Specialist education body National Learning Network has supported almost 800 people with autism and Asperger’s into employment or further education in the last five years.
National Learning Network (NLN) is the education and training division of the Rehab Group. NLN provides inclusive education and training opportunities with specialist student supports to promote success in personal, vocational, and occupational goals.
To coincide with World Autism Awareness month, NLN training centres across the country including NLN Letterkenny, Co Donegal will host a National Open Day on Wednesday, April 5th at 11am, focussing on autism support.
People can visit NLN locations in every county to see the various learning options with pathways to further education, higher education, and jobs.
In recent years, significant progress has been made in increasing awareness and acceptance of autism. However, Autistic people still face discrimination and barriers to access and participation in all aspects of society, including education and work in Ireland. NLN has a large autistic community, with almost 40% of the student population identifying as autistic.
Lucianne Bird, Director of Learning at NLN, says: “It is our responsibility, to play a role in Irish society as Autism allies and shows leadership, to move beyond autism awareness to autism acceptance.”
“NLN training centres adopt a neurodiversity affirmative approach in working with all students. Put simply this means we respect that students vary in how their brains take in, process, and respond to information. It’s just what makes each of us unique – staff and students. And the difference between people in how we learn is natural. There is no one better way to learn or no correct way to be, all neuro-types are equally valued,” explained Ms Bird.
“Autistic students are not just following their own paths. They are headed to different destinations, and NLN staff work in a student-centred way to help autistic students reach their chosen destinations. We also work with important stakeholders in the community, such as employers, to promote an understanding of neurodiversity in the workplace.
Cormac Mac Suibhne, 19, from Donegal town, has autism, and he is studying an IT and Business course at National Learning Network Letterkenny.
“I feel very supported here at NLN. The staff are very willing to help me with whatever problem I have with work. If something is affecting me negatively, I will tell my instructor and they will help me fix it.
It’s great for those who aren’t certain what career they desire or have difficulty with how to operate in the workplace. I would recommend NLN to those struggling to find their way.”
Cormac now feels like he has the confidence to go on and study Film and Media studies at ATU Letterkenny because of his time at NLN.
If you or a member of your family is autistic and looking for an autism-friendly route to pursue your career goals, drop into National Learning Network Letterkenny on April 5th at 11am, meet the staff and find out how NLN supports autistic students to gain qualifications, progress to further education, get jobs and pursue careers.