Date: 24/05/2019

“Resilience is the ability to recover, to bounce back despite immense pressures” explained Sarah Devlin, Specialist Teacher, Middletown Centre for Autism as she described how the support of parents, school and other agencies helped cultivate resilience skills during a recent individualised learning support programme. In an inspirational presentation of some of the work carried out by Middletown Centre for Autism, Sarah reflected that having a dedicated team of professionals from both the school and other agencies, who were committed to work together, facilitated such a positive outcome for the young person described in this case study.

In the largest autism conference in Ireland, Sarah Devlin, Specialist Teacher Middletown Centre for Autism (pictured centre), sharing a stage with international guest speakers Brenda Myles, Kari Dunn Buron, Ros Blackburn and Patsy Daly, inspired an audience of over 900 parents and educational professionals on effective and practical ways to support the development of resilience skills in children and young people with autism.

The secret to supporting the development of resilience skills in young people with autism was divulged during the two-day conference held in County Meath. In a case study depicting some of the work carried out by Middletown Centre for Autism, Sarah presented a case of a young girl with autism and intellectual disability referred to the Centre for an individualised learning support programme. This programme supported the young person to return to education and gain resilience skills such as emotional regulation.

Sarah explained “supporting young people’s resilience involves identifying their strengths and needs and then modifying or individualising strategies to suit. Luckily with this young person I had a very willing and capable team of educational professionals in the young persons school (Setanta Special School) and support from Educational Psychologist Hilary Virtue and her team from Enable Ireland, without which, the outcome for this young person would not have been so positive”.

“In fact,” continued Sarah, “the secret to the success of this young person was down to the dedicated team of professionals at Setanta Special School and Enable Ireland who were commitment to working together to support this young person”.

Together with the young person’s parents, Sean Fox (teacher at Setanta Special School) and Ciara McDonald (SNA, Setanta Special School) facilitated the strategies recommended by Middletown Centre for Autism during the programme. Sarah said, “sharing information, having clear goals and consistently applying strategies was key in supporting this young person back into education and increasing her opportunities. Sean and Ciara played a pivotal role in this.”

Sarah’s presentation was a highlight of the conference and illustrated how equipping young people with autism with coping and resilience skills (such as strategies for sensory and emotional regulation), can really improve their overall wellbeing. Strategies that are individually tailored to the young person with autism can facilitate the accomplishment of resilience skills and support individuals bounce back from difficult periods in their life and make a successful transition into adulthood, with support from an excellent team such as that in Setanta Special School.