Posted 14.04.2021

Today, Wednesday 14 April, Members of Stormont's Education Committee were briefed by Autism NI officials on mandatory autism teacher training - Kerry Boyd, the Chief Executive of Autism NI, who quoted the above statistic*, and Autism NI Director of Development Christine Kearney.

One in 24 school-aged children are being diagnosed with autism in NI. Ms Boyd thinks more could be done to ensure consistency and calls for early intervention for children and through to adulthood. "Cultural change needs to happen starting from the classroom; if we don’t turn the curve at the start, those children are going to end up as a statistic within that 22%," said Ms Boyd.

Ms Kearney sees the primary aim of autism training as "supporting and empowering teachers and teaching staff and classroom assistants to be able to understand their pupils in the best way, to understand where the strengths of those pupils are and where potential challenges may arise".

Pat Sheehan deputy chair of the Education Committee commented “It’s a crazy situation where teachers are in class with autistic children and don’t have the required training to deal with that particular condition or other special educational needs.”

Disability Action is the only Northern Ireland-wide pan-disability organisation working with disabled people with various disabilities; physical, mental, sensory, learning and hidden, and we have programmes in place, run by dedicated experienced teams, to support disabled people in their education and training, in their job search and in the workplace.

Our Training & Learning Support Officers work closely with colleges, training organisations and the Careers Service across Northern Ireland to deliver disability support to TfS Trainees, Apprentices and Training providers. Our Job Match team engages with employment agencies and local employers to help disabled people find and stay in paid work, and our Workable NI team supports disabled people in the workplace.

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