SuperValu bring autism-friendly learning resource back stores nationwide

SuperValu and AsIAm in collaboration with Mary Immaculate College are delighted to announce the return of the Bridge Back to School learning resource. Covid-19 continues to pose challenges for every household in Ireland and since the ongoing school closures, for many people the loss of structure and routine has been particularly tough. This resource was first launched in July 2020 and helped thousands of families prepare for the return to education after an extended break. Special schools opened this month at half capacity and from next Monday special classes will open again, the resource will help students, teachers, SNAs and parents as they support their children as they go back to school now or later this year. From today, the 19th February, the resource will be available in every SuperValu to support families in re-establishing routines that may have been disrupted with the closure of schools and prepare them for a return to school when the time comes.

A booklet will be sent to every primary school in the country and 10,000 of the resource booklets will be distributed to SuperValu stores nationwide and available to pick up from Friday 19th February in all SuperValu stores at identifiable points. The resource can also be downloaded from the SuperValu Website. AsIAm worked in collaboration with Professor Emer Ring and colleagues with experience in early learning and care, primary, post-primary and school contexts to develop the resource. Professor Ring has extensive experience in education including working with the Department of Education and Skills, as a primary mainstream class teacher and as learning support & resource teacher.

Professor Ring remarked that “Every person around the country has experienced some obstacle to their routine due to the pandemic, however many do not consider how the changes that may seem minor to some, can pose serious stress to others in their community. The second closure of schools will have impacted those with autism and their families again and it's important that we support them through this time. This resource we have developed with SuperValu & AsIAm offers essential guidance for those with high support needs that will find the transition back to school a particular challenge. We’re delighted that not only will the resource be available in SuperValu stores again but it has been sent to every primary school in Ireland, building on the long tradition at Mary Immaculate College of promoting research in education and supporting schools.” Professor Emer Ring also acknowledged the strong and committed team behind the resource, which was collated by Maria Dervan and included contributions from Dr Lisha O’Sullivan, Billy Redmond, Anne Jones, Dr Margaret Egan, Dr Niamh Moore, Fiona Ferris and Hannah O’Dwyer.

CEO of AsIAm Adam Harris said, “Not only have the changes in routine and lack of support been a challenge for autistic students but re-establishing routine will be just as challenging. This has been the second closure in a year for students and has been particularly tough for students and their families. During this time where some children will be preparing to return to education the ‘Bridge Back to School’ resource can support teachers, SNAs and family members to help understand, prepare and manage the return to school for young people.

In developing the resources some of the most challenging elements of the current ever-changing circumstances which autistic students might find difficult to navigate were identified. The "Bridge Back to School”- An Autism-Friendly Learning Resource” offers support and guidance in these areas as we move through the phases of reopening Ireland and will focus on:

  1. Sensory integration
  2. Preparing for the new year
  3. Dealing with worry and anxiety
  4. Explaining the “new normal”
  5. Social skills
  6. Self-regulation
  7. Use of visuals
  8. Clear communication

SuperValu is dedicated to making communities around Ireland more inclusive and is leading the way in autism friendly shopping by continuously raising understanding and awareness of autism among its customers and staff.

Ian Allen, Managing Director, SuperValu said “We’re committed to making SuperValu inclusive and autism friendly and the work we do in communities around Ireland raises much-needed awareness and support for the autism community. The Bridge Back to School resource, developed with Mary Immaculate College and AsIAm, was a great support for families as they prepared to return to school last Autumn. We’re delighted that we can again provide that support to families as they return to school over the coming months. The resource will be available for all to pick up in their local SuperValu from today Friday 19th February.