Louth Senator Erin McGreehan has called for information on the return to full capacity of special needs schools
Senator McGreehan, speaking in the Seanad, said: “Parents are seeing their children's development regress.
"The ability of these children to behave socially has been affected and they are struggling to cope.
"The stories I have heard are devastating.”
“We were all very glad to hear the announcement that special needs classes and schools would be reopening and I wholeheartedly commend the Minister of State's incredibly hard work and dedication on this matter.
"However, the phased method, with one day on and one day off and two days in school one week and three the following week, is not sustainable for many students.
"It is causing havoc for some children.”
Senator McGreehan added: “A parent is facing the issue of her child being totally confused and upset by the starting and stopping.
"Another parent has found her son very upset on his days off and feels that online learning is making him worse.
“A child with special needs has been put on medication to help with anxiety levels and behaviour because of the lockdowns and not being able to go to school.
"Since returning to school this year, his medication had to be increased as returning to school one day a week was completely out of his routine.
“Another parent is dealing with a child who is very settled on the days he is in school but very disruptive on days off.
"I have also heard from parents of children attending special needs classes in schools that are being asked to do a phased reopening.”
In response to Senator McGreehan, Minister of State, Josepha Madigan stated: “The Department has reaffirmed its view that schools in and of themselves are low-risk environments.
"We also know this from NPHET's advice, from Dr. Abigail Collins and Dr. Kevin Kelleher and, indeed, from Dr. Philip Nolan, who has always maintained that schools are safe environments.”
“I am struck by what the Senator said about anxiety and behaviour, and the fact that some children have had to increase their medication, which is not what anybody wants.
"She spoke of families being at their wits' end and being devastated.
"I am equally devastated that we cannot do this.
"If I had a magic wand I would have all children back in school from today or tomorrow but that is simply not possible.
"We are dealing with many constituent parts.”