‘I just love my life . . . the job is important for my confidence’

Along with training to become a hairdressing assistant, Aisling Coyle thoroughly enjoys working with children at Jungle Den play centre in Naas, Co Kildare

Aisling Coyle enjoys working with children at Jungle Den play centre in Naas, Co Kildare, "just 'cos they're cute". She does Play-Doh and other arts and crafts, as well as taking her turn at working in the kitchen, cleaning tables, filling up party bags and setting up the party rooms.

“It’s team work,” she explains, nominating “mopping” as her least favourite task. However, that’s not to say she isn’t glad to do it.

“I just love my life. The job makes me very happy,” beams the 22-year-old blonde, very smartly dressed for this interview in a red dress with white collar and black jacket. “The job is important for my confidence.”

In contrast, the six months she spent at home in Naas before getting this part-time work last December, she sums up as "depressing". She was very bored, spending much of her day on the iPad or watching TV soap operas – Coronation Street being a favourite.


However, she did get some work experience, through a family member, in the Dublin 15 constituency office of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who she found to be "a very nice chap".

Aisling was first given shredding to do, but, after staff noticed her using a computer during her lunch break, she was asked to try an internet-research task, which she completed in no time.

Computer skills are part of the two-year Latch-On literacy course she did, which is run by Down Syndrome Ireland. Aisling enjoys using technology and surprised even her older sister Katie, who was heading out one evening to get a friend's help to do a PowerPoint presentation for her thesis, by offering to show her how it was done to save her the trip.

What Aisling earns goes towards "accessories and make-up", and a fortnightly appointment for Shellac nails. So, it's no surprise to learn she is also an enthusiastic participant in a programme called Beauty in All its Forms, run by the haircare company Alfaparf Milano to train adults with Down syndrome as hairdressing assistants. She is attending its academy in Kilmainham, Dublin, every Wednesday for six weeks and will then get work experience in a salon, with the hope of something more permanent after that.

As to how she gets to and from work, I ask: “Does your mother drive you?”

“Drives me mad,” is her immediate riposte.

She could add “stand-up comic” to her CV.

Parent's view: When Aisling was looking for work after completing various training courses, her mother Maura Coyle recalls how her daughter kept saying, "it's because I have too many needs, I can't get a job". But since starting at Jungle Den, she's "a completely different person. I think she is perfectly entitled to a job because she is so capable and it was just for somebody to give her the opportunity. And she really proved it once she went in."

Employer's view: Jungle Den supervisor Angela McGarr says she was surprised at how well Aisling took to the job. She only has to be shown how to do something once and then she gets on with it. "She is such a good worker, she never stands around doing nothing. She gets on well with all the staff here and she is great craic."

Part 1: Working to give people with Down syndrome a meaningful job
Part 2: 'I just love my life . . . the job is important for my confidence'
Part 3: 'It should be the same as for anyone else . . . to be respected as individuals'
Part 4: 'I love working, because I am a working man'

Sheila Wayman

Sheila Wayman

Sheila Wayman, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about health, family and parenting