Since its introduction in 2019, AsIAm’s Autism Friendly Schools Project has aimed to support schools in the provision of inclusive educational placements for autistic children and young people alongside specialist provision. 2020 saw us develop this aim further. AsIAm launched the second year of the Autism Friendly Schools Project in September 2020 and was thrilled to receive applications from 78 new schools to join the project and 49 schools who wished to continue their journey, having taken part the previous year.
Our introductory session, welcoming new and returning schools alike, took place in November 2020. It was facilitated by Billy Redmond – AFS Project Coordinator & Principal, N.W.E.T.S.S and Hannah O’Dwyer – Training Manager & Education Officer, AsIAm. During this session, we outlined learning goals for the programmme, such as leadership and management, staff professional development and teaching and learning.
The next session of the Autism Friendly Schools Project took place on Thursday 26th February 2021, via Zoom. The morning session saw the 78 schools in Year 1 of the project come together to work on the Autism Friendly Schools Online Toolkit with project co-ordinators Billy Redmond and Hannah O’Dwyer. Fiona Ferris, Deputy CEO of AsIAm and Laragh Smith, AsIAm Ambassador delivered compelling speeches on the topic of Building an Inclusive School Culture which was thoroughly enjoyed by all present.
Building on Last Year
The 49 schools in Year 2 of the Autism Friendly Schools Project came together in the afternoon to revisit the theme of Building an Inclusive School Culture, which they had worked on last year. Billy and Hannah did a recap session on using the online toolkit and presented information and resources on including student voice as a means of fostering inclusion. Maria Dervan, special class teacher and PhD candidate in Mary Immaculate College and Lauren Ann Martin, first year student in NUI Maynooth provided the group with eye-opening insights on the challenges faced by autistic students in our schools and how to best support them in overcoming these challenges.
The schools involved in the Autism Friendly Schools Project are now busy working on the online toolkit, working through online CPD training created for the project and contributing to their Communities of Practice groups. AsIAm are greatly looking forward to the third and final session of the Autism Friendly Schools Project this year in April