Previous SNA Group Events 


October/November 2015

"Practice Based Strategies that Support a Student with ASD"

This seminar was designed for SNA’s and teachers who want a course that provides them with useful ways and approaches to supporting students with ASD across the spectrum. Although students differ and vary across the spectrum there are a range of challenges and strengths that many share. It is hoped that participants gain a deeper understanding of how to work with and support students on the autism spectrum. The speakers will cover three areas that are associated with autism. Use of visual strategies, sensory processing difference and restrictive behaviour patterns and explain how the teacher or SNA might improve their practice, communication skills and ability to understand a child’s individual strengths and weaknesses and in doing so build positive, supportive educational settings that help to foster good communication and evidence based approaches. Speakers are two very experienced teachers and a social care professional, with backgrounds working with young adults and teaching in Ireland and UK. Participants will hear strategies that work and see learning materials from classrooms in Ireland that are utilized every day.


April 2013

Over 450 people (including some SNA Group Members) participated in the ISA International Autism Conference at the National Convention Centre in Dublin. This two day event included many inspirational speakers including three people with autism.


Pictured left is Dr Temple Grandin (USA). Temple was diagnosed with autism in America in the '50's. She has written many books, including "Emergence - Labelled Autistic" and "Thinking in Pictures". She was the subject of the HBO movie "Temple Grandin" which accurately documented her life and she received a standing ovation for her talk at the ISA 50th Anniversary Conference in Dublin in April. Ros Blackburn (UK) also spoke of her experience of living with Autism for her talk "Logically Illogical" and Irish man Jamie Reilly gave a wonderful talk about his experiences of living with autism, attending special school, mainstream school and finally TCD where he earned his honours degree in Genetics and subsequently his MA from Queens University, Belfast. Jamie also received a standing ovation from delegates from 21 countries for his talk "Overcoming Obstacles". Jamie will speak at our seminar "Fostering Hope - Imagining Futures" at the green Isle Hotel in Dublin on 8th June 2013.


February/March 2012

"Understanding and Managing Challenging Behaviour"


  • Challenging Behaviour in the Classroom: Presented by Karen Lowther
  • An Introduction to Social Stories :   Presented by Maria Dollard
  • Introduction to Stress Management Techniques : Presented by Bernadette O'Neill
  • Dynamics for the Adult Supporting Young People with Challenging Behaviour   :  Presented by Dr. Fergus Heffernan


October/November 2011

Special Needs Assistants Group in association with Flo Longhorn, Principal Consultant in Special and Multisensory Education- A Master Class "Multisensory approaches to sensing and learning for the special child".


Dublin Saturday 15th October 2011
Kilkenny Saturday 22nd October 2011 

Special Needs Assistants Group Seminar, "Understanding and Managing Challenging Behaviour", as part of our 'Eclectic Approaches in Education for Children with PDD and ASD' series.


Portlaoise Saturday 12th November 2011

May 2011

The 5th Annual SNA Group Conference took place in Kilkenny in May 2011. A detailed report on the Conference is contained within our Newsletter 14.

The guest speakers on the day included, Flo Longhorn who thrilled everyone with her Masterclass taster, Gerri Geoghegan (Art Therapist), Hannah McDonnell and Dera Mulholland.

Flo Longhorn  Principal Consultant in special and multisensory education

Flo Longhorn has worked in the area of special and multisensory education for over forty years and brings a wealth of experience, resources and common sense to her Master Classes. She has written 17 books on multisensory approaches to learning for very special learners~ with two new books on multisensory art out in 2011. She is the Editor of the international  'Information Exchange' magazine .She also works abroad in many countries with diverse settings. She has just returned from working in South Africa and New Zealand.

She is also a bee keeper,  great grandmother and lives in Belgium.

Ms. Hannah McDonnell, BA Performing Arts (Hons.)

Professional actor Hannah McDonnell is the Artistic Director of Seesaw Theatre Company.  Hannah designs and facilitates specialised drama workshops for artists with a range of physical and learning disabilities.  Her objective is to develop alternative ways of learning by focusing on the arts and promoting the positive social model of disability. Hannah studied in New York and London and while in London worked with several professional theatre companies including Diversity, Graeae, Missing Pieces, as well as Youth at Risk and the National Youth Theatre.  Her experience of working with adults and young people of all ages is extensive and diverse. She has over seven years experience working with adults and children with a wide range of physical and intellectual abilities. Hannah has three years experience developing, adapting and delivering drama and self-advocacy FETAC accredited courses for adult students with a wide range of intellectual and physical disability in an educational institution.  For the two last years Hannah has been developing and delivering social integration programmes for children and teenagers with DCD and various conditions on the Autistic Spectrum, in conjunction with Dyspraxia Ireland.  Hannah is a very active advocate for disability.  Hannah’s passion comes from her own experience of having dyslexia and dyspraxia.  To date Hannah has presented several seminars and conferences on varying topics including ‘Disability Awareness’, ‘Success and Failure’ and ‘Dyspraxia -knowing no limits’


Gerri Geoghegan, B.Des. Comm., H. Dip.
ACD Ed., PG Dip. A.T., R.A. Th., Adv.Dip.
Art Therapist and Consultant Supervisor

Gerri has worked in Mainstream Education, Special Needs Schools and Residential Services, as well as a number of third level Colleges and Universities over the course of her career as an Art Teacher and Art Therapist.  Currently she is working in the area of Child and Adult Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and in an Acute Adult Psychiatric Unit in a General Hospital. She also operates in a  Consultative capacity for individual and group supervision of professionals allied to medicine, both in a private practice and for the HSE.  Gerri has extensive experience in using Art Therapy with Eating Disorder Clients as part of a Multi-Disciplinary Team on an Eating Disorders Recovery Programme. She is a visiting lecturer and placement supervisor on the M.A. in Art Therapy course in Crawford College of Art and Design, C.I.T. Cork..  Gerri has also delivered lectures, experiential art therapy workshops and slide presentations along with a technical seminar to the post-graduate students on the MSc Child and Adolescent Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, Year 1 on the use of art, artifacts and imagery as therapy (University of Dublin, Trinity College).

Gerri is a professionally qualified registered member of the Irish Association of Creative Arts Therapists (IACAT) and is a former chairperson of IACAT, from 1996-1999. She currently lives and works in Dublin.


Dera Mulholland, BSc (Hons) Psychology, PGad Dip. Play & Psychotherapy

Presentation will include:

  • What is play & psychotherapy all about?
    • Overview of the play therapy approach
    • Who can benefit from play therapy
  • Hatti’s Story ( a case study)

Dera has worked with children for twenty-five years in both Ireland and Western Australia.  Her career began as a Montessori pre-school teacher in the mid eighties.   She continued her studies completing a BSc in psychology and a post- graduate diploma in play and psychotherapy. 
Dera has worked as a hospital play specialist (oncology unit, OLHSC), an ABA tutor with children with autism and as a play development worker for Dublin City Council.  She has delivered a number of FETAC Level 5 courses for SNA’s for Kildare VEC; as well as workshops on ‘sensing sensory difference’. 
Dera currently works in private practice as a play & psychotherapist.  She also owns and runs a pre-school that is inclusive of a small number of children with autism.  She lives in Kildare with her family, dog and chickens.



Autumn 2010 - STRUCTURED TEACHING and AUTISM - SNA Group Seminar

23rd October, 6th November and 20th September 2010
Topics covered on the day
* Understanding the nature of Autistic Spectrum Disorders - Ms Kirsten Conway, Behavioural Specialist
* Communication Disorders and Visual Support Systems in Autism - Ms Marie Butler, Speech & Language Therapist
* Autism - A Parents Perspective - Ms Maria Dollard, Parent & Adult Education Tutor
* Empowering Structure in the Classroom - Elements & Resources - Ms Karen Lowther, Special Edcuation Teacher

Speakers included at our 2009 Conference included

*Nita Jackson. Nita is a young woman with Asperger’s Syndrome, and she spoke most eloquently about growing up with Asperger’s Syndrome.

*Carolann (Nita's mother) Jackson. She spoke about her work as chairperson of the charity SAFE (Supporting Asperger Families in Essex), and her day job as a teacher of teens with Asperger’s Syndrome and young people with moderate learning disabilities.

*Kirsten Conroy. She spoke of the many ideas for managing challenging behaviour in young people through building self- esteem, providing positive role-models and always helping the children feel better about themselves.