It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve written a blog, but we have made exciting progress and plans in so many areas in recent weeks, I wanted to fill everyone in!
Two weeks ago, we moved into DogPatch Labs in Dublin’s CHQ Building. We are at a point as an organisation where we really need a base for the many meetings, events and outreach operations that we are running, however we equally wanted to be in the right sort of environment and to keep our cost-base low.
DogPatch Labs has been the perfect fit! It is a tech co-working space with many really cool Irish start-ups based here, as well as other social enterprises including CoderDojo and ChangeX. As the space is full of so many enterprises, the cost is very affordable and their i a great creative buzz in the building! It is also wonderfully sensory friendly with bean bags, breakout spaces and sound-proof phone boxes!
We hope that we will welcome you here for a visit very soon!
The Summer months, with Secondary Schools closed, will provide us with an opportunity to focus on efforts on content development and in engaging organisations in the AsYouCan Programme, challenging businesses and community organisations to consider their role in Autism inclusion in Ireland.
It was on that note that we were delighted to meet with the Director of Training for the National Ambulance Service, Macartan Hughes, last week. The National Ambulance Service does such amazing work in helping, and often saving, people at times of major distress or illness. For anyone, the thought of being put in an ambulance, being examined or treated and being brought somewhere unfamiliar is unpleasant. However for people with Autism, such an experience can be very scary and also present many challenge for the Staff of the Ambulance Service. As a result, we were delighted that AsIAm Liaison Officer and Paramedic, David Maher, was able to arrange for us to meet with Macartan.
We were touched by how open the organisation was to the needs of people with the condition. We have already been invited to give a workshop to new recruits in July and to work to develop an information sheet which can be circulated among the personnel. We are really excited about this and I think it proves our point – people really want to be Autism friendly and if you provide them with information and tools, so many people will be only delighted to engage! That is why we established the AsYouCan Campaign!
In addition to this outreach, we have been delighted to meet with the Garda Racial, Intercultural and Diversity Office (GRIDO) where we have had excellent engagement around the various challenges people with Autism may face, as victims, members of the public or suspects, in dealing with An Garda Siochana. We look forward to continuing to engage with GRIDO and develop further information for circulation in the Force.
We have also been working with a number of voluntary and business organisations in helping them get their AsYouCan Pledges off the ground.
On Friday evening, it was great to join HADD (The ADHD Association) in Raheny GAA Club, where a group of coaches, parents and teachers had come together to explore how they could make their club more accessible for young people with Autism and/or ADHD. Sport can have such a positive effect for young people with Autism, or it can cause such stress and reinforce a feeling of “being bad at everything”, that is why I am especially supportive of inclusive sport. It was really heartening to see at least 40 people give up their Friday night to be their and learn and we look forward to working with the club in bringing this forward further.
We are all looking forward to Sunday 28th June, when Brasserie 7 (whom some of you may remember from our World Autism Awareness Month event, which they kindly sponsored) will hold its first ever Autism-friendly sitting, which will aim to provide a calm environment for families, eliminate the stress and anxiety through special menues and booking system and ensuring staff are Autism aware. We are delighted to be supporting this initiative and I am looking forward to tucking into some amazing food on the day! For more information see here
We hope that we each new project and initiative we help setup, we will establish a template which can be replicated around the country, so keep your eyes peeled on AsIAm.ie!
Our Schools Programme was so positive during the 2014/15 Academic Year and we feel it can only grow in terms of its impact in September, when many of our new school speakers will hit the ground for the first time. We held a training day just two weeks ago and will hold an intensive “practise” day in late August before letting our message of inclusion, respect and possibility out in Secondary Schools around Ireland.
In recent months, I have been struck by two things i) how little so many people know about the challenges which people with Autism experience and ii) how many individuals and families are simply not provided with the information that they need to make informed decisions around living with their condition.
This is very serious. On one hand, it means so many people with Autism continue to be misunderstood in our society and on the other hand we have people not knowing where to turn for help, feeling isolated or helpless or maybe even being taken in by “quick fix” solutions to situations which are simply not credible or may even be dangerous.
That’s why now more than ever, we must work to develop AsIAm.ie itself. During July and August, core content covering everything from the Diagnosis Process to obtaining a job will be developed by our organisation, this content will be vetted by both community members and academics before being approved. This will ensure that when a family is exploring the condition for the first time, they will know their is one place to go to access easy to understand and fact-checked information, and that will be AsIAm.ie!
In tandem with this approach, we continue to prepare to launch a map of Autism services, accredited practitioners in many disciplines, support groups and autism friendly organisations. This interactive map will ensure that our community has a central reference point to find support. Richard, a good friend of mine, has kindly taken on to oversee the completion of the map (we are guesstimating that we will launch it will approximately 700+ services) which is no mean feat, but will make an enormous difference to our community.
In closing, I want to point once again to the success we are having in engaging people in the AsYouCan Pledge. People change, when the experiences of individuals are brought to them in a human way. That is what AsIAm has being doing for the last 2 years – the more voices we have, sharing their experiences, challenging people to reflect on their challenges and offering their abilities and skills to our task in hand – the bigger a difference we can make and the quicker we can build a more inclusive Ireland for people with Autism! See me sharing my experiences at TEDx DCU below!
If you are prepared to share your experiences, volunteer to assist in spreading the message or can offer some other skill do please email us on email@example.com – we need you!