Education is central to AsIAm’s work.
We aim to educate professionals who work with children and young people, to make them more autism aware and provide supports on using inclusive practices in school. We also seek to educate the children and young people themselves, to help them gain a greater understanding of how autism affects their peers.
We are now launching workshops for families, to support those who have autistic children and to educate and build awareness among those for whom the condition is not a prevalent part of daily life.
Workshops for School Staff
Our workshops are designed for staff members working within an educational setting (e.g., teachers, special needs assistants, principals, deputy principals etc.) Those whose roles do not always involve directly working with children and young people (e.g., caretakers, clerical staff, librarians, secretaries, etc.) are also welcome to attend.
Workshops can last for 90 minutes to two hours. They will begin with clear and concise information about what autism is. They will discuss the diagnostic process and conditions commonly diagnosed alongside autism. Dealing with common misconceptions is a key element of these workshops, as there are so many myths out there relating to autism – specifically around its so-called ’causes’ and what it looks like.
We will encourage participants to challenge their perceptions of autism and autistic people. There will be interactive games and video footage designed to build an awareness among participants about what it is like to live as an autistic person.
Finally, the workshop facilitator will demonstrate and explain inclusive practices which can be used within the classroom and the wider school environment, followed by suggestions of useful resources for teachers and a Q&A session.
Workshop for Secondary School Students
Young people can often find themselves thinking a certain way without fully understanding the reasons behind their thoughts. This workshop is designed for secondary school students of any age group (from First to Sixth Year). This specific type of workshop can be beneficial for First Year students, especially if there are autistic pupils within the year group. Its aim is to build awareness and empathy among students about their peers on the spectrum.
It can also be helpful for students in Transition Year or the Senior Cycle, to help them develop an understanding and acceptance of autism, which they can carry with them into their future workplaces and adult life.
The Junior Workshop (First to Third Year) lasts 60 minutes and will take pupils through challenges associated with autism, at an age-appropriate level. Interactive games and video footage will be included to build awareness among participants of what it is like to live as an autistic person. Students will complete a group task at the workshop’s end , designed to facilitate peer learning and an opportunity for the facilitator to host Q&As in smaller groups.
The Senior Workshop (Fourth to Sixth Year) lasts 90 minutes and will include more in-depth information about autism, including an autistic person’s development, the diagnostic process and mental health issues often linked to the condition. Interactive games and video footage will be included in the workshop to build an awareness among participants of what it is like to live on the spectrum.
This Workshop will include some critical thinking activities, through which students will be encouraged to challenge their personal perceptions of autism and autistic people. This will also include dealing with common misunderstandings of autism.
The workshop facilitator will demonstrate and explain some basic, communication-based inclusive practices which will help the students when interacting with an autistic peer. The students will then complete an interactive consolidation activity to complete the session.
Workshop for Parents & Guardians
This workshop is designed for the parents and guardians of children within an educational setting. It can be adapted for parents /guardians of a particular class/year group or a more general representation of families from the whole school context. It may be specifically beneficial for parents/guardians of a particular year group in which there are autistic children.
This type of workshop’s aim is to provide a sense of community and support for parents/guardians, and to build awareness and empathy among those who may not have a clear understanding of autism. We hope that this specific type of talk will encourage dialogue, strengthen relationships among families and give rise to more productive engagements in the future.
The workshop can last for a 60 to 90 minutes and will begin with clear, concise information about what autism is. Dealing with common misconceptions is a key element of these workshops, as there are so many myths out there relating to the condition, specifically what causes its development and what it looks like.
We will encourage the participants to challenge their personal perception of autism and autistic people. There will be interactive tasks and video footage designed to build an awareness among the participants about what it is like to live as an autistic person. Finally, the workshop facilitator will open the floor for an Q&A discussion among parents.
To meet the real need that exists for promoting greater awareness among peers, we continue to engage volunteers, provide training and develop new ways of delivering the programme to reach as many students nationwide as possible.
AsIAm does not receive specific funding for this programme and demand for workshop delivery is high. Consequently, there is a fee for hosting a workshop. We aim to make our costing competitive with other educational training companies – noting that all funds raised go into our advocacy and education work.
Autism is a big subject and no two people with the condition are affected the same way. We therefore work to tailor every workshop to the needs of the school and, most importantly, the views, concerns and experiences of autistic pupils attending the schools.
AsIAm, as an organisation, is acutely conscious of each student’s individual rights. We are governed by policies relating to the safety of children, vulnerable persons and data protection. For this reason, certain protocols are in place for our speakers and the school that they visit.
We require each school who wishes to work with us to agree to commit to engaging with our work – to continue to help students to create a long-lasting ethos of inclusion and acceptance. We suggest that parents are informed in advance of the workshop to help provide the speaker with any relevant information about an individual student or their family member with autism. This will help shape the content of the workshop without any reference or identity of the student concerned.