We are passionate about bringing awareness of autism to secondary schools right across Ireland. We believe the most powerful and ethical way to do this is using local volunteers who have personal experience of autism. We feel this brings an authenticity and realism to the message we communicate to students and also helps to empower the autism community and develop a programme which is sustainable in the long-term.
All speakers must go through an application and training process and be able to deliver the AsIAm message and represent the organisation effectively.
The benefits of becoming an AsIAm School Speaker are many. All speakers have the opportunity to go through the AsIAm Secondary School Training programme and meet other like-minded individuals and share their story. Speakers often find sharing their experiences and advocating for others is a very self-affirming, empowering exercise. By participating in this programme, our speakers give much more than they take – helping to build a more inclusive society for all autistic individuals as well as helping to bring the service to their community. As a small organisation, with very limited resources, our ability to deliver workshops is dependent on having suitable volunteers in the region – where we do not have a volunteer, we cannot deliver the workshop!
So, do you want to be part of a movement of people who are changing attitudes for the next generation of Irish society? Do you want to have your voice heard? Below is some basic information about the programme and details on how to apply!
In order to become an AsIAm Secondary School Speaker, you must be over 18 and a member of the autism community in Ireland. AsIAm.ie defines the community as being made up of autistic individuals, their family members and professional supporters.
All volunteers must be able and willing to provide 2 references and to complete and submit, through the organisation, a Garda/PSNI vetting form.
AsIAm.ie has many different ways in which people can become involved and, of course, for everyone that is not the role of School Speaker. We select our speakers based on an ability to deliver the message and cope with the challenges of the role. So, while you certainly do not need to be Temple Grandin or Martin Luther King, both a certain level of confidence and a comfort about talking about the condition and you experiences are important factors which we consider.
APPLICATIONS & TRAINING
We accept applications from interested individuals on an ongoing basis. We only run training 2-3 times a year, however, due to time and financial constraints on the organisation.
All volunteers must be willing to commit to a minimum of 2-3 days training at AsIAm headquarters, further on-the-job training with another school speaker or staff member, and annual refresher training.
As an organisation, we have very limited administration hours and so we do ask applicants for the role of School Speaker to read all the information in this section of the website in full. We also ask that you take care to submit all parts of your application as requested, prior to being invited to or attending any training with the organisation.
While the organisation invites individuals to participate in training, it is important to realise that until you complete training, sign our Volunteer Speaker Contract and receive your documentation from the organisation, you cannot provide workshops or speak on behalf of the organisation.
We believe in quality, not quantity. While, in many ways, we are impatient for change, we are also realistic. We know that we cannot reach every school overnight and so would rather make a big impact in the number we can reach, rather than overstretch ourselves and make little impact in the schools we get to.
To that end, we work with every school speaker to identify how many schools they can realistically deliver to. While some speakers are able to undertake a large number of school visits, we are equally happy with the minimum commitment of 2-3 schools in an Academic Year, with the appropriate level of attention and preparation provided.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ autism diagnosis. Every single person on the autism spectrum is different and every single autistic person is a person first! When we visit schools, we put a lot into preparing the workshop prior to our visit, based on the experiences of students in the school and the needs of the school. This involves reaching out to the school community, surveying students and adjusting the presentation. After workshops, we insist on feedback from speaker, teachers and students as this helps us to continue to grow and improve the workshop.
While much of this administration is heavily supported by headquarters, we do need our speakers to be willing to put 1-3 hours preparation into any workshop they deliver and this is an important factor for potential applicants to consider. All of our school workshops are delivered during normal school hours.
So, what does a workshop actually involve? Well, without spoiling the surprise, we deliver to groups of students of between 35-40 students, over 90 minutes. Sometimes we’re invited to speak to a whole year group (this may be because there is an autistic student in a particular year or because the school is engaged in a social action project, for instance). In that situation, we may spend a whole day at the one school, delivering 2-3 workshops over the course of the day. Alternatively, we may offer a Whole School Workshop addressing a larger number of students at one time.
The workshop is a hands-on, practical look at autism, aiming to make an invisible condition, visible to students and challenging their perceptions and attitudes towards autism. We do this through sharing stories and experiences, explaining the fundamentals of the condition and delivering a number of activities.
Overall, our speakers find the workshop exciting and enjoyable to deliver and the feedback from students to date has been very positive. What is often most affirming is the feedback we here from autistic students or their family members, who can find it to be a very happy and proud moment in their lives, as our message is always honest and positive and can be a game-changer for students on the spectrum.
That said, we are always trying to improve things and the feedback we get from our speakers helps us to continue to drive and improve the product!
So, you like the sound of everything? Want to dip your toe in the water?
Please complete the application form below. When we receive your application we will review it in due course. You may initially receive a receipt of application and we will provide further information closer to our next training day. Prior to any training day, you will be advanced further character references and Garda/PSNI vetting forms.
All information received is treated with confidentiality in accordance with our Data Protection Policy.
All applications must be returned no later than Wednesday 15th November 2018. The planned training dates are 18th and 21st November in Dublin; venue to be confirmed.