Summerhill College in Sligo is committed to supporting students with Autism. In recent years the school has developed a dedicated ASD Resource Centre specially designed to support the holistic education of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The ASD Resource Centre is a nurturing and safe environment which enables all students to reach their full potential within Summerhill College. We are delighted to support this excellent work by sponsoring the establishment of the Callan Tansey Practical Living Demonstration Room, a key resource in supporting students in the schools Autism classes as they learn day-to-day life skills. Our Brian Gill, Partner, is a Past Pupil of Summerhill College. Last September he spoke at a conference hosted by Summerhill College, for students with Autism and their families, ‘What Next? – Pathways into further studies and employment’
We recently spoke with school Principal, Paul Keogh, to find out more about the impact of the ASD Resource Centre to date, and the schools future plans.
What Motivated Summerhill College to Invest Resources to Develop Specific Supports for Students with Autism?
Inclusive education provision was the central motivator for such developments. Summerhill College identified students who had needs that would be best met through an environment where there was a lower pupil-teacher ratio and may also receive a baseline level of SNA support. This ensures that there is as much intensive support as possible for pupils to develop and fulfil their IEPs.
What are the Different Supports Available for Students with Autism?
Class sizes are limited to 6 students per Autism class. Each class has an allocation of 1.5 teacher contact time and 2 SNAs per Autism class. Each class gets access to a kitchen, multi sensory room and a poly tunnel. Students get access to mainstream classes and facilities. Students get access to bespoke learning experiences tailored to their individual needs. L1LP and L2LP programs are available to students.
What is the Impact of Those Supports on the Boy’s Experience of Education?
Students experience educational opportunities in an environment that is suited to them and their individual needs.
How Many Boys are Currently Receiving Support?
30 students are currently in the Bishop Jones Centre. We also facilitate other students with an autism diagnosis and students awaiting a diagnosis in mainstream classes.
Have the Supports Attracted Additional Students From Outside Sligo Town to Enrol in Summerhill College?
We have students attending from Sligo Town, Sligo County and the Connacht region.
How has the Development of These Supports Impacted on the Wider School Community, Boys, Staff, Parents, Past Pupils?
Inclusion and inclusive practices are now central to conversations and policy development. Training and CPD is offered on a whole school basis and is now the responsibility of all staff.
What additional plans do you have for the future?
Our 6th autism class is to open in August 2023. We are awaiting a new building to facilitate 3 classrooms and continue to provide a annual conference on pathways for young autistic people after post primary education.