NRC’s Autism Impact Award

Northern Regional College has been awarded an Autism Impact Award in recognition of its work supporting students with autistic spectrum disorder and ongoing efforts to provide a fully inclusive learning environment.

Tuesday, 24th August 2021, 10:58 am
Stephen McCartney from NRC

The award, presented by Autism NI, recognises organisations who excel in creating a more ‘autism friendly environment’.

NRC is currently the only FE college in Northern Ireland to be recognised in this way.

Stephen McCartney, the College’s Head of Student Services, explained that the award is an important acknowledgement of the valuable support available at Northern Regional College for students who are autistic.

“There are over 30,000 people in Northern Ireland with autism and many are living in the College’s huge catchment area. I hope the Autism Impact Award will encourage prospective and current students to feel more comfortable about disclosing that they are autistic.

“Only in this way can we make them aware of all the appropriate and discrete support that we can offer to ensure that they are feel comfortable in the College environment. Achieving the Autism Impact Award involved a considerable amount of work behind the scenes to ensure that relevant staff had completed the appropriate autism awareness training.”

Stephen said: “Our approach is to accommodate students with autism, not to try and squeeze them into an existing system that may not work for them. The changes reflect the needs of students, not the other way around.

“Staff have received autism training and we have introduced autism friendly information and orientation sessions and ID cards. We also have a designated ‘Autistic Champion’ on each campus. Reception, library and canteen staff are all JAM (‘Just A Minute’) compliant, so they will deal with anyone with autism or other processing difficulties in a friendly and confident way.

“Although these may seem like small steps, they have the potential to make a huge difference. They could even be life changing as they may help a student with autism to get the most from their college experience.”