06 September 2005

S2M-2712 Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Scottish Parliament

Tuesday 6 September 2005

[THE DEPUTY PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 10:30]

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Autistic Spectrum Disorder

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The final item of business is a members' business debate on motion S2M-2712, in the name of Karen Gillon, on autistic spectrum disorder. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes that, according to the latest census publication, Pupils in Scotland, 2004, there are 3,090 pupils diagnosed with an autistic spectrum disorder who have a Record of Needs and/or an Individualised Educational Programme in primary, secondary and special schools in Scotland; further notes that, as it is a spectrum condition, children with autistic spectrum disorders have a range of abilities with some having complex needs; believes that a range of provision is required to meet the needs of each child appropriately and that this may include support from other agencies, and considers that the Scottish Executive should ensure that the needs of children with autistic spectrum disorders are appropriately met so that they can benefit from education and learning.


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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): It is excellent that so many members signed Karen Gillon's motion—I congratulate her on her efforts. We must focus on the needs of those with the condition and, more critically in many instances, on the needs of their families. When someone does not get the support that they need, that has a wide effect. I am sure that I am far from being the only member who has had people at surgeries seeking to have the needs of their offspring met. There is more than a passing suspicion that, in the system, support is constrained by finance rather than determined by the needs of the person with the condition.

In particular, people with the condition require stability and are upset and set back even by small changes. Three-year funding cycles often exist in the voluntary sector, which means that, at the end of the three years, the way in which support is delivered from the voluntary sector may change, which creates the real risk that someone with the condition may be set right back to the beginning, or perhaps even further back. I hope that the Executive will give thought to that issue.

The Deputy Minister for Education and Young People (Robert Brown): On the resource issue, does Stewart Stevenson accept that about £200 million extra has gone into special needs education, on top of the approximately £4 billion that has gone into education resource generally in the past two years?

Stewart Stevenson: That is true—credit where credit is due—but the money is not necessarily reaching all the people that it should. People with the condition often have intensive and expensive needs. Some of the decisions that have been made in my constituency and in other members' suggest that there are issues at the front line in getting the money to people with particularly intensive needs.

Another issue that Karen Gillon touched on and which will echo with all members is that of achieving the right balance between exclusion and inclusion. An issue arises for those among whom someone with a condition is included. When a primary school class has added to it someone with the condition, we must ensure that all the pupils have the right support. It is beneficial to children to see the condition and the needs of someone who is less fortunate than they are and to learn how to deal with that. However, equally, we should not push people with the condition into situations in which they will simply go backwards because the change is too great.

There are no magic answers, but I am interested to hear what the minister has to say in response to the debate.


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