Dublin training provider leads way in creating opportunities for autistic people

by Gazette Reporter
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National Learning Network has supported almost 800 people with autism and Asperger’s into employment or further education in the last five years.  

National Learning Network (NLN) is the education and training division of the Rehab Group.  NLN provides inclusive education and training opportunities with specialist student supports to promote student success in personal, vocational, and occupational goals.  

To coincide with World Autism month, NLN training centres nationwide, including several NLN centres across Dublin, hosted an Open Day yesterday (Wed) focussing on autism support.  NLN training centres are located in Dublin city centre, Stillorgan, Tallaght, Swords, Ballyfermot, Mulhuddart and Phibsboro. 

Lucianne Bird, Director of National Learning Network, said: “NLN training centres adopt a neurodiversity affirmative approach in working with all students. Put simply this means we respect that students vary in how their brains take in, process, and respond to information. It’s just what makes each of us unique – staff and students.  And the difference between people in how we learn is natural.  There is no one better way to learn or no correct way to be, all neuro-types are equally valued.” 

“Autistic individuals have a wide range of abilities and needs, and NLN staff are skilled at providing the specific support required; of course, the type and level of support varies from person to person.  In NLN, we often meet autistic people who have been masking personal traits in order to fit in with people around them. This can be exhausting and negatively impact on mental health and wellbeing.  In all our training centres, we welcome and support people to be their true and authentic selves without pressure to conform to traditional social norms,” said Ms Bird.  

Jack Sheehy is currently a student on the Transition course at NLN Tullamore. Jack explained: “I learn different modules, like communications skills, application of numbers and career preparation. I was diagnosed with autism when I was around 4 years old. When I was younger, I couldn’t handle being in secondary school and I had to leave. I had a hard time figuring out some things, like maths. I didn’t do the Leaving Certificate. I tried some different courses after school but they didn’t work out. It was a tough time for me. It was absolutely depressing because I couldn’t really do anything.” 

“I was recommended to try NLN by Tusla, who were looking after me at the time. When I went to NLN, I told the staff what I would like to achieve, and it was a good conversation. I was curious to see what they were going to teach me. I was really happy that I was able to get an education. It’s been really good since. I am able to learn different subjects and I am able to take my time with them. I like that NLN focusses on me as an individual. I feel I am able to broaden my social skills in NLN.” 

“With my behavioural and sensory issues, I am a lot better now than I was years ago. I can talk about it and get an understanding of what it is that I need. I am able to communicate a lot more than I was when I was a teenager. Back then, I was quite reclusive, and I didn’t really have anyone I could talk to. It was very stressful for me but I have a lot less stress now. Whenever I feel a little down in myself, I always go to the therapist that works in NLN, I am able to talk to them.” 

“I would like to become an animator. I also like doing creative writing. That’s what I love most about NLN, it allows me to do my own creative writing as well as doing the modules. The instructors help me to get my work done, but they also give me some independence, so I feel that it’s done in a positive way,” added Jack. 

Edel McSorley, Operations Director of Mr. Price Branded Bargains, said: “Our corporate partnership with NLN has supported our supervisors and hiring managers to have a greater understanding of neurodiversity in the workplace. In recognising that potential employees may take in, respond and process information differently, we adopted a much more flexible recruitment process.  This year, we accepted a job application that included a work experience placement with a poem rather than a traditional CV. This student is now an employee. We will continue to work with autistic students in NLN who want to get a job and follow careers in the retail industry using job accommodations where needed to ensure equity of access to jobs and careers with Mr. Price Branded Bargains.” 

Visit www.nln.ie for more information and to find your nearest Dublin NLN training centre. 

Photo – Jack Sheehy from NLN Tullamore

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If you require more information, please get in touch with [email protected] or call 0879728513. 

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