Happy 2016 everyone! At this stage, Christmas is a distant memory and everyone is back to normality. I hoped to get this blog published last week but we were very busy getting all our programmes started back up and so I am only getting to sit down to this now.
2015 was an important year for AsIAm – we put structures in place, increased our funding, clearly defined our mission and designed great programmes which we know can change Ireland for people with Autism.
2016 I hope will be the year where we can harness our structure and vision and turn it into that change which people with Autism so need to see.
Last year I travelled right across Ireland on a weekly basis and this was an important way for me to meet people and find out the challenges the Autism community is facing in different areas. This year I will continue to travel but my travels will now be more focused and about implementing our new programmes as opposed to attending lots of external events.
To thee fore of my mind is our new Youth Campaign – we hosted our 2nd Youth Leadership Team Meeting on Saturday and are developing the resources and campaign materials we hope to launch in the coming weeks. We believe that is critical that we educate young people, aged 15-22, to gain a greater understanding of Autism. More and more people diagnosed with Autism as children are now reaching adulthood. if we want real, meaningful inclusion to be a reality in our communities we must make an invisible condition, highly visible and well understood in the minds of young people. That is the only way education will be a pleasant experience for those with Autism. The only way people with Autism will be able to gain employment and receive respect in the workplace. The only way people with Autism can access and enjoy the recreational and community amenities that most people take for granted.
From travelling to so many schools, I know young people are so open to learning about and accepting this condition – but simply no one has tried before! We already are making impact in this area when we visit schools but Autism must be seen as a community issue not just something confined to the walls of school. In February, our Youth Campaign will seek to bring our message beyond the classroom and onto Facebook news feeds, into sports halls and everywhere young people hang out! We are very excited about this and will keep you updated as matters progress.
Sticking to the topic of Community, we listened to many in the Autism Community who told us about their challenges accessing public services – whether it was using medical facilities, accessing public transport, availing of social welfare or dealing with the Gardai. Our response has been to develop a pilot programme aimed at educating frontline public sector staff in communicating with and serving those with Autism more effectively. This pilot programme will be delivered to a cross-section of public servants in March 2016 and in the meantime we may need your help in ensuring our course is comprehensive, experience based and reflective of the huge spectrum of challenges and abilities which is Autism.
Looking ahead, April will not be long coming around (not to wish the year away or anything!) and that is our busiest month every year, with a huge number of events, meetings, fundraisers and campaigns taking place around the country. Of course, this year the AsIAm National Autism Conference on Saturday 16th April in Dublin Castle, will be both the centre of our celebrations and the key opportunity for us to bring our message and work to a wider audience. For more information on the conference please see here.
Finally, you can expect changes here in the coming weeks as we are currently working on a new, bigger and better AsIAm.ie so watch this space! We also have one or two other surprises up our sleeves but I think I have given you enough to be excited about for one morning and will fill you in on some more cool plans of ours in the coming days and weeks
So as you can imagine things are crazy busy here at the moment! It is still only Grainne and myself working on the project but thankfully we are supported by an amazing team of Directors and volunteers who help spread the load. Due to the heavy nature of the coming months, I hope everyone will understand if I have to start using the “No” word (a word I hate more than any other) to some invitations and requests but it will be the only way we can manage and, as someone told me once, “saying no isn’t negative it is saying yes to everything else you are trying to achieve”!
As always, if you are interested in assisting with our work in anyway then please do get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org – we will be delighted to hear from you!