DCU unveils sensory pods as part of the their Autism-Friendly University initiative

Dublin City University is proud to unveil three sensory pods in locations across the University’s three campuses, which were generously donated by the Lions Clubs Ireland. The pods will serve as designated quiet zones as part DCU’s Autism-Friendly University initiative.

Each pod allows students on the spectrum to control their environment and de-stress in a calming space. The sensory pods are located on the first floor of the O’Reilly Library on the Glasnevin campus, the third floor of the Cregan Library on St Patrick’s campus and the Apple Loft on All Hallows campus.

Earlier this year, DCU was recognised as the world’s first Autism-Friendly University by AsIAm, the autism advocacy charity, following an 18-month research project to better understand the challenges that may be facing autistic students. The research was carried out by researchers from AsIAm.ie and DCU’s School of Nursing and Human Sciences and the findings show that autistic students in third level often experience greater levels of difficulty settling in and adapting to university life than do their peers.

Frequently cited issues were discomfort in noisy environments, difficulties in managing schedules, deadlines and workload, challenges in participating in group work and unease in new social situations and extracurricular activities. Loneliness and anxiety also featured strongly. The sensory pods will give students on the spectrum a designated space to manage their sensory environment if they are feeling overwhelmed, allowing them space to de-stress before returning to the busy pace of campus life.

Speaking at the unveiling of the sensory pods, Frank O’Donoghue, District Governor, Lions Clubs Ireland, said: “The funding of the project reflects the Lions core value of service to the community. Lions Clubs from North Dublin and its environs recognised the work of DCU in becoming the world’s first Autism-Friendly University and responded to an opportunity to provide funding for three sensory pods, with support from Lions Clubs Ireland. Ten Lions Clubs joined in the funding project, which is a fine example of clubs working together to achieve a worthwhile goal.”

Frank O’Donoghue, added: “Lions Clubs Ireland serves the community through projects in education, health, youth development, senior citizen care and homelessness while the 2,400 Lions who are members of 106 Lions Clubs throughout the island of Ireland, undertake hundreds of projects in their local communities. Lions Clubs Ireland also contributes to international health and education programmes and, through Lions Clubs International Foundation, responds to disasters whenever and wherever they occur.”

Claire Bohan, Director of Student Support & Development at DCU, stated: “We are so grateful to the Lions Clubs Ireland for funding this wonderful initiative for our students. The University’s campuses are vibrant spaces with lots of activity and interaction taking place, and this is so important to allow our students grow and flourish. We need, however, to be able to offer the balance of a quieter space so that students can take some time out as needs be, to allow them cope better throughout those busy days.

“It was critically important to us from the outset of this project that we would be able to offer this space on all three campuses, so that students would have the facility close to hand irrespective of where their learning was taking place. Through the generosity of the Lions Clubs Ireland, this is now a reality. We’re very much looking forward to hearing from the students about the impact these sensory pods have on their daily experience as a student in DCU.”