AsIAm Ireland has warmly welcomed the passage through Seanad Éireann of the Autism Spectrum Disorder Bill 2017.

This is a Private Members’ Bill tabled by Senator James Reilly and the Government must now decide whether it passes to the Dáil, or to an Oireachtas Committee, for its next stage.  The Bill will establish a comprehensive national strategy for autism, which will recognise the distinct challenges, as well as the opportunities, facing the Irish autistic community. At the moment Ireland has neither a strategy for dealing with autism nor sufficient data relating to the condition across the country.

Speaking after the passage of the Bill, Adam Harris, CEO of AsIAm Ireland, said that “it is absolutely vital that our community receives a statutory recognition that is so long due to it.”

Mr Harris said: “Despite 1 in 65 young people in our school system living with autism, the condition remains widely misunderstood.  So many of the obstacles faced by those with the condition come from a failure to provide adequate supports to enable a person reach their personal potential. This will become more important as these individuals grow older and need further support in terms of employment, independent living and social inclusion.

“As the Bill moves through the Oireachtas, it is critical that the voices of autistic people and their families are heard and that any strategy devised places their thoughts, experiences and contributions at the centre. For too long, people living with autism have been inhibited from participating fully in community life. We hope that this Bill will positively change how we view support and empower autistic people.

“We would like to congratulate Senator Doctor James Reilly for his leadership on this, and indeed, thank him for his initiative in bringing the Bill forward. It is hugely exciting that this piece of legislation has enjoyed such widespread cross-party support in the House. We ourselves are enthusiastic about engaging with the Bill as it progresses through the national legislature, particularly in relation to the how the Bill refers to autism and the autistic community.”

Autism is a spectrum of cognitive conditions which are chiefly characterised by serious difficulties in communication, forming relationships with one’s peers and in using language and in comprehending abstract concepts. It is present from early childhood and is frequently diagnosed around that period in an individual’s lifetime; it is not uncommon to receive a diagnosis during adolescence and even well into one’s adulthood.