Autism campaigners have called on the Minister for Education to use new powers to ensure that all children with autism have a school place in September.

A leading autism charity has said there is a crisis in the Dublin area, with many children unable to access a place in primary school for the coming school term.

Riley O'Keefe, 5, is one of the many students without a school place this September.

His parents, Aimee Penco and Mark O'Keefe, say they are concerned about the impact the situation will have on his development.

Ms Penco said that during his time in pre-school, Riley has come on in "leaps and bounds", but that when he had a break for the summer last year it took them three months to get back to where he had been.

She said a year out of the education system would be a disaster for him and all the family.

Mr O'Keefe said that if his other children did not attend school they would be brought before a judge, but in Riley's case, he has been "left to rot".

Alfie Connolly from Coolock was in the same situation last year. After three years of pre-school he had to spend the past year at home.

He starts school this September, but his mother Tanya feels he has already lost out. She said it is vital for children with autism to have social interaction.

Autism Campaigners say Minister Joe McHugh needs to use new powers available him to compel schools to make places available for children with special needs.

The Founder and CEO of the National Autism Charity As I Am said the situation has arisen because of bad planning and there seems to be a particular crisis in a number of urban areas, including Dublin.

Adam Harris said the Department of Education needed to engage with parents and acknowledge the extent of the problem.

The National Council for Special Education said it had established 167 new special classes for this school year alone, but cannot oblige a school to open special classes.

It acknowledges that in one particular area - Dublin 15 - seven special classes are required to cater for more than 40 children and it is still working to establish those places.

The department said the new powers the minister had to direct schools to make special places available were only intended to be used as a last resort.

It said it was engaging with schools in the area and considering its next steps.