Beginning a new start anywhere – whether it’s a new school, a new college or a job – is as exciting as it is daunting an experience for anyone. For autistic individuals, it can be hugely stressful, especially if their additional needs aren’t taken into account.

Kevin Hanly, a self-advocate based in Tipperary, has begun his first term studying Media and Film Production at the Limerick College of Further Education. Having just returned from work experience at RTÉ Studios, he shares with us his thoughts of starting his dream course and how, with the right supports, new beginnings can be real opportunities to grow and thrive.

I started Limerick College of Further Education with two introduction days at the end of August. To begin with, I was nervous and more than a bit stressed at the start; firstly was I able for the TV and film production course then secondly, would the people get on with me on the course?

I’m not going to lie, the first few days were tough: just getting to know where to go, learning how to use the equipment properly, getting to know everyone in my class (especially remembering new names) all while trying to manage the workload.

All that being said, the first few weeks went well. I actually surprised myself with how well I was managing with all the change. The modules that were going particularly great for me were around the more practical sides of media production, like camerawork, editing, and digital photography. What I really liked about the course was that we got use the equipment from the very start. I get a lot from visual learning like being hands-on and directly using the equipment.

I’m finding the College’s disability services very good. That they’ve an open-door policy if you’re struggling helps a lot as you can get a meeting and discuss the issues you’re having right there with the guidance officers. The lecturers also give you as much help as they can to go through the assessments as I can get very stressed and anxious about it.

Recently, myself and three other people in my class are getting around an hour of help every Wednesday from the support people in the College. It’s a help as they break it down the assignments and look through just to give you ideas about how to start it. It’s still hard work to get all of the assignments and work done, it brings a bit of stress, but the help is very important from the college.

As a class, we’ve gone down to Limerick city to record in the workshops. We’re learning how to set up on location by using cameras, sound and lights. I found these to be great ways of getting to know everyone on the course and safe to say that they were all nice and hugely friendly! We recorded a good few local events like the LCFE Soccer Tournament and the LCFE graduation ceremony.

Every day I learn something new and I enjoy going to college, doing something I have an interest and passion for.”

For work experience, I went to RTÉ Sports where I covered soccer, rugby and of course, GAA. I’d an amazing experience and it was really worthwhile, especially to see how everything works on TV behind the scenes.

The people who we were shadowing there were really accommodating. The woman I was studying under was especially brilliant – she emailed me all the details before I arrived, so I knew exactly where to be, who I was with and what times things were happening. The days were all organised from the agendas I got and who I was working with was a big help. When I was assigned to meet the crew for covering the sporting games, I went with them right from RTÉ Studios to the Aviva Stadium. They looked after me like I was one of their own; any questions I had were answered and they were really patient with me when teaching me how live coverage of a match works!

I hope I have showed even with autism & dyslexia you can get places because just don’t give up. It was great being apart of the RTÉ team and someday I’ll be working up there as I believe in myself.

All in all, the first few months in college has been going fantastically, and I just faced the challenges head-on! The lead-up to Christmas now is getting busy as I have assignments due in and I’m making a documentary about my autism and Tipperary GAA, so it is busy busy busy.

You just have to take one day at a time and for me, any help I got so far is brilliant to get my college work done. As I am doing TV and film production there are practical things as well we have to do with cameras sound and lights but everyone in the class seems to help each other out which is great. I get on with everyone which is half the battle!

This is one individual’s opinion and experience. It does not necessarily reflect AsIAm’s views and positions as an organisation. If you’d like to blog for AsIAm.ie, get in touch by emailing gaibhin@asiam.ie.