From silence to speeches, Jonathan speaks after 22 years

An inspirational intern, transformed from a selective mute to a confident public speaker due to the support and guidance of the DFN Project SEARCH programme and his lecturers.

Jonathan Munro is neurodiverse, and at an early age was diagnosed with Autism and other learning disabilities. During school he was overwhelmed with anxiety and began to reduce his verbal communications to the extent he was deemed a selective mute, only feeling comfortable enough to speak in his home setting to his mum, Maxine. Although, very clever and enjoyed learning, his inability to socialise and lack of confidence lead to loneliness and isolation. After school, he attended Dundee and Angus College (D&A) continuing his studies in Administration at HNC level, but due to the pandemic and online learning, this severely triggered his anxiety.

In 2022 Jonathan, supported by his mum Maxine, applied for the DFN Project SEARCH programme. The supported internship programme is a business-led one-year transition to employment for adults with a learning disability and/or Autism spectrum conditions. The programme is a collaboration between D&A College, NHS Tayside, and Dundee Health & Social Care Partnership.

For the first time in 22 years, in an education context, Jonathan spoke at the interview day. From this point on, he continued to speak and develop his verbal communication with the continued support and encouragement from his lecturer and job coach. His mental health has hugely benefited from the engagement and structure, and he has gained a sense of purpose and meaning in the community.

Jonathan’s mum Maxine Munro comments: “Since being in DFN Project SEARCH, Jonathan has found his voice and is using it a lot. The transformation in Jonathan is unrecognisable. There is no doubt in my mind this supportive environment, the continued positive reinforcement, the clear guidance, and the structure that is provided within DFN Project SEARCH, by both Leanne and Nessy, has been paramount in Jon’s development and allowed him to thrive.”

Jonathan’s confidence has grown so much, and he has continued to develop his verbal communication. At the DFN Project SEARCH Graduation in May, he volunteered to speak in front of over 100 people and did it confidently. 

During his time with the programme, Jonathan took place in a rotational placement in the Nurse Bank at Ninewells Hospital, this was the perfect environment for him, and he flourished immensely. In April, he secured employment with the Nurse Bank where his verbal communication has improved so much that he now answers the phones and completes his shifts at reception.

Jonathan is an inspirational role model to all, particularly those who are neurodiverse, and he attributes his development and growth to the support he has had through the DFN Project SEARCH programme, his lecturer and job coach.

Leanne Macdonald, Lecturer in Supported Education at D&A College comments: “We are all so incredibly proud of Jonathan, his development is life changing. The Nurse Bank staff are very supportive of him, believing in him and always seeing his potential.”

Jonathan was nominated for the NHS STAR Award for Young Achiever in recognition for his outstanding personal development and growth due to the DFN Project SEARCH programme. On Friday 22nd September, at the Apex Hotel Dundee, he won the Gold award - an outstanding achievement. He has also won two awards in the D&A College prizegiving event for Armistead Prize for Personal Achievement and Ede and Ravenscroft Prize for Outstanding Achievement.

The D&A College prizegiving event takes place on Tuesday 17th October at Gardyne Theatre, Dundee.

For more information about the DFN Project SEARCH programme please visit the Dundee & Angus College website or see the following link: