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Castlebar Autism Programme Wins International Award

18 May 2015
Image for Castlebar Autism Programme Wins International Award
 The Autism Support Programme provided by National Learning Network in Castlebar won a Leadership Award for ‘innovative practice, supporting people with intellectual disabilities through positive behaviour’ at the 2015 BILD International Positive Behaviour Support Research and Practice Conference in Dublin last week. The awards, which are organised by the British Institute of Learning Disabilities (BILD), celebrate the best in positive behaviour practice both in the UK and internationally. The Autism Support Programme – the first of its kind in the West of Ireland – is for school leavers in County Mayo who have a diagnosis of autism.
During her winner’s address at the conference in the Crown Plaza Hotel Dublin, Shelley Brady, Autism Support Specialist, National Learning Network, outlined the programme that National Learning Network offers. “Each person on the programme has an individualised educational programme that is designed to meet their specific needs. We look at their current strengths, needs and interests and we design a person-centred plan for them.  We put a lot of emphasis on each person’s communication needs and social skills. We practice these through exercises in the centre and in community-based activities. Vocational skills training is also on offer and we support people to learn the skills they need to be successful in a job.”
“All the participants recently received the Independent Living certificate which is based on activities such as making a hot meal, writing a shopping list and going shopping, using a washing machine, etc. Community inclusion is very important and we support people to be active in their local communities. We practice using public transport on their own, being members of local clubs, going to local classes etc. We also bring the community into the centre. Transition year students from Davitt College Secondary School come to the centre once a week for coffee club.”
Peter Dooley, Manager, National Learning Network, Castlebar said, “We developed this programme as a pilot in 2013 with funding from the HSE and it has gone from strength to strength.  During that time ten people have taken part in the programme, with each of them showing great improvements in their quality of life, due to the skills they have learned. This award is great recognition for the hard working team members, who have developed the programme from just an idea to where it is today. The team includes an autism support worker, a behaviour specialist, a rehabilitation officer, a psychologist and Instructional staff.”
Along with the Autism Support programme, National Learning Network on Breaffy Road in Castlebar provides training opportunities to over 90 people who are out of work due to accident, illness or disability. Their SOLAS and HSE funded courses include Employer-based Training, Jobstart, Business and Information Technology (by Blended Learning), Computer Studies and Office Skills, Sporting Chance, Fresh Start, New Directions.
National Learning Network is part of Rehab, which also provides services to over 110 people in Mayo though its RehabCare adult day and supported accommodation services.