Limerick teacher bridges the gap with new Autism-friendly book

Limerick teacher bridges the gap with new Autism-friendly book

Teacher Maria Dervan pictured with the Bridge Back to School publication

FOR many students with autism, the loss of routine and structure can be unsettling at the best of times and Covid-19 offers an even bigger challenge.

A team from AsIAm and Mary Immaculate College Limerick has put an autism-friendly learning resource kit together called Bridge Back to School, which is available in SuperValu stores throughout the country.

PhD student and full-time teacher at St Michael's Infant School on Sexton Street in Limerick city, Maria Dervan, was the lead author of the project.

Maria's PhD is on autism studies and AsIAm got in touch with her through Mary Immaculate College to create this resource.

“We ran a team between AsIAm and Mary Immaculate College from the beginning of lockdown and we looked at the types of support that people with autism would need going back to school,” Maria said.

Maria and the team identified challenges for autistic students in the current situation including sensory integration, preparing for the new school year, dealing with worry and anxiety; understanding the 'new normal', social skills, self-regulation, use of visuals and clear communication.

The team strived to make the resource kit suitable for parents, carers, teachers, special needs assistants and home support workers as well as autistic students to use themselves.

On the front cover, there is a character named Alex who is a gender-neutral figure who takes us through the book.

“We brought the book from a strength-based approach to highlight what the students were good at and to help other people to identify the skills and the traits that they had and to use them as they move forward into the transition,” Maria added.

The book is bursting with activities and worksheets for the children to engage with.

The worksheets are a great way to understand how the child is coping throughout the transition back to school as well as keeping them entertained.

“It was a very comprehensive piece. We were under time constraints but we managed to pull it together and it has been well received so far,” Maria concluded.

You can pick up this free resource at your local SuperValu now.

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