Furthering Your Studies in Special Educational Needs

I feel like I learn something new everyday in school, the children we work with are such a valuable source of information to inform our planning and teaching. I always feel like I have more to learn about my role as an ASD class teacher and love doing CPD courses. After a year of working in an ASD class and attending as many of the SESS/NCSE run courses as I could (link to site below), I decided I wanted to further my own education in autism. I love learning new strategies and approaches to implement with the children, I was excited when I saw there was a course available specific to autism in more than one college in Ireland.

Link to NCSE Courses:


The course I decided to do was the ‘Graduate Certificate in the Education of Pupils on the Autism Spectrum’ in Dublin City University (DCU).

I had completed my undergraduate in DCU (St. Patrick’s College), loved the college and was happy to continue my studies there. I was torn between the course in DCU and a similar course in St. Angela’s College, Sligo which is affiliated with the SESS. As I had already completed a lot of the SESS run courses, I felt going to DCU would give me a different slant on any content that I may have experienced before. The course in DCU is funded by the Department of Education and Skills, so this is also a factor to consider.

I will leave links to the Graduate Certificates in Autism in Ireland that I am aware of. For anyone who is considering completing one and would like to compare the courses. From what I can see there are all pretty similar, it may just come down to location for a lot of people.

Dublin City University (DCU):


Mary Immaculate College, affiliated with Middletown Centre for Autism (accredited by University of Limerick):


University College Cork, Ireland (UCC):


St. Angela’s College, Sligo in collaboration with the SESS, (accredited by National University of Ireland, Galway):


Entry Requirements

As the programmes are aimed towards teaching children with ASD, a requirement that seems to be common across all of the courses is that you must be working with children with ASD for the duration of the course. In the Graduate Certificate in the Education of Pupils on the Autism Spectrum’ in DCU, there was a placement assignment which involves a lecturer from the college coming to observe you teaching 2 groups of children with ASD. As part of another assignment we had to complete pupil profiles for the children that would be observed.

Workload & Structure  

I felt the work load was very manageable during this course, I used two or three days each school break to complete assignment work and did work one day midweek and some weekends. I didn’t feel restricted in any way and with good planning you can ensure you have time for other aspects of your life as well as completing the course.

There were 6 weeks of onsite lectures when I completed the course, they were divided into 2 week blocks across the year. Full substitution cover was provided for these weeks. I work in an ASD class in a mainstream school, while I attended the onsite lectures, teachers from our school covered my class on a rotation basis and the substitute covered their class. It worked well in our school as the teachers knew my students and it meant they would have a smoother two weeks where possible. It also meant myself and the SNAs could prep the teachers before hand about what works well for the children. There were others completing the course who had difficulty organising substitute cover for their class, particularly teachers from Special Schools.

Apart from the on campus lectures there were some online lectures in the evening times, particularly during winter months. You were aware of the dates and times well in advance to be able to plan around them, they were generally from 6pm to about 7.30pm.

Further Studies

If you complete the Graduate Certificate in DCU, you can go on to do the Graduate Diploma course, which is what I did. You can also enter the Graduate Diploma course straight away without doing the Graduate Certificate course. Spreading it out over the 2 years meant the workload was much more manageable. I also wanted to complete a course that was solely on Autism rather than SEN. Those were my influences for choosing the Graduate Certificate to begin with.

Hope that info is helpful for anyone considering further studies in the area of Special Educational Needs.

As always, if you have any questions, ask away.


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