National College of Ireland accredited as Autism Friendly HEI

National College of Ireland (NCI) has been accredited as an Autism Friendly Higher Education Institution by AsIAm. NCI is the second HEI in the world to achieve this award after undertaking a number of commitments and actions towards autism inclusion on campus. This is more noteworthy considering much of this work occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adam Harris, Founder and CEO of AsIAm said: “We’ve been really impressed by the commitment of NCI to this initiative. We believe they have set out an exciting roadmap to encourage more autistic students to study at National College of Ireland, to thrive there, and to access employment after their time there.”

Gina Quin, President of NCI agreed “We worked hard for and with our students to achieve this award. This is not a static award to display in our atrium, but a living commitment to make the College a welcoming place for autistic students.”

National College of Ireland undertook direct and sustained actions to achieve this accreditation, including changes to the physical environment of the College, by establishing Quiet Spaces and installing a sensory pod, as well as a partnership with Specialisterne Ireland as part of the College’s career support for autistic graduates, accompanied by staff training and raising autism awareness in the college and wider community.

Much of the work, however, is less immediately visible, but is, rather, about an ongoing and consistent application of the principles of autism inclusion across all areas of college life. NCI understands the principles of an autism friendly higher level institution mean sustained and attentive work towards inclusion on every level.

AsIAm’s Autism Friendly HEI initiative addresses the fact that, even as more autistic people enter higher education, the number who graduate is comparatively small. Furthermore, those who do graduate are likely to experience unemployment or underemployment. Cultivating an autism friendly environment in a college can go a long way towards alleviating these problems.

In 2018, Dublin City University (DCU) was the first HEI to achieve Autism Friendly status, in collaboration with AsIAm and Specialisterne Ireland, as the conclusion of an 18-month research project by Dr Mary Rose Sweeney. NCI is cognisant of building on this foundational work and, in turn, looks forward to sharing its learnings and experience with other educational institutions.

For more information on the Autism Friendly University and how to apply, click here.

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