DUP representatives Paul Girvan MP and Pam Cameron MLA have called on the Department of Education to introduce mandatory autism training for all teaching staff in Northern Ireland.
The call came as a petition organised by Autism NI with over 10,000 signatures was presented at Stormont on Wednesday.
Speaking at the event Paul Girvan MP said: “One in 30 children in Northern Ireland is diagnosed with autism and it is imperative that, as those children go through our education system, they receive the best possible educational experience.
“We want to create the best outcomes for all children and ensure those with autism reach their potential.
“My office deals with many parents who day and daily face many challenges in relation to the education of their children with autism.
“One way we can help meet these challenges is for mandatory training for all teaching staff to be brought in. It will help teachers and pupils alike and I urge the Department to act quickly.”
Pam Cameron MLA, who chairs the NI Assembly All Party Group on Autism, added: “With over 10,000 signatures on this petition, Autism NI has shown the depth of feeling within our community for the best support for teachers and pupils.
“As a mother I know how important it is to give our children the best possible start in life. The best possible start in life would include the best educational outcomes for all children.
“Teachers tell me they are struggling to cope in a situation which they have no experience in working in. It makes sense to introduce mandatory autism training for all teaching staff as nearly every mainstream classroom in the country has a child with autism within it.
“Therefore I will be advocating on behalf of the autism community for the Department of Education to introduce this critical training and to implement it immediately.
“We want to see all children irrespective of circumstance reach their full potential in life and to transition into adulthood in the smoothest way possible.”