The Autism Aware scheme is aimed at increasing awareness and understanding of autism, and certified organisations are recognised in the Autism Wales directory.
Grŵp Llandrillo Menai has a number of autistic learners, with an increasing need for bespoke support. Initatives such as Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Mentors, quiet safe spaces, including designated Pods, and whole organisation training programmes have been put in place to help create autism friendly environments for students at the college campuses.
These initiatives are part of the Grŵp's extensive wellbeing support and services, rated as 'excellent' by Estyn, which have had significant investment over the past few years.
James Nelson, Executive Director for Academic Services at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai said: "The wellbeing of all our learners and staff is a major priority for us. Each individual has different and specific needs and so offering personalised support is extremely important.
"Through the introduction of our ASD Mentors and changes to the college environment, we have seen a considerable improvement in engagement and progress made among autistic learners."
The Grŵp is now aiming to achieve the Autism Aware certification for the whole organisation. James added: "We are particularly glad, especially given that it's the World Autism Acceptance Week, to have been awarded the Autism Wales certificate for our Additional Learning Needs services.
"We're now working towards gaining the same recognition across the Grŵp, so that we continue to make sure that every aspect of college life allows our autistic learners to thrive and achieve their full potential."
Niamh is currently studying Level 1 Web, Games and Media at the GLLM Rhos-on-Sea campus. She is an autistic student who describes herself as cheerful and kind-hearted, hyperactive and mischievous, best known for her silly, yet loveable humour and incredible knowledge present within her mind.
Niamh can, however, become quite anxious at times and prefers structure and routine to her day. Advance notice of changes in routine or new topics can support her to prepare for the coming change. Niamh can become upset and stressed if information is unclear.
Niamh said: "College was like a freaky new world at first. I was both excited and supremely anxious as I wracked my brain wondering what the place was going to be like and did they have support for people like me?
“The first few days were frantic for me, trying to get adapted to this new system and panicking every time. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that support for people like me did indeed exist in this college.”
Niamh regularly meets with her ASD Mentor to talk about any concerns she may have and receive support. When conversations lead towards heightened anxiety, Niamh uses a seating Pod at the college, designed specifically for when students become overwhelmed or anxious. This helps her return to a state of calm which makes her more open to discussions her studies. Through this support and adjustments to her learning environment she is now much more engaged in her learning.
Niamh added: “The mentors are friendly, I felt like I could vent my frustrations when I felt too overwhelmed. They helped me get better accustomed to college life, and helped me get back up when I felt as though I was falling down.
“Now, almost all elements of college life is something I can be accustomed to; things like getting to my class without any guidance or heading to the cafe on Friday for a school dinner and more. I can basically handle myself as a stronger path for not only my future dreams as a game developer, but also as a growing step for my independent willpower starts to build itself up! "