New autism-friendly learning resource toolkit

Bridge Back to School helps autistic students prepare during the summer months for their return to school in September.

Professor Emer Ring, Mary Immaculate College Limerick

Professor Emer Ring, Mary Immaculate College Limerick

Developed by a team from AsIAm and Mary Immaculate College Limerick, with the support of SuperValu, Bridge back to School was launched on 2 July 2020 and is available in SuperValu stores nationwide from 6 July.

The team at Mary Immaculate College Limerick was led by Prof Emer Ring who has previous experience as a primary school mainstream class teacher, a learning & support resource teacher, and a senior inspector with the Department of Education and Skills. The team included Dr Lisha O’Sullivan, Dr Margaret Egan, PhD student Maria Dervan and Dec Psy student Niamh Moore. Anne Jones, post-primary teacher, and Billy Redmond, post-primary principal, also provided invaluable help.

For many autistic students, the loss of structure and routine resulting from COVID-19 has been tough. Recognising the even greater challenge of returning to education and re-establishing routines in settings that may have changed substantially, SuperValu and AsIAm, in collaboration with the team from Mary Immaculate College Limerick, set about creating the Bridge Back to School learning resource.  The resource is designed to be used by parents/carers, teachers, special needs assistants, and home support workers, as well as autistic students themselves.

In conceiving the new resource, elements of challenges for autistic students in the current situation were identified – Sensory integration; Preparing for the new school year; Dealing with worry and anxiety; Understanding the “new normal”; Social skills; Self-regulation; Use of visuals; Clear communication. The newly created Bridge Back to School toolkit provides support and guidance in these and other relevant areas.

20,000 Bridge Back to School booklets have been distributed to SuperValu stores nationwide and are available to pick up from Monday, 6 July. The resource can also be accessed online on SuperValu website.

Speaking at the launch, Professor Ring said:

“Every person around the country has experienced some obstruction to their routine due to the pandemic. However many do not consider how the changes that may seem minor to some, can pose serious stress to others in their community.

“Whilst we welcome the reopening of businesses and society, we must be mindful that this is not a simple transition for many people. This resource we have developed with SuperValu and AsIAm offers essential guidance for those with high support needs that will find the transition back to school a particular challenge.”

Adam Harris, CEO of AsIAm

Adam Harris, CEO of AsIAm

Adam Harris, CEO of AsIAm, said:

“Not only have the changes in routine and lack of support been a challenge for autistic students, but re-establishing routine will be just as challenging.

“The summer months present an important opportunity for Summer Provision facilitators and family members to help prepare children for the transition back to education in September, but materials and guidance are needed to do so.

“The Bridge Back to School resource that we are launching today will support a young person to understand, prepare, and manage the return to school.”

Martin Kelleher Managing Director, SuperValu said:

“We are delighted to partner with Mary Immaculate College and AsIAm to develop this resource. SuperValu recognises the challenges for families as they prepare for the return to school, and hope that this useful and practical learning resource will be a genuine support for them over the coming months.”

Pick up this free resource at your local SuperValu from Monday, 6 July.



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