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Online workshops helping trainers improve support for autistic learners

Work-based learning providers across Wales are logging on to online workshops during the Covid-19 pandemic to improve the ways they are supporting autistic learners.

Ninety people employed by 18 work-based learning providers have signed up for the two latest workshops organised by Humie Webbe, strategic equality and diversity lead at the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW).

The workshops are led by the National Autism Team, which is funded by the Welsh Government and hosted by the Welsh Local Government Association, working in partnership with Public Health Wales. The team provides support and guidance to help improve the lives of autistic people, their families and carers across Wales.

The team has worked with autism leads across Wales, the NTfW and Cardiff-based ACT Training, and autistic people to produce a resource pack for work-based learning.

The pack contains two guides – one to help learning providers understand and support autistic people and the other for autistic learners to help them complete their work-based learning journey successfully.

It gives useful advice, information, hints and tips for training providers to help create autism friendly environments for learners in the workplace, ranging from sensory and communication considerations, to task management and work support.

Trainers logging on to the online workshop watch a film which explores what autism means to three autistic people, including social communication, patterns and routines, sensory experience and how to make things better. Dr Elin Walker Jones, a consultant psychologist, adds a professional voice.

The film is designed to raise awareness and understanding of autism and how it relates to work-based learning, providing information and good practice.

After watching the film and viewing the resource pack, trainers must answer a series of 20 questions correctly to receive an Autism Aware Certificate.

One training provider, North Wales Training, has achieved the Autism Aware Certificate for the organisation after 41 of 45 trainers and assessors successfully completed the workshop on June 3.

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Ruth Collinge, North Wales Training’s contracts manager, said the company’s trainers and assessors had all benefited from the workshop.

“We have a lot of learners who are autistic and staff, as part of their continuing professional development, are always looking for new learning resources to support them,” she said. “The resources supplied by the National Autism Team for staff and learners are really good and has raised everyone’s awareness.

“Staff have learnt how to develop specific learning strategies to better understand and support autistic learners.”

Wendy Thomas, the National Autism Team’s national professional lead for autism, said she was pleased with the interest in the virtual workshop.

“It shows there is a real need for this learning resource,” she added. “We’re excited to see people use it and put the guidance into practice.

“It’s important to make everyone aware that autistic people can access work-based learning. Everyone should have the same opportunity to do any career they wish, irrespective of whether they are autistic or not. What’s really important is getting the right person in the right job.”

Humie Webbe welcomed the positive response to the online workshops from independent work-based learning providers and further education colleges across Wales and encouraged them all to achieve the organisational Autism Aware Certificate.

“Work-based learning providers across Wales are really keen to ensure that they have the appropriate skills and knowledge to support neuro-diverse learners,” she said.

“We shall be holding follow-up sessions in the autumn to receive updates from the learning providers about how they are using their new skills and learning resources.”

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