs.

Aaron has not attended school in the last nine weeks since his previous year concluded in July. Ms Byrne said that his absence has led to a notable decrease in his speech and walking abilities. "He had come on a lot during his time in the school. He was communicating better and they got him up on his feet and walking independently.

"Now we have had real regression because he lost that structure and specialised training that he needs. Applied behavioural analyses is a specialised educational approach for children with autism, and it has been working well with Aaron. My son can't speak, so I am his voice and I won't stop until I get justice."

On learning that her application for funding had been approved by the DES on Tuesday evening, Ms Byrne took to Facebook to thank all those who have supported her and her family through this difficult time.

She said: "To each and every one of you myself and my beautiful strong loving family would like to thank you from the very bottom of our hearts for your love, support, prayers, messages and well wishes over these last few days. It was without doubt your endless efforts in highlighting our campaign for justice for Aaron that lifted us when we were down.

"The knowledge that so many people had the compassion to help us in whatever way you could that was the drive in our strength and determination to get the right result for our precious boy. So, after 12 long weeks and three horrendously emotional days, we got what we set out to do and got justice for Aaron."

Ms Byrne is determined that her success in fighting her son's case will mark a change in the manner in which the Government and its Departments approach issues of this kind in the future: "This is not just about my son, I am determined that what I am doing will change things for other children with special needs."

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