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Cork Get Behind Lifelong Learning

01 April 2015
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Hollyhill National Learning Network was a hive of activity on Wednesday 25th March as it held an informative and fun open day as part of this year’s Cork Lifelong Learning Festival.

Visitors flocked (pun intended) to the centre to learn about the life and care of a range of exotic animals like slithery snakes, hooting owls and cuddly chinchillas at the Anima Roadshow! They learned about great Arts and Craft skills like Monoprinting, Cake Decorating, and Hand Building Pottery.  Visitors had their eyes opened to the beautiful and interesting world of Irish Sign Language which lead to people leaving the demonstration saying, “I never thought of it that way”. Their IT imaginations were sparked by a demonstration of a remote controlled car brought to life by students of the Hollyhill IT course. The Raspberry Pi car could be controlled via a tablet or any smartphone and even featured a web cam which live streamed the car’s viewpoint back to the controller’s device!

The halls of the centre were full of a lively atmosphere as people looking for free courses and training to help them to get back to work attended the event’s short briefings on the courses (FETAC Level 3-5) every hour on the hour with opportunities to meet instructors and students throughout the day. Guidance counsellors and those who support people who are unemployed to get back to work were also in attendance to gather information on courses and programmes available in NLN’s centres in Hollyhill, Model Farm Road, Mallow, Midleton, Carrigaline and Penrose Wharf.
The open day ended with an excellent informative and passionate seminar on Life after Leaving Cert for the student living with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Those with an interest in autism and ASD were joined by people employed in the area of autism as well as the friends and family of young people with autism and ASD in a full seminar room in Hollyhill. Four speakers then each gave a detailed presentation on the current situation in Ireland for school leavers with autism. 
Kieran Kennedy of Shrine Family Support and Advocacy spoke first and stressed the importance of transitioning from school to employment, higher education, further education, or rehabilitative education, and suggested transition classes towards the end of their school life. Seamus Sheehan of the Brothers of Charity gave an analysis of the four options for school leavers with autism and highlighted the gaps within each of them for those with autism or ASD. Veronica Egan of Aspect outlined the association’s background and the service it provides in the form of community individual support. Padraig Healy of National Learning Network outlined the courses available in Hollyhill for those with autism, the highlight of which was an emotional testimonial about the centre’s services from a mother of a young man with autism. The seminar then closed with a passionate question and answer session from all involved who were determined to use that session as the starting point of a movement of change towards a better situation for those with autism or ASD.
All in all, the open day was one of fun, amusement, and entertainment but also of real substance with clear focus on education and helping people to improve their situation.
National Learning Network supports adults (18-60) who have a health condition, injury, illness, mild or specific learning difficulty, mental health problem etc or who have been out of work for a long period. For more information call 021 4300144.