Sherene Powell-Okafor

Profile picture of Sherene Powell Okafor.

A primary school teacher for many years, Sherene Powell-Okafor decided to learn more about the area of special education when her daughter Sinead got an autism diagnosis.

“I started learning about special needs as it related to autism. It was not something that had been my focus of study when I qualified as a primary school teacher in Jamaica.”

“Autism was a brand new area to me. I began to go to conferences and do training in all aspects of educational support in order to determine what options there were for her in education.”

Motivated by her experiences, Sherene decided to establish her own inclusive Montessori pre-school. As a result, there are five centres in Ireland, three in Dublin, one in Limerick and one in Cork.

A Deputy Principal who oversees the Special Education department in her present school, her drive to provide more inclusive options for children on the autism spectrum included further education for herself. Today she is graduating from DCU with a Professional Certificate in Special and Inclusive Education.

Sherene, who is also a member of the Board of a patron that is trustee of a post primary school and patron of a primary school that has as their focus, a more inclusive setting for children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), said, “I have been developing and expanding my own knowledge around different types of learning disabilities over the years and that brought me to study at DCU.”

“The course has given me more insight into other special educational needs. When you are involved in autism, you tend to just focus on ASD. I needed to get more information on other learning disabilities, particularly because Autism rarely ‘travels on its own’.”

“There are other areas such as mild learning disability, dyslexia etc. They all give an insight into different issues that can affect children, and this is important because sometimes autism is not their major challenge.”

Her eighteen months long course was delivered online. Speaking about the programme she said there were students “from the UK and other countries, not just from Ireland. That was great because we got to interact with each other and get overviews of what the education sector was like in their country, and what their inclusion responses were.”

“It was good, we were learning from their experiences and there was a good exchange of experiences.”

“I discovered so much about the different learning disabilities that exist; it opened up my eyes because I had been so focused on autism and, although I knew there were other underlying issues and there are other diagnoses that go with it, sometimes we allow the autism to overpower everything else. The knowledge gained from the course further empowers my teaching and understanding of my students.”

Sherene is continuing her studies in DCU and currently studying Graduate Diploma in Inclusive Education, Learning Support and Special Education.

DCU Prospectus - Go to Professional Cert in Special and Inclusive Education.