Ireland's Autism Charity
Contact Our Autism Information Line Monday - Thursday 10am to 3pm
Donate Now

Accessing Support

AsIAm Access Autism Support

On this page you will find important information related to the different types of support and benefits that are available to people with Autism in Ireland. It includes government support, as well as support systems that have been set-up by other organisations to address the challenges that people with Autism can face.

Airport Autism Support

Airports can be challenging places for Autistic and their families. From travelling to the airport to navigating security and customs through to the flight itself, the whole experience can be overwhelming. Airports in Ireland are growing more conscious about the needs of Autistic passengers and have taken action to make air travel more accessible.

Read the sections below to find out what Autism-friendly supports are available at the four main airports on the island.

Dublin Airport

Dublin Airport Autism

All Autistic passengers can request a lanyard or wristband. These can be shown to airport staff at security, passport control, or in long queues if you need assistance. They have also provided visual guides and social stories to help Autistic children and their families know what to expect.

You can find out more details and make an application for a lanyard or wristband on the airport website.

Belfast Airport

Belfast Airport Autism

An Autism Awareness lanyard is available for all Autistic  passengers and can be shown to staff at any stage of your journey if you need support. There are also visual guides and social stories available.

Applications for lanyards and downloadable guides can be found on the airport website.

Cork Airport

Shannon Airport Autism

Lanyards with an image of a sunflower can be worn by passengers to indicate to staff that they have a hidden disability. This is part of a wider global initiative. They also provide a series of books designed to help children cope with new situations, free of charge. Visual guides and social stories are also available. You can access these resources on the airport website.

Shannon Airport

If you are Autistic or are travelling with someone who does, you will need to contact the airport in advance if you would like support. A staff member can meet you at the arrivals hall and guide you to the departure gate. There is also an option to wear an orange hat to signal to staff that assistance might be needed. The details are available on the airport website.

Read about Conor McDermot's research on the Autistic community and airports

Healthcare Passport for Children and Adults on the Autism Spectrum

Conor McDermott has recently completed a research project for his undergraduate in Occupational Therapy. The project is a survey based on interviews with three Autistic adults about their experiences going with  airports. The findings can be seen here.

Tell me about how and why you settled on this topic for your research project

The research study was part of my degree. I’m studying Occupational Therapy in NUIG. Our final year research project required a thesis based on three months of study. Two summers before my degree I worked in Knock Airport in Customer Service. A large part of my role was to help people with disabilities through the airport. I would have helped people on the Autism spectrum with air travel when using airports in Ireland as part of this and the survey drew on this experience.

The survey noted that behaviour of other passengers was a big trigger. What exactly did the participants describe?

They said that other passengers presented challenges. Firstly they added to the background noise. Obviously people get excited in airports, there can be children speaking quite loudly or even adults which can be a lot to process. Our participants also said the movement and orientation of other passengers confused them. It was difficult to predict where to go when people suddenly moved in front of them. They added to the busy and chaotic environment of the airport. One participant said they’d been ‘caught in a mad rush of people.’

The security process is described as frustrating? What parts of the process were the most difficult.

The participants had a varied experience. They all acknowledged the security process was necessary but it still caused a lot of anxiety. One of them came early when the airport was less busy to come through security quickly with less difficulty. With others the process caused a lot stress and worry. Waiting in queues, taking off shoes and jewelry and going through scans were all anxiety inducing. Another talked about having his luggage hand searched and how frustrating it was. He complied to stop causing conflict in the airport or being disrupted, but found it distressing. The frisk search was a big fear. None of them had received a frisk search but all of them were concerned about tactile sensation caused by another person touching them.

Autism Airport

Shannon and Dublin Airport are both equipped with Autism-friendly sensory rooms to help any passengers overwhelmed by air travel

The survey noted more positive aspects of an airport trip. What were they?

The participants all felt standard airport signs and flight information screens were clearly structured and helpful for navigating the airport. Interestingly, only one participant availed of assistance. In advance of his did an airport trial accompanied by a close friend. They visited when it was quiet and were shown through check-in, security and departures. On the day they took their flight they availed of airport assistance and were escorted until boarding. They found it especially useful as it helped get through queues faster and security and boarding. Another participant acknowledged assistance but did not apply for it while another wasn’t aware of the services existing. Another participant said they’d like to raise awareness in the Autistic community about the services that are already available. Not just for physical disabilities

How does one ask for assistance with  an invisible disability such as Autism?

From my own understanding of how it works across most airlines have the option to avail of assistance included when booking the flight. Most will offer a meeting assist, going through airport with the passenger before or during the day of the flight. It depends on the level of assistance you require. It’s usually best practice to contact the airport directly about assistance in advance of the flight. In Knock airport they have personal airport assistants who bring people through. They aren’t there the whole way through but they check in regularly. Dublin and Shannon airport both now have sensory rooms too.  A good development in Dublin is the use of green lanyards to signpost passengers that may need assistance.

You outlined potential service improvements. What are they?

I think making the existing Autism services more visible would make a big difference with air travel. Participants noted ‘persons with reduced’ mobility was wording not inclusive to Autistic people. It was not clear to them whether services were available to non-physical disabilities. The services already available should be more visible with more inclusive wording.

Is there anything that struck you as interesting given your experience working in airports?

What really stood out to me was the low awareness among the Autistic community of existing disability supports in airports. I assume everybody knew about these supports because all the staff knew. I was also interested to learn about the individual coping strategies participants used to manage sensory overloads such as stimming.

If you could give piece of advice for Autistic people planning a journey based on this survey what would it be?

My advice would be to book assistance in advance. Arrive at the airport in plenty of time so that if anything unexpected happens there’s time to deal with it. All participants were able to get through the airport despite challenges and it’s important that anxiety doesn’t stop Autistic people from flying.

Intersectionality Support

Intersectionality is a term that describes how an individual can experience a variety of identities. Autism was not always considered an identity included in intersectionality, but through the work of Autistic advocates and neurodivergent-led initiatives such as Neuro Pride, our community is gradually moving from the clinical definition of Autism to a more identity-based Autistic experience.

Being Autistic might form a major part of your identity. Race, ethnicity, sexuality, and gender are all different areas which may also form a variety of identities for you. These intersecting identities shape unique challenges and opportunities for individuals on the spectrum.

Acknowledging and understanding the intersectionality of Autism is crucial for promoting inclusivity, fostering a more comprehensive understanding of diverse perspectives, and tailoring support systems to address the specific needs of each individual within the Autism community. It is important to have a good understanding of your own identity and be proud of what makes you unique!

Autism and LGBTQ+

In recent years it has been shown that a  large portion of the Autism community also identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community. One of the reasons for this may be that Autistic people are less tied to societal expectations and are more open about expressing who they are. Society has become more understanding of minority groups like the LGBTQ+ community, and the stigma is gradually reducing. Supporting members of the LGBTQ+ community who have Autism is important.

How can I support Autistic people who also identify as transgender?

Having the right supports available can have a life-changing effect on people, and it doesn’t need to be via professional therapy.

Being open, accepting and supporting those who identify with minority groups is the best way that you can support them. Unfortunately, transgender Autistic people can often face barriers because of their Autism in having their identification as transgender taken seriously. It is very important that you do not tell an Autistic that their identification as transgender is “a phase” or “just their Autism”.

Another challenge is that professionals can worry that they are not qualified to support Autistic people who identify as transgender. They can feel that the additional identification is outside of their professional competencies. But like all professional support, the most important factors are listening to people, respecting what they’re saying and linking them to the right people who might know more about these issues.

As a parent, what should I do if my child expresses to me that they are transgender?

As a parent it can be scary at first if your child identifies as transgender. Parents want what’s best for their children and want them to be happy. They may worry that their child will not be accepted in society if they identify as part of a minority group such as being transgender.

The most important thing to do if your child confides in you, is to keep communication open. You do not want them to feel ashamed or embarrassed that they have chosen to come to you for support. Thank them for trusting you and stay calm.

If you feel like you don’t know much about the transgender community you could ask them to recommend sources of information and express an interest in learning more. You might find the news difficult, so take some time for yourself to process it and begin to do some research.  

Remember, gender is fluid or static. Your child might change their identification. The most important thing that you can do is let your child know that you will always love and accept them for who they are, irrespective of what gender they are.

I am Autistic and struggling with my sexual identity. What should I do?

Studies have found that a large proportion of Autistic people are members of the LGBTQ+ community. Unfortunately, both the Autistic community and the LGBT community are both groups that commonly experience problems with low self-esteem and anxiety issues so these issues can be even more challenging for someone who identifies as a member of both groups.  

The truth is that we all experience sexuality in different ways. Typically people would identify as being either straight or gay but there are in fact around 80 different types of sexualities and a similar number of gender identities. Maybe the reason that there is such a high percentage of Autistic people identifying as members of the LGBTQ+ community is that Autistic people are very honest with themselves. Autistic people tend to be very honest in general and pursue anything they believe as factual, so therefore if they experience feelings for anyone, whether of the same or other gender, they will not dispute these feelings, as that is the logical thing to do. That is an extremely mature thing to do.  

Throughout our adolescent and maybe young adult years we explore our sexuality and what it means to us. As we move our way into adulthood we settle into our sexual and gender identity. It is about being totally comfortable with being you and embracing all the ways that others might think of you as being ‘different’. It is not useful for people to question whether your sexuality is ‘true’ or not. However, it is okay that you may change how you identify yourself, you can redefine your gender and sexual orientation, it is nobody else’s business! It is about respecting each other’s individuality and uniqueness. If you are struggling with your sexual identity there are a number of organisations that are available to support, such as ‘BeLonG To’ for example. has a helpline dedicated to helping those who are struggling with their mental health as a result of their sexual orientation.

How can I meet people who are similar to me that identify as members of both LGBT and Autistic Community?

Getting in touch with an organisation like BelongTo or means that you can meet other young people that are in a similar position to you and offer each other support at a peer level. Of course nobody is going to have identical journeys in relation to the acceptance of their gender or sexual identity but you will meet people who are on a similar journey of discovery like yourself. Seeking support from an organisation like this can provide you with advice on coming out, information about mental health supports available to you and a sense of belonging to a like-minded community. There are many organisations across the country and may be a group available in your local community, search on Google to see if you can find an organisation near you which you can turn to for support. There are also growing online Autistic and neurodivergent LGBT communities. These ‘Neuroqueer’ groups mostly exist on social media and can be helpful for finding a community. As with any online communities, these should be approached carefully and safely.

How can I cope with being discriminated against as an Autistic member of the LGBT community?

Unfortunately, still today, being part of a minority group means that you are more vulnerable to discrimination or bullying. The LGBTQ+ community is regarded as a minority group as is the Autistic community. The more minority groups you identify with unfortunately the more challenges you are faced with. You really must be mindful of your own mental health and get as much support as you can. Remember, you are unique and that is what makes you ‘you’. Building your confidence should help you deal more effectively with discrimination. There can also sometimes be discrimination within a community, and there can be a wide variety of differences in how expressive people can be about their membership to a minority group. Not everyone will feel comfortable marching at the front of the Pride parade, and that is okay too!

How can I tell my parents that I am a member of the LGBTQ+ community?

It can be difficult to share very private details in relation to our identity with those who we are closest with. Sometimes we might fear that our parents would be disappointed in us. Society or religion can sometimes tell us that being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is wrong but this is not the case. Coming out can be scary as you might fear it could open you up to being discriminated against or bullied. Remember, that those people who support you do so because they care about you, finding out about your sexual identity should not change that. Find an appropriate time to speak with your parents. Maybe you could ask them to come and chat with you in your bedroom. The most important thing to do is to be honest with them and ask for their support.

An Interview with Hannah Gadsby on The Ways Autistic & LGBT identity overlap

Hannah Gadsby Autism Gender

We spoke at length with comedian Hannah Gadsby about the ways Autistic and LGBT identity overlap.

On June 20th of last year, when Hannah Gadsby’s show, Nanette, which explored gender politics and the nature of comedy, debuted on Netflix. Since then, the comic’s life has been permanently altered. The special delved into the powerful and often painful topics of homophobia, sexual assault and comedy’s relationship with trauma. Her new show, Douglas, delivers another Hannah Gadsby experience which puts further emphasis on gender within the context of her Autism diagnosis. We were lucky enough to catch Hannah during her performance at Bórd Gáis in Dublin to discuss this further.

You’ve spoken extensively about your experience growing up in Tasmania and trying to be your authentic self in a small community. How do you think this extends to Autism?

I think in a strange way living in a small community is easier with Autism. The rhythms are more predictable. Nothing ever changed, it was always the same people. The issues arose because I was queer as well. As far as the stresses of my Autism the small town appealed. A small town is great if you’re included in the community but not if you’re viewed as a mistake. The life you can lead is perfect, but sometimes small towns, especially isolated ones aren’t great for difference.

In Nanette you have a touching story about your mother. She expressed regret that she raised you straight when you knew you weren’t. Is there a similar struggle being raised neurotypical?

Yeah, I think that the neurotypical assumption is one we should knock off. The way I understand it, Autism isn’t a spectrum on its own, I mean the brain is a processing spectrum and Autism is a set of traits that happen. I think most people have something they don’t understand about their thinking and processing. It would be great if neurotypicals started to question the way they thought. I like doing that; once I started considering the way I think it helped take a lot of pressure off.

When you're framing yourself, your narrative, your story it’s good to throw in the way you perceive the world and share that. That’s just neurobiology, your identity. Just because it’s typical doesn’t mean their neurobiology isn’t part of who you are. Your neurobiology plays such a large part with gender, hormones and identity. It’s a complicated mix and I don’t think Autistic people are the only ones who have processing difficulties.

I think when you’re an outsider, particularly with Autism, thinking is manual. You’re always bouncing off against what is supposed to be normal. The only thing I’ve got going for me is that I’m white. I don’t have to think about my race!

The combination of Autism and sexuality meant I was constantly told I was a miserable lesbian. I grew up thinking that.

That’s a great point. Women on the spectrum often go unnoticed in a lot of research. You describe the prevailing view of Autism in your show as ‘Men what are good at maths.” How do you feel this stereotype impacts Autistic women?

I guess firstly there’s a lack of research into it which is a lot to do the sexism of science. There’s not a lot of research into women with Autism. That’s true of a lot of things because hormones throw out the numbers. Studies often stick to men because the numbers are more reasonable. The data seems more reliable. It would help everybody if we could bridge that gap. I don’t know if that kind of thing is on the rise. It certainly needs to happen more. Not that I’m volunteering; I’m very busy at the moment (laughs).

I do think it’s hard for men on the spectrum. People on the spectrum are very empathetic; the world is a lot so we tend to close down. There’s ways of coping, but it doesn’t come from a lack of empathy that you have this. It’s nature / nurture there because there’s so much more expected emotionally from women.

There’s plenty of men at my point of the spectrum who would never need to be diagnosed because life wouldn’t be as difficult for them! Because of the gendered place we live in these things aren’t noticed as much in men. If I was diagnosed as a man hitting my stride in the 1950s, I wouldn’t have Autism, I’d have a secretary, wife or a mother who did things for me. I don’t have Autism when I’m on my own; it’s relational and women are raised and expected to do all those things.

You named the new show after your dog, Douglas. You opened and closed Nanette with a cinematic scene of you coming home to your dogs. Did that represent you entering a safe space from a busy world?

That’s precisely what I was doing. At that stage I knew I’d be in the Sydney Opera House which is an amazing venue. It looks like that’s my natural habitat. I top and tailed the special with that scene because although I’m very comfortable on stage I wanted people to know that’s not where I live. For me, I live in my head, in my home with my dogs with the quiet with a cup of tea. I don’t get nervous on stage but I panic if someone asks me what coffee I want! A lot of comedy specials open with the performer running through the rows cheering. I wanted to do the opposite of that because the stage is where I go to have a chat with the world but not where I see myself living.

In Nanette you discussed seeing a Pride Parade for the first time and that despite feeling hope in seeing yourself represented you asked “Where are all the quiet gays supposed to go?” How do you feel about Autism friendly queer spaces?

I mean it’s tricky because I’d say less colour and brightness. But Autism is a spectrum and some people like lots of colour. I wouldn’t like to suggest how people should socialise. I’m not a party planner! Personally, I just like to witness rather than socialise directly. When I was younger I was desperate to be involved but I didn’t know how to be involved. I didn’t understand why because I didn’t have a diagnosis. I’d do all the things it looked like I should do. Then I’d get really distressed and I would have several weeks of downtime. Now that I’m older I don’t want to do those things. I’m happy they exist and it’s really important these places are there, especially for younger people. Just want to pat my dogs and rearrange my furniture.

In an interview with Skavlan you had a profound line about your diagnosis “I was trying to climb buildings. Once I found out I couldn't, I stopped.” Would you say that was referring to burnout and overexertion?

When I was younger I’d go out and socialise and drink and all that. It exhausted me, I was unhappy and distressed most of the time. It never occurred that this distress was environmental. I thought it was something wrong with me. I kept trying but once I was diagnosed I stopped trying to do those things. And stopping gave me the ability to do those things! Now I can socialise every now and again, but I have to be really well rested and in the mood and be comfortable and know the environment. I have to pick and choose. It’s about navigating from a position of self-knowledge. I can’t fill out forms so I outsource that.

But the important thing is I’m in a place in my career I can afford to pay people to do these things. People are vested in me being able to function. Being a star is perfect for Autistic people because you get all that external scaffolding to flourish. I set my boundaries and say “I can’t do these things.” But people still say, “But you’re fine.” And I have to explain if I do certain things I’m not fine. Jenney is my external scaffolding on this tour. Jenney and I have worked out a language for communicating this.

People don’t give disability help like that in the real world. You’re given enough to just cope, not to flourish. They need to see you can’t cope before they give you anything. Those services really help people be active participants in the world.  I don’t know how I’d cope in the world if I wasn’t in the position I was in. If I was trying to hold down as a job, for example, imagine the fluorescent lights!

The world is not built for people like us, but people like us have brains with problem solving skills that could change the world. As a tribe we have that perspective and the drive to solve problems. We couldnot only help ourselves but help design less toxic environments for everyone. For example if Autistic people helped build shopping centres I think it’d be everyone would be happier shopping. I call it ‘Spectrum Gazelle.’ Just because it doesn’t upset other people doesn’t mean it’s not doing damage. You have the herd of gazelle, the Autistic one’s going to hear the twig snap and alert everyone. We’re hyper alert in this environment because it feels like danger. Lights and noises feel like a warzone half the time.

Even though it doesn’t seem to bother neurotypicals I think it stresses everybody. It just debilitates people on the spectrum. No, the environment is the disability. I keep going on about this. We’ve got plastic plants. We know that plants make people less stressed and bring oxygen in the room. We’re not building the world right. We know people are calmer when they hear birds singing. You go into shopping centres and it’s like death metal. Well it’s country music but it sounds like death metal when you’re not in the mood!

You ended Nanette with an address the men in the audience to ‘pull [their] socks up.’ It’s a powerful call to action in the context of your experience with homophobia and assault. If you could make a similar call to action to neurotypicals what would it be?

They don’t have a monopoly on communication. It’s a dialogue and I think people discount what’s happening inside of us because they’re reading us on a certain level. If neurotypical people wanted to find a way to communicate with Autistic people, they could. We’ve done that, we’ve learned to communicate with neurotypicals. It’s exhausting but it’s worth it because it’s the world and we want to be part of it. I think if they returned the favour they’d get quite a bit out of it.

Hannah’s special will be released on Netflix in 2020. We’d like to thank Hannah and her team (particularly Erin Zamagni and Jenney Shamash) for making this happen.

An interview with Dr Varun Warrier on Gender & Sexuality

August of this year saw the publication of a study confirming transgender and gender-diverse people are more likely to be Autistic or neurodivergent. Confirming previous work on the subject, a team consisting of researchers such as Meng-Chuan Lai, and Elizabeth Weir conducted the study on a far larger scale. While we’ve previously spoken about Autism and how it relates to gender and sexuality, we did it through a largely cisnormative lense. We spoke with Dr. Varun Warrier, a postdoctoral researcher working in the field of genetics about the results of this study.

How exactly did you come to work on the study?

I’m interested in genetics and how it relates to wellbeing in Autistic people. I’m interested in other aspects of wellbeing and  gender identity is one aspect that contributes to that. We have an interest in sex and gender differences in Autism in our lab. We were aware of studies that reported that Autistic individuals are more likely to be transgender and gender diverse than people without diagnosis. We noticed these previous studies were based on small sample sizes and we weren’t sure how robust these findings were. We eventually got access to enough data to address this and other questions.

The data sets that weren’t collected with the explicit aim of addressing this question. They are what is called a convenient sampling frame, in other words while the data wasn’t originally gathered to examine this connection, it was already available. With things like gender identity and occupation there’s a risk that someone will recognise they were part of the study. Therefore the data is only shared with other researchers and is otherwise kept confidential.

You mentioned in the study that other co-morbid neurodiverse conditions featured among trans and gender-diverse participants.

Yes, there’s a lot that needs to be done on co-occurring conditions in trans people and that was one of the questions we were interested in. We know from other studies other conditions such as schizophrenia then emerge. The team then asked if this is specific to Autism or is this something we see along the neurodiversity spectrum. We noticed that while there is an elevated number of transgender and gender diverse people across several neurodiverse conditions, the rate at which it’s elevated is much higher with Autism. So it’s not something that’s just explained by co-occurring conditions like depression and anxiety.

Did the study inquire about experiences in gaining a diagnosis?

Each data sets had different ways of inquiring after someone’s Autism diagnosis. I suspect most of our participants had a diagnosis through a clinician, psychologist or even a teacher. Towards the end we checked on of the smaller data sets with the question of whether they suspected undiagnosed Autism in themselves and we found again that these individuals are more likely to be transgender and gender diverse. Additionally, we ran our analysis agnostic of diagnosis by measuring for Autistic traits, so clinical diagnosis wasn’t necessarily the only factor.

Did you uncover anything about the unique challenges Autistic trans people are likely to face?

Because the study was quantitative in nature there wasn’t an opportunity to ask about additionally information such as areas of struggle, interpersonal relationships. It comes as no surprise to anyone who’s worked alongside transgender and Autistic people. These findings have been known for a long time. Quality of life, access to clinical care and access to diagnosis. There is a lot of rich literature that does in-depth interviews with Autistic and gender-diverse individuals. John Strang put together several interviews to put together guidelines for the rights of Autistic and transgender or gender diverse individuals.

One of the things the study has done is solidly state that Autistic people are more likely to indicate they are transgender and gender diverse. Just because someone is Autistic or reports they are transgender doesn’t invalidate the other. I think that’s important because there are instances where Autistic people who want to transition have had their desires questioned by clinicians simply because they are Autistic. We hope to send the message that any access to care must consider both gender diversity and Autism. They both need to inform each other.

Was transition discussed as part of the study?

No, that would be another piece of data that wasn’t discussed in the quantitative study. I’d just also say that we’re using the terms transgender and gender-diverse. It’s important to note that not all of these people will need to transition in the sense you mean. I spoke with a non-binary friend and they said the issue for them isn’t transition, but the social mores associated with their assigned gender.

Do you or other member of the team plan to do further work on this issue?

Not me personally. I’m not a gender expert and it needs to be dealt with a great deal of sensitivity. Mei Chuan Lai is someone who works extensively on gender diversity, especially why women a less likely to be diagnosed. Elizabeth Weir is looking at physical health issues in Autistic people and she’s looking into sexuality and sex-related issues as part of that. The most important thing, I think, is mental health and distress. I don’t think it’s relevant why there’s an overlap between Autism and gender diversity, the question is what we can do with this information.

The immediate need is to see what can be done on a policy, environmental and social level to minimise distress. Are these people more likely to experience suicidal ideation? Do they have appropriate access to healthcare? I personally am not moving further in quantitative research. I think this needs to move beyond research to a policy issue at a government and local level.

What does it ultimately mean to be both trans and Autistic?

I don’t think I can even answer that question. I am neither Autistic nor trans. Talk to people, listen to the right people. Think of people as human beings with different aspirations, strengths and differences. The only thing I can say with certainty is that being trans and Autistic are both extremely heterogeneous areas of life. Both transgender and Autistic are huge umbrella terms with different people and different experiences. There are some shared experiences but I suspect there are many more unique differences. Ultimately I think we need to acknowledge that there is diversity and one size doesn’t fit all.

Autism and Race

People of any race can be Autistic, but there is a perception that Autism is only seen in white people, which causes challenges in relation to the inclusion, assessment and support for people with Autism who are members of other races. Unfortunately, sometimes members of the black community or from Asian cultures may not be diagnosed as Autistic as easily as a member of the white community.

Sometimes people of non-white races who are demonstrating classic Autism ‘traits’ might be diagnosed with a behavioural difficulty or a mental health difficulty.

Autism and race is something that needs to be spoken about more openly. There are a growing number of black advocates speaking out about their experiences, and this will bring more awareness to the unique issues they face due to their race.

Some cultures do not have an accurate understanding of Autism, and this can lead to families not picking up the signs that their child needs additional support. Diagnosis is complicated more when a family doesn’t have English as a first language. The HSE will provide a translator to support individuals and their families during the diagnostic process if necessary.

Autism and the Travelling Community

As a group that is already marginalised, members of the Travelling community who have Autism might not be diagnosed as easily as those in non-marginalised communities. In Ireland, unfortunately the Travelling community faces a lot of stigma. This means that individuals may feel as though they will not be supported through the Autism assessment process or after receiving a diagnosis. Remember that support is in place for everyone regardless of your membership to any marginalised or minority groups.

Assessment of Needs - What is the Disability Act 2005?

This law, among other things, entitles people to a full and independent Assessment of Need, if they feel that they are living with a disability. This is one of the most processes in ensuring education rights with relation to Autism. This Assessment will explore a person’s health needs. As part of the process, the Assessment will also determine which services may be needed to meet those needs. These needs may be met by clinical, educational, and or social services from the State.

The Assessment is only open to children born after 1st June 2002.

An application for an Assessment can be made by a parent, legal guardian or personal advocate. A young person aged 16 or 17 years can apply for their own Assessment of Need. You can apply for an Assessment of Need by filling out an application form called the Application for Assessment of Need under Disability Act 2005. You can find a copy of this form at your Local Health Office, GP surgery, or online at the HSE’s website.

The Assessment itself is carried out by a multidisciplinary team of different healthcare professionals. It is not the same as a diagnostic assessment. Assessment Officers will oversee the process of writing the Assessment Report. Parents and legal guardians will often be encouraged to take part in their child’s assessment. The assessment process is usually short, but it will vary from person to person.

You will be presented with a Service Statement no later than one month after the Assessment Report is finished. A Service Statement will list the different health services and supports that your child will be provided for. You will receive your child’s Assessment Report and Service Statement at the same time.

The Statement will outline:

• the nature and extent of your child’s disability;
• the health and education needs arising from the disability;
• the appropriate services to meet those needs, and;
• the period within which a review of the assessment should be carried out (this must be no later than a year from the date the assessment report is issued).

Grounds for a complaint

If you are unhappy with the process or feel that the Service Statement is mistaken, you can make a complaint to the HSE.

Grounds for a complaint include:

• your child is found not to have a disability and you do not agree;
• the assessment is not done so professionally;
• an assessment has not began or finished within the agreed timeframes;
• you believe that the Service Statement is inaccurate or incorrect, or;
• the services in the Service Statement are not being delivered.

If you are unhappy with your complaint’s outcome, you can appeal to the independent Office of the Disability Appeals Officer. The Appeals Officer’s decision is final and may only be appealed to the High Court.

You can get in touch with the Disability Appeals Officer by completing an appeals form from, and free-posting it to Office of the Disability Appeals Officer, FREEPOST, Block 1, Miesian Plaza, 50-58 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2, D02 XW14. You can also telephone 1850 211 583 or email

Accessibility to Public Services

The Act also places a legal obligation on public services to provide accessible ways for people with disabilities to use them. This includes the supply of goods, as well as the facilities that house public services.

The exception however, lies in cases where such access would:

• not be practicable;
• not be justified by the cost involved, and;
• cause unreasonable delay in making goods and services available to other people.

Complaints may be made to the public body that a person has a complaint with if it is considered that a public building or goods and services provided by that body are not accessible. The Act also deals with the extension of the National Disability Authority Act 1999 to set up an Authority within the National Disability Authority (NDA) to be known as the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design. This Centre will promote standards and principles of universal design in the education and training of designers (i.e., architects, town planners, transport providers, software developers, systems analysts, engineers, etc.) and promote public awareness in this area.

Education Rights And Autism

What rights exist for Autistic people regarding education?

The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 (EPSEN) sets out a detailed framework for educating pupils with special educational needs (SENs). This framework includes the education rights of  pupils on the Autism spectrum.

Special educational needs in the Act are defined as:

“...a restriction in the capacity of the person to participate in and benefit from education on account of an enduring physical, sensory, mental health or learning disability, or any other condition which results in a person learning differently from a person without that condition.”

The Act’s key message is that the State, wherever possible, has a responsibility to educate children with SENs in an inclusive setting, alongside their peers who otherwise do not have SENs.

The two exceptions to this are:

• if an assessment finds that this would not be in the Autistic pupil’s interests (i.e., if a mainstream school was unable to accommodate particularly complex needs), or;
• if an assessment finds that this would not be in the Autistic pupil’s classmates’ interests (i.e., if an Autistic pupil was exhibiting exceptionally challenging behaviour that impacted on other pupils’ education).

It is important to note that inclusive education and inclusive settings need to be achieved on a whole-of-school level. This involves encouraging all staff working in a school to build on their professional knowledge of special educational needs and what best practices are there for engaging with their pupils who may have SENs.

Equally, every pupil attending a particular school should be able and encouraged to take part in the school community, whenever and however they wish. All obstacles to their full participation must be addressed by the school, directly and decisively. This is especially relevant when it comes to education rights and Autism. Participation on a whole-school level is necessary to ensure an Autism friendly environment.

Duties of a school’s Board of Management and its key teaching staff

EPSEN also sets out the duties of a school’s Board of Management and its key teaching staff (i.e., resource teacher, SNA, principal) with regards to the continuum of supports available to an Autistic pupil.

These supports include:

• the assessment of special educational needs, and;
• the development and implementation of a personalised educational plan.

Only certain sections of the EPSEN Act have been implemented at this time of writing (April 2020), and not in its entirety. Those sections which have been implemented include:

• the establishment of the NCSE, and;
• the sections of the Act providing for an inclusive approach to the education of pupils with SENs.

The parts of the Act that have not been implemented include:

• the provisions relating to an individual right to assessments;
• individual education plans, and;
• the designation of schools.

The NCSE’s functions, as set out in the EPSEN Act include the following:

• to publish information and guidance on best practices for providing special education to schools, parents, and the general public;
• to make available to the parents of learners with SEN information regarding their entitlements and their children’s entitlements;
• to ensure that the progress of learners with SEN is monitored and that it is reviewed at regular intervals;
• to ensure that a continuum of special education provision is available as required in relation to each category of disability;
• to advise the minister on any matter relating to the education of children and others with disabilities;
• to conduct, commission and publish research on matters relevant to the functions of the Council.

When the EPSEN Act (2004) is fully implemented, the NCSE will have specific functions in relation to assessing learners, preparing individual education plans and co-ordinating education and health services. Education rights with relation to Autism will be key to this and AsIAm continues to advocate on this.

The HSE is currently responsible for providing health services to pre-school children and may provide speech and language therapy services. The NCSE is responsible for providing services to school-going children.


The EPSEN Act intended to provide an alternative means of resolving disputes through the Special Education Appeals Board. Although the Board was established in 2006, it is not yet in operation. When it comes into effect, in the event where the education rights of a child on the Autism spectrum are threatened, the board’s duties will involve:

• resolving disagreements between parents and NCSE if the Council refuses to arrange an assessment of a child, or to prepare an education plan;
• having the power to direct the council to arrange the preparation of an assessment or of an education plan, and;
• dismissing an appeal of the parents or principal, if it sees fit to do so. The EPSEN Act also provides for a process of mediation following the exhaustion of any rights of appeal under the legislation.

You can read more about the EPSEN Act in full on the Irish Statute Book’s website here:

What is the Education (Admissions to Schools) Act 2018?

This law sets out clearer rules and a more structured process as to how to enroll in schools, at both primary and post-primary level. It is also to ensure that the admissions process is fairer for all children enrolling in a school, regardless of their level of needs and background.  This is important for the education rights of school-children on the Autism spectrum because it grants the Minister of Education the power to compel schools to open a special class for SEN.  

The Minister must actively consult with the school’s Board of Management and the NCSE before doing so, however, to see if there is any significant demand from the local area to open one.

The consultation process will also involve parents’ associations within the local area.

Schools and their Boards of Management must cooperate more often together under the Act’s new rules. This is so that the level of demand for SENs can be met within a particular area.

Cooperation between schools’ Boards of Management may occur if:

• a school is due to close, and the Minister feels that it is in the best interests of the pupils attending the school due to close;

• the Minister feels, if it is in the best interests of the pupils in an area, that Boards of Management should cooperate with each other in relation to the admission processes of the schools concerned.Many of the provisions under the Act’s new rules are already in effect in several schools around the country. Other rules will come into full effect by 2021.

These will include:

• a First Come First Serve policy;
• an admissions notice, and;
• a withdrawal of applications.

Among these changes will also be the full criteria of how schools admit pupils with SENs. This is currently in development.

Can my child still be refused a place?

A special school can refuse to admit your child if the school does not cater to the specified category of special need concerned.

If you are applying for your child to enter a ‘special class’ in a school that was established to provide exclusively for students with special needs, the school can refuse to admit your child to that class if they do not have the specified category of special need concerned.

What if I can’t find a suitable place?

If you cannot find a suitable school or class place for your Autistic child, the NCSE is obliged to help you. They can designate a school in your area for your child and that school must make additional provisions for your child to attend.

You can get in touch with the NCSE by contacting your local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO).

If you are unsure of who your SENO is, you can find out using the NCSE’s online directory:  

If you are still struggling to find a suitable school or class place, contact Tusla – the Child and Family Agency.

Other Rules

There are several new rules that are also important to know when making new applications for a school place.

You cannot put a newborn child’s name down on a school’s waiting list under the law’s new rules. However, if you have already put a child’s name down who has yet to begin school, they may still be able to attend. Those on waiting lists to start in the years leading up to 2026/2027 are safe. Any children’s names who are on lists to begin afterwards will be scrapped.

Some schools may require you to notify them about applying for, or accepting, a school place in another school. You should check a school’s admission policy for the requirements around this.

The new law means that schools are not allowed to ask you if your child has a special educational need. Nor can they ask about their academic abilities. This is so as to make the applications process fairer for all children enrolling in the school. You may disclose that your child has SENs or a disability, or if you suspect if they may have either or, at your own discretion.

What if I need to appeal or complain about my child’s school place?

If you’re unhappy with where your child has been allocated a place or you are not satisfied with some part of the admissions process, you can appeal to the General Secretary of the Department of Education and Skills.

You must fill out a form called the Section 29 Appeals Application Form. You can find a copy of the form online at the Department of Education’s website. When sending your form, you must include a letter confirming the decision of the school’s board of management. The letter must be signed by a member of the board of management and must clearly state their title.

A completed form must be posted as a letter to Section 29 Appeals Administration Unit, Department of Education and Skills, Friar’s Mill Road, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, N91 H30Y.

Finding A School Place

Finding a school place should be your first priority for your child following an Autism diagnosis. Given the diverse support needs of the Autistic community, Autistic children may attend special schools or Autism classes within mainstream schools.

In this section, we’ll outline definitions for both special school and Autism class. We will also discuss procedures for securing a place and the supports and services your child can expect under current legislation.

Throughout this page there are links to helpful videos from AsIAm’s YouTube site.

Here is a video about some things to consider in finding a school place:

How do I find a school for my child?

Finding the right school place for your child, whether it’s a mainstream place, Autism class or special school, can take some time so the most important thing to do is to start your research early. Remember, you do not have to stick with your local schools, there are over 3,000 primary schools and over 700 secondary schools in the country, there are plenty to choose from. Start by researching your local schools and then if you do not find anything that suits your child’s needs then you can look at other schools outside of your area.

Begin your research by looking at the schools website. Look into the schools policies and procedures, if they are not available on the website then send them an email to see if they can be sent to you. Reading these procedures can be useful for generating a list of questions that you might want to ask the school based on your child’s needs. Another great place to start your research is by searching for inspection reports on the school on the Department of Education’s website. Sometimes a school might have a detailed SEN (Special Education Needs) report or you can look at an overall school inspection. Inspection reports are really useful sources of objective information about the school’s ability to provide supports to students with additional needs. They will enable you to see how the school discusses how they meet the needs of students with additional support needs and help you begin to generate questions around your own son or daughter’s needs.

If you believe that mainstream schooling is not appropriate for your child, you can contact your local SENO for advice.

They will be able to give you information on local special schools and Autism classes. They will also be able to give you advice on your child’s entitlements and what would constitute an appropriate school place for your child, once they have access to supporting documents about your child from one or more professionals.

How does the application process work?

You are entitled to send your child to any school in the country provided there is enough space for them. Unfortunately, the amount of applications a school receives often exceeds their capacity. If this is the case, the schools give priority to applications based on their admissions or enrollment policy. For example, sometimes students could be given priority if their siblings have attended the same school, or their parents are past pupils. You will need to fill in the schools application forms and then you will wait until the school offers are released. It might be a good idea to apply to a number of schools that you feel would meet your child’s needs in order to ensure that your child won’t miss out on the opportunity to find a school that suits them.

What factors are important in choosing a school?

There are a number of different types of school and it is important that you consider the options available to you to ensure you get the best match for your child. Consider whether single sex or co-ed schooling might be best for your child. If your child has attended a single sex primary school, consider again what type of school will be best for them when beginning in secondary school. Moving from a single sex school to a co-ed or mixed school can become a cause of anxiety for young people. However, on the other hand, sometimes attending a mixed school can be useful for helping to improve socialization and social skills in particular by mixing with different types of people. While your child might feel most comfortable in a single sex school, because that is what they have known to date, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is what is best for them and what is going to help them build the skills they need for independent living. Get your child involved in the decision making process as much as possible, if you are looking for a secondary school for your child, ask them what it is they are hoping for in their secondary school experience. Get your child involved in the decision at a level that is appropriate for them. Also consider whether denominational or multi-denominational education is the route you want your child to take.

The best choice you can make for your child is one that is the most informed. You should be informed about what the school can provide for your child, your child should be informed about the school environment and the school should be informed about the needs of your child and how they can best support him or her.

Watch our video about what to think about here:

Why is school culture important?

School culture is an important factor to take into consideration when finding a school place for your child: regardless of Autism diagnosis, any child needs a school where they can feel welcome and supported. You should look for a school that has a great sense of inclusion. Sometimes it can be difficult to grasp a school’s culture but there are a number of ways you might notice the culture of inclusivity in a school.

Sometimes it is as simple as an instinct or gut feeling, you must trust how you feel, you know your child better than anyone else! Another indicator of a school’s culture is the language that they use. Examine the language that a school uses in their policy documents and also when they are speaking with you about your child’s needs. Additionally, observe how your child is being discussed, speaking about people in a person-centred approach creates an inclusive culture. A school should place your child at the centre of all decisions, decisions don’t happen for your child, they happen with your child. Is your child invited to attend meetings you arrange with the school? At a secondary school level, are the staff members speaking directly to your child, asking them what they want?

Your child is the best person to explain their own needs. School culture and inclusivity is also tangible in the accessibility, how easy is it for your child to access supports or resources? It is important that a school is willing to form a relationship with you as a parent and your child, being transparent about their abilities to support your child, and are actively engaging with the challenges they and your child are presented with.

What is a Special School?

A special school provides specific intervention and teaching approaches for students with particular types of disabilities and additional needs. These include mild to moderate GLDs, visual and/or hearing impairments, physical disabilities and EBDs. Autistic students, if their needs are particularly complex, may attend a special school.

In special schools, class sizes are kept small so that staff can attend effectively to their students’ needs. As well as teaching staff, other specialist staff may also be present in a special school (such as OTs, SLTs, nurses, etc.) where appropriate.

The learning and development activities delivered in a special school are directly informed by the needs of the students.

What is an Autism Class (AC)?

A classroom within a mainstream school can be set aside specifically to teach children who have a diagnosis of Autism. This is known as an Autism class.

Remember when finding a school place for your child that the number of children in an Autism class is usually quite small, so that the teaching and support staff can attend effectively to their students’ needs.

Autism classes can be set up in both primary and secondary schools, where the need is apparent. The needs of the children attending an Autism class will vary greatly from one child to the next. One child may need to spend the majority of their day in the Autism class, learning from a curriculum that has been specially tailored to meet their needs. Another child, on the other hand, may need to be in the Autism class for a short period during each day, and can participate in the mainstream curriculum once they have access to this support.

It is important to note that all children availing of a school place in an Autism class are entitled to dual enrolment, regardless of their needs. This means they will have access to a seat in the Autism class and a seat in the mainstream class every day.

Can we visit the school?

From both primary and secondary school students it can be helpful to visit the school you hope your child will attend in advance of them starting. It will allow your child to become familiar with the learning environment and provide you with an opportunity to ask any questions you may have and to get to know the team that will be supporting your child. Finding an appropriate school place before your child has received an Autism diagnosis can be complicated but there are options. Before beginning at primary school, your child may not yet have received a formal diagnosis but you should contact the school regardless and they are very likely to be more than happy to meet with you.

At a secondary level, schools will usually host an open day where 6th class students, and occasionally 5th class students, will be invited on a tour of the school. Many of the subject teachers will be there to briefly describe their subjects to the potential students and answer any questions that the students or their parents might have.

For someone who is Autistic, they might find the open day experience quite overwhelming. The school is likely to be happy to welcome you and your child to visit the school on a quiet day or perhaps after hours to tour the school and ask any questions you might have. It can be very useful to visit the principal or the special needs coordinator of the school so that both you and your child can start to build a relationship with the school.

Visiting the school in advance of starting can be beneficial for your child to get used to the physical environment of the school. Visiting the school will allow your child to see what the different classrooms are like, what the bathrooms are like, what the yard is like and even things like lighting, sounds and smells. As a parent, let the school know what might bother your child in terms of the school environment. Be unapologetic about explaining that elements of the environment will cause anxiety for your child, whether it be the paint colours in the corridors or the flickering lights.

Watch our Video on this issue here:


Will there be transport to the right school available for my child?

A child with AEN is eligible for the School Transport Scheme which is funded by the DES. They may avail of this Scheme once they are attending their nearest recognized special school or Autism class in a mainstream school.

Applications for school transport can be made to the school principal, who will contact the local SENO on your behalf. Once the SENO has reviewed the application, they will forward the application to the School Transport Section of the DES.

Autism Educational Supports

For people with Autism to be empowered, they first need access to an education system that empowers them. Bunreacht na hÉireann (the Irish Constitution) guarantees an education to each and every Irish citizen, regardless of their personal background and circumstances.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) goes further, obligating signatory states to “recognise the right of persons with disabilities to education. With a view to realizing this right without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunity, States Parties shall ensure an inclusive, education system at all levels, and life-long learning...”

In this section we take you through the Irish education system, what supports you and your child may be entitled to, how to apply for them, and how to advocate on your own behalf.

What is a SENO (Special Education Needs Organiser)

A SENO works for the NCSE, undertaking the role of processing applications for additional supports (such as allocating SNA supports / appropriate school places) for pupils with SEN.  They are a key point of contact with in finding a special school place or Autism class place.

Each SENO is allocated to a fixed number of primary and post-primary schools within a geographical area. They will decide on behalf of the NCSE what supports are best suited to a particular child’s needs and entitlements.

Preschool And Autism

What supports are available at preschool for children on the spectrum?

Autistic children in preschool are entitled to the same supports whether they are officially diagnosed with Autism or not. Early Years Practitioners can access support for children through the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM), which ensures that children with disabilities can access the ECCE programme. Access and Inclusion support is applied for by the Early Years Service, in partnership with the child’s parent / guardian / carer.

There are seven levels of support within AIM:

• An inclusive culture
• Information for parents and providers
• A qualified and confident workforce
• Expert early years educational advice and support
• Equipment, appliances and minor alteration grants
• Therapeutic intervention
• Additional assistance in the preschool room

Levels 1 – 3 are universal supports for all children in ECCE settings, while levels 4 – 7 are targeted supports for some children in the same setting. Some children may also access Autism-specific Early Years education outside of the ECCE scheme, if recommended by the child’s team.

There are two main types of this:

• Early Intervention Classes – these are usually located within or attached to a DES-funded national school.

• Private Autism-specific preschools which are usually funded through the Home Tuition Grant. Places in these preschools will only be funded for those children who cannot access a suitable place in an Early Intervention

Primary and Post-Primary Educational Supports

Home Tuition

The Home Tuition Scheme provides a compensatory educational service for pre-school Autistic students who need early educational intervention. The scheme also provides for Autistic students that are seeking suitable educational placement, as well as students with significant medical or mental health needs that may cause challenges for them in school. The funding provides 10 hours home tuition weekly for Autistic students aged between 2 and 3 years, and 20 hours a week for students aged 3. The scheme is not eligible if there is a place available to the student in a preschool or other early education setting.

Application forms for the scheme are on the website of the Department of Education and Skills (DES):

Accessing an Autism Class

Given the diverse support needs of the Autistic community, Autistic children may attend special schools or Autism classes within mainstream schools. For your child to access an Autism class a formal diagnosis of Autism is required. The number of children in an Autism class is usually quite small (no more than 6), so that the teaching and support staff can attend effectively to their students’ needs. Autism classes can be set up in both primary and secondary schools, where the need is apparent. The needs of the children attending an Autism class will vary greatly from one child to the next. One child may need to spend most of their day in the Autism class, learning from a curriculum that has been specially tailored to meet their needs. Another child, on the other hand, may need to be in the Autism class for a short period during each day, and can participate in the mainstream curriculum once they have access to this support. It is important to note that all children availing a school place in an Autism class are entitled to integrate with their peers in mainstream, regardless of their needs. This means they will have access to a seat in the Autism class and a seat in the mainstream class every day. It is important to talk to your child’s Special Education Needs Officer (SENO) when looking for an appropriate school place for your child.

Accessing a Special Class

Some parents / guardians, whose children have more complex needs, may want to consider whether their child would be better supported by attending a special school. Some special schools cater specifically for Autistic students while others cater for general intellectual disability and may also have Autism specific classes. Each special school will have a specific student teacher ratio. Special schools cater for students from both primary and post-primary and will have certain enrolment criteria. Special schools provide a range of services such as speech and language therapists, physiotherapists, school nurses, specialist swimming teachers, and staff who have been trained to use evidence- based supports specific to student needs. Many schools also have specialist resources and equipment such as therapy pools, sensory rooms, and adapted outdoor play equipment. Students in special schools follow curricula and teaching appropriate to their needs, with progress and attainment closely monitored, in smaller classes. To search for a list of special schools, please see the Department of Education’s ‘find a school’ section on their website

Accessing an SNA

A student with additional needs may need the support of a special needs assistant (SNA), sometimes referred to as Inclusion Support Assistant (ISA). SNA/ISA’s are not assigned to any particular student, and are deployed within the school to those students needing support to meet primary care e.g. safety, toileting, supervision. Schools apply to the NCSE for SNA allocation hours based on the care needs of their student population. In December 2019, the Irish Government approved the national roll out of a new frontloading model for the allocation of Special Needs Assistant (SNAs) support to mainstream primary and post-primary schools, which will be based on school profile. This has been temporarily deferred. SNA duties are assigned at the discretion of the Principal / Board of Management and are monitored on an ongoing basis, focusing on particular care needs of students in the school. A diagnosis of disability and/or professional report will not be required for a student to access SNA support. However, if professional reports are available regarding a student’s needs, they should be used to guide schools in planning supports. Parents/guardians should bring any reports to the attention of the school to facilitate and inform appropriate interventions.

In this section, we will outline the role of the special needs assistants (SNA’s) in our classrooms, how the child’s need for SNA support is determined and how one accesses SNA support for their Autistic child.

What is an SNA?

Special needs assistants are allocated to schools to work with children who have specific care needs. They provide non-teaching care support. Although providing non-teaching support, Special Needs Assistants make an enormous contribution in supporting those with Autistic children through their time in education. They play a vital role in the educational/personal development of a child who requires their support. It can be difficult to sum up the role of an SNA because so many go above and beyond the call of duty to assist Autistic children which they are assigned to.

The Department of Education and Skills defines the role of an SNA as supporting students with additional needs and assisting the student’s teacher to do the same.

Their duties and responsibilities involve:

• Preparation and tidying up of classroom(s) in which the pupil(s) with special needs is/are being taught.
• Assisting children to board and alight from school buses. Where necessary travel as an escort on school buses may be required.
• Special assistance as necessary for pupils with particular needs e.g. helping physically disabled pupils with typing or writing.
• Assistance with clothing, feeding, toileting and general hygiene.
• Assisting on out-of-school visits, walks and similar activities.
• Assisting teachers in the supervision of children with special needs during assembly, recreational and dispersal periods.
• Accompanying individuals or small groups who may have withdrawn temporarily from the classroom.
• Assisting the child in attending school events where such individual assistance cannot be provided by the teachers.

More detailed description of the role and duties of an SNA are further outlined in Circular 0030/2014 on the SNA Scheme from the Department of Education and Skills.

How can my child qualify for SNA support?

In order for a student to qualify for SNA support, they must display significant care needs which require additional support. Examples of significant care needs may involve:

• Assistance with feeding
• Toileting
• General hygiene
• Mobility, orientation
• Withdrawal for safety or personal care
• Profound communication difficulties
• Administration of medicines, and/or medications
• A need for additional supervision

The student must also have a diagnosis of disability under one or more of the following categories:

• Physical disability
• Hearing impairment
• Visual impairment
• Emotional or behavioural disturbance (severe)
• General learning disability (mild, moderate and severe) or specific learning disability
• Specific speech and language difference

Please note that the language used by the NCSE in its Guidelines* regarding the level of support needs (mild, moderate, severe etc.) required by pupils stems from taking a medical model view of disability. This does not reflect AsIAm’s views on Autistic people’s support needs, which reflect a rights-based and identity-first approach in line with the Social Model of Disability – (see our Language Guideline document)

How is an application for an SNA determined?

The school must complete an application form for access to SNA support in collaboration with the student’s parents/guardians and return this to the National Council for Special Education. The form should be accompanied by one or more professional reports from an OT, SLT, psychologist or other relevant professional in support of the application.

Once received, the application is then processed by the school’s allocated SENO, who will decide based on the report and resources available if access to SNA support can be granted for this student.

For more information on the application process please see National Council for Special Education.

School Transport

A child with additional educational needs is eligible for the School Transport Scheme which is funded by the Department of Education and Skills (DES). They may avail of this scheme once they are attending their nearest recognised special school or Autism class in a mainstream school. Applications for school transport can be made to the school principal, who will contact the local SENO on your behalf. Once the SENO has reviewed the application, they will forward the application to the School Transport Section of the Department of Education and Skills.

Summer Education

The Summer Programme 2023 (previously known as July Provision) is run by the Department of Education for primary and post-primary students with complex additional educational needs and those at the greatest risk of educational disadvantage.

The programme’s aims are to support pupils to re-engage with their education over the summer months. The purpose of which is to build their confidence and increase their motivation, promote wellbeing and for some who are at key transition stages, help to ensure they can move on to their planned educational placement next September along with their peers.  

This is a voluntary programme and not all schools avail of the opportunity to engage with this programme. There are two programmes available for eligible students In-School Summer Programme and Home-Based Summer Programme.  

The Irish Language is a core subject in Ireland’s school curriculum and most students are therefore expected to study the subject. However, the Department of Education allows students to apply for an exemption from studying Irish in primary and secondary schools. If a student is exempt, it means they do not have to study Irish. This includes state examinations such as the Leaving Certificate.

Is my child eligible for an Irish language exemption?

Although a diagnosis/psychological assessment is no longer necessary to apply for an exemption, an Autism diagnosis alone is not sufficient either. The child must instead meet the following criteria:

• Significant literacy difficulty even after supports are provided (this should be recorded in their SSP).
• Have a standardised score at or below the 10th percentile in reading or spelling.


• ‘Multiple and persistent needs which affect their learning and participation’.
• Written evidence that these needs persist even after supports are provided (this should be recorded in their SSP).

You can find the full criteria for primary schools here and for secondary schools here. The child should have been given every opportunity to study Irish and exemptions are not usually considered until the child has reached second class.

There are exceptions to this, however. Children who are enrolled in a special school or a special class on a full-time basis will not need to apply for an Irish exemption as they will already qualify. Likewise, children who were previously enrolled in a special school or class are exempt.

How do I apply for an Irish language exemption?

Applications for Irish exemptions are now made to the school principal, who will base their decision on whether learning Irish is causing the child undue difficulties with his/her language development. The principal will need evidence of this from the child’s parent/guardians and all staff involved in the child’s education.

School Refusal And Reduced Timetables

This section outlines school avoidance, its causes and the steps which can be taken to remedy it, which may include the use of reduced timetables. However, reduced timetables may not always be an appropriate response to the challenges your child is facing. It’s important to be educated on where and when this is necessary.

What is school refusal?

School refusal is a term used to describe the process by which a child might refuse to attend school. Children of all ages might refuse to go to school across primary and secondary school levels. School refusal is a child-motivated refusal. The child knows what it is they need and in the moment of refusal they know they need not to be in school. The child while refusing is attempting to control their own environment.

There are a number of factors that might increase a child’s anxiety surrounding their school environment from the sensory environment, to social and peer difficulties to exam and workload related stress. However, the refusal to attend classes can then cause additional anxiety surrounding the amount of work that has been missed. School refusal can cause a cycle of anxiety which creates and exaggerates the problem which is causing the refusal and becomes even more difficult to get out of it.

It is important to try and identify what factors are causing the refusal and discuss these issues with the school to see if you can come up with a solution to make the school experience easier for your child. There is no simple solution to a complicated problem. Unfortunately, if a child is really struggling in their school environment, sometimes removing them from that environment can be the only option.

What are reduced timetables?

A reduced timetable is a method whereby the school will limit the amount of time a child is spending in school for a set period.

Perhaps the child might only go into school in the mornings or in the afternoons or maybe the child might only attend school a few days a week. A reduced timetable is often a way to reintroduce a child back to school after school refusal.

School can cause a great amount of anxiety for some students. Students might need to come into school in the morning and sit for half an hour or an hour before they begin their day and attend classes. Students might come into school and need their breakfast before they begin, or perhaps students might need to sleep for a while before they feel regulated and are ready for the day.

A reduced timetable is useful for managing an individual’s anxiety surrounding school and for gradually reintroducing them to the classroom.

When is a Reduced Timetable Appropriate?

It is important to note that reduced timetables are to be used in exceptional circumstances.

As the latest guidelines state:

“It is acknowledged that reduced school days may be helpful in exceptional circumstances as part of a transition or reintegration intervention, based on the needs of individual students…Where a reduced school day is used, it should be applied proportionately, and should last only as long as is necessary to facilitate a return to school on a full-time basis”

These exceptional circumstances are usually time-bound, such as returning from school after a long absence, to accommodate a medical condition. The approach should be based on the support needs of individual student. A reduced timetable should be short term and transitionary; designed to assist the student to eventually attend for the full school day along with their peers.

Can my child be put on a reduced timetable for misbehaving?

Reduced timetables are not a punishment and should never be used as such. It is the school’s responsibility to report all cases of reduced timetables to Tusla – the Child and Family Agency. As stated by Tusla:

“Informal or Exclusion of a student for part of the school day, as a sanction, unacknowledged or asking parents to keep a child from school, as a sanction, is a suspension. Any exclusion imposed by the school is a suspension, and should follow the Guidelines relating to suspension.” (pg.74)

In April 2019, AsIAm carried out a study into exclusion and withdrawal amongst Autistic school-children and their families. Out of the survey’s 500+ respondents, as many as 17% had been placed on a reduced timetable illegally (meaning that the school had not informed Tusla).

What should I do if a reduced timetable is suggested for my child?

Parents and guardians are advised to critically engage with their children’s teachers and school if a reduced timetable is suggested. It is important to bear in mind that if your child does go on to a reduced timetable, that it is genuinely in their best interests, and that they receive appropriate support from their schools throughout the process.

It is good practice to consider some of the following as well:

• Ensure that you have a reasonable and realistic end goal in mind.
• That this goal and withdrawal from regular schooling are regularly reviewed.
• Actively involve your child through the process as closely as possible.
• Inform your local SENO of the decision.
• Make sure you receive a signed copy of the intervention plan.
• Remember that a reduced school day period should not exceed six school weeks.
• Remember there MUST be a review if the student is still on a reduced school day timetable at the end of the agreed period.
• That your child’s teachers and principal are prepared to better engage and meet their needs upon their return to school.
• You must be informed of your right to withdraw consent at any time and the Tusla welfare officer to offer assistance if required.

Check our video explainer for more information about Reduced School Timetables:

School Complaints

If you are unsatisfied with your child’s education, you should familiarize yourself with the school complaints process in Ireland. There are several options available to you if you are unsatisfied with the support you and your child(ren) are receiving. The process of making a complaint depends on what aspect of their education is problematic. You’ll need to determine whether the issue is because of their teacher, their principal, or their SENO.

It is important that you keep a record of everything during your engagement with any service and their complaints department. Always make sure that you have everything in writing. If you have concerns about the support your child is receiving in their school, the first step is to make an appointment with the class teacher and/or support teacher. Outline your concerns in a clear and calm manner, with evidence to support your concerns if available. Remember, this is not an argument, it is a discussion with the aim of accessing the best support possible for your child. The best outcomes usually arise when both school staff and parents work together in the child’s best interests.

What if my complaint is with the teacher?

However, if you are not satisfied with the outcome of this meeting and you feel your concerns have not been addressed appropriately, make an appointment to meet with the principal. Outline your concerns clearly, calmly and concisely, with evidence to support your concerns if available. As with the teacher, it is not an argument, but a discussion with the principal with the same objective of ensuring that your child receives the best support possible while they’re at school.

It is important to note that any person, including members of the public, employers and other teachers may make a complaint about a registered teacher.  In addition, the Teaching Council can itself make a complaint about a registered teacher. In response to this meeting, the principal may present you with a number of options, an example of which may include editing your child’s SSP/IEP to align more appropriately with your views. They may discuss your meeting with the relevant teachers and may then organise a follow-up meeting between all involved parties.

What if my complaint is with the school Principal?

However, if you are not satisfied with the outcome of this meeting and you feel your concerns have not been addressed appropriately, contact the chairperson of the school’s Board of Management (BOM). If the chairperson cannot resolve the matter independently, they will ask you to put your complaint in writing, at which point it can be formally investigated by the BOM.

Your complaint will be discussed at a BOM meeting, which may involve the relevant staff members. After which, the BOM will come to a decision regarding your complaint. This decision will be relayed to you and this ends the complaints process.

How do I appeal decisions made by the school board of management?

However, there is one remaining step in the school complaints process in Ireland. If you are still unsatisfied with the outcome and you feel your concerns have not been addressed appropriately, you can appeal the decision to the Ombudsman for Children. The Ombudsman for Children will only investigate cases that have exhausted every step of the school complaints procedure, without a resolution being reached.

The Ombudsman for Children’s Office is situated at Millennium House, 52-56 Great Strand Street, Dublin 1 and can be contacted by telephoning 1800 20 20 40 or (01) 865 6800 or by emailing

What if my complaint is with the SENO?

If the issue is with the local SENO, then you must fill out a Formal Complaints Form in full from the NCSE’s website and send it directly to them by post. You can find the form here

School Issues

Secondary school can be a difficult time and you will encounter a variety of challenges in your school journey.

Below are some of the most common challenges that students face in secondary school and ways that you can help yourself work through these challenges.

Confidence and comparison

Many Autistic teenagers will struggle with self-acceptance or their self-confidence and this can be enhanced in secondary school: You are suddenly the youngest in the school population again and you could be feeling anxious about the new experience. Starting in a new school can be overwhelming as you try to navigate your new environment, learning your timetable, learning the new layout of the school and learning all your new peers and teachers names. Do not panic, these things will come with time, usually a lot quicker than you will expect.

In secondary school it is important to identify a trusted adult, whether this is your class tutor, your year head, your SNA or even the secretary. It is nice to have someone that you can go to if you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed. Knowing that you have someone to turn to can help you feel more confident in yourself. Do not compare yourself to others, everyone is unique which is what makes us all so special. Remember, you are the very best person at being you!


Sometimes, if you have unfortunately experienced bullying before during your primary school years you might anticipate that this will happen again in secondary school. Sometimes, the fear of bullying occurring can be almost as damaging as bullying itself. Remember, all secondary schools have in-depth procedures in place for combating bullying, even more so than primary schools do. However, unfortunately, sometimes bullying can occur as simply as sly or rude comments and often teachers will not pick up on this. This is especially relevant for Autistic teenagers, whose sensory needs and desire for routine mean that actions which would be a mild annoyance for neurotypicals, such as repeated noise or rearranging of school items, can be very distressing.

If you feel as though someone in school is treating you unfairly, speak to the trusted adult you have identified in school or even to your parents at home. Having the support of an adult behind you can help you feel more confident in yourself and can help make the bullying come to an end. It is important that you can build up the courage to report any bullying you experience or in fact that you might see happening to other people. Bullying is never okay and there you are always deserving of support.

Development and Puberty

Naturally, all teenagers are going to experience challenges in relation to their development and puberty. Teenagers might be experiencing issues at home such as dealing with divorce, separation or grief, all of which are bound to add challenge to every aspect of your life. Additionally, teenagers might find that they are experiencing challenges surrounding their sexuality and might not feel confident to fully explore it. All teenagers will experience mood swings every now and again as a result of the hormonal changes that their bodies are experiencing. Autistic teenagers are no different and this can impact their lives inside and outside school.

You need to be easy on yourself. Life can be stressful and we are all going to experience a variety of challenges throughout our teenage years and our school experience. Speak to a trusted adult or to a close friend if you are feeling stressed or anxious. Remember, it is very likely that a number of others in your class feel the very same way!


School can be a stressful experience, from socialising to managing your workload to studying for exams. It is important that you identify a way that you can destress, whether that be taking some time to chat with friends or family, going for a walk or exercising, speaking with a counsellor or spending time engaging with something you love to do. If you feel like your school workload is too much for you, speak to your teacher, see if they have an alternative option for you or they might be able to provide you with an extended deadline.

It is important that you do not allow stress to become overwhelming for you and know when you need to take a break.

Why should I disclose my diagnosis to my school?

Telling your school that you are Autistic is very important to ensure that you can get the most out of your education experience. Being Autistic is a part of your identity, it is what makes you you, be proud of yourself. There is nothing wrong with you, do not be ashamed of your diagnosis.

Autistic teenagers will not stop needing support when they leave primary school. If your school is aware that you are Autistic they can provide you with the support that you need to make your school experience as good as it can be. Telling your school that you are Autistic means that your education experience will be tailored to your needs. Your parents may have disclosed your diagnosis to your school before you began but it can be helpful for you to talk to a trusted adult in school yourself, that way if you are ever feeling overwhelmed you will have someone to go to who understands. Getting rid of any shame attached to your diagnosis is admirable and often can actually decrease bullying behaviours in school. Act as an ambassador for yourself!

How can I prepare to begin in secondary school?

One of the most important things your parents must prepare before you begin in secondary school is lots of paperwork! Your parents will provide your new school with information about you and your diagnosis so that the school can prepare the supports that you need.

Before you start in a new school it might be helpful to arrange to meet with the special needs officer for the school or the SNAs of the school, giving them a chance to start to get to know you as well as you a chance to start to get to know them. Organising to take a tour of the school can be very helpful, as it will give you a general idea of the physical layout of the school, what the different types of classrooms look like and what the sensory environment of the school is like.

Some schools have specific buddy or mentor systems in place focused on helping first year students transition comfortably into the secondary school environment. These systems involve being paired with an older student in the school and they will check in with you to see how you are getting on. If you have any questions you can always contact your assigned buddy for some help.

What is the sensory environment in secondary school like?

Secondary school is quite different from primary school for a number of reasons. In secondary school you will move from class to class much more frequently and are likely to eat your lunch in a much larger cohort of students. There are new classroom environments to adjust to such as a science classroom, a home economics classroom and a woodworking room which all might have new smells, sights and sounds.

In secondary school, typically the entire student population will eat lunch at the same time in one room called the cafeteria or the canteen. This environment can be overwhelming for some students so there should be an alternative option available to you. It is important to be aware of your own needs and not to be afraid to speak up if a sensory environment is overwhelming for you. Your school should make accommodations to help make the experience easier for you.

What are special accommodations and why might I need them?

The exam environment can be a stressful time for all teenagers but being Autistic means that school exams can be even more difficult. You may need assistive technology to complete your exams, or perhaps you find it difficult to sit still for a consecutive amount of time.

Special accommodations allow you to alter the exam environment to better suit your needs. For example, maybe you will sit your exams in a different room to the rest of your peers, or perhaps you will get extra time to finish the exams. Other special accommodations include the use of assistive technologies or maybe you might even need a scribe to help you during your exams. A scribe is someone who will write your exam paper for you based on the verbal answers you give them. You can apply for special accommodations through your SNO (special needs officer). Ensure that you apply early for your accommodations to give yourself the best chance of receiving the support that you need.

How can I feel organised for my school day?

The acronym BUSTLE is a great way to remember what you need for the school day ahead of you and to feel more organised.

B for Bag: Remembering to have your bag packed with the books you need for the day ahead. Is your homework complete and ready in your bag?

U for Uniform: Have your uniform organised in advance of your school day. Maybe you could lay it out at the end of your bed before you go to sleep.

S for Sports or Science: Think about your day at school tomorrow. Do you have P.E. tomorrow? Do you need to prepare your P.E. uniform? Or do you have a science class tomorrow? Is there any particular equipment you need to have organised?

T for Travel: If you use a form of transport to get to school do you have your travel card, your bus pass or money for the bus ready?

L for Lunch: In the morning do you have your lunch ready to go? Sometimes you can prepare your lunch in advance and leave it in the fridge so that it is ready for you in the morning. If there is a canteen in school, do you have lunch money arranged if you need it?

E for Extras: What else do I need for my day at school tomorrow? Is there anything different about my day tomorrow? For example, do I need a parents signature on my school journal or do I have a permission slip I need signed?

Following these 6 steps should make sure you are ready and well organised for the school day.

What should I do if I find I am becoming overwhelmed in school?

Everyone can feel overwhelmed or stressed in school every now and again. If you feel like you cannot manage these feelings then it is important that you look for some help. Again, it is important to recognise how important it is that you disclose your diagnosis to your school. When people feel overwhelmed in school you might feel it manifesting in different ways, whether you feel more quiet than usual or whether you feel angry and as if you are acting out or whether you might experience a meltdown, it is important to recognise when you are feeling overwhelmed.

Acting out is not a healthy way of dealing with anxiety or negative emotions and could be perceived by teachers as being a problem that might need disciplining. Instead, try and identify when you are beginning to feel this way and tell a trusted adult in school. Ask for some time off if you need it and allow yourself time to unwind.

Higher Education

College can be an enormous change, especially if you’re moving away from home. Moving to college usually means uprooting yourselves from networks of friends, teachers and neighbors. Even if you’re still living at home there’s a chance your friends will be moving out themselves. As you change on an educational and social level, so do your needs.

The preparation to transition out of secondary school needs to happen much sooner and much more intensely for Autistic students. The struggles of secondary schools and state exams may present challenges in securing a course place where the student can best utilise their talents and their support needs are met best. Multiple pathways should be considered, such as government schemes or post leaving cert courses (PLCs).

To outline these challenges and the strategies to overcome them, check our resources below.

Autistic Guide to Starting College

As part of our Autism Friendly University programme, AsIAm has set up a portal for all HEI students to access. The purpose of The Autistic Guide to Starting College website is to support students in their transition to higher education after post-primary school.

The website, created with Rethink Ireland, will answer questions about this transition through a number of resources. These include informational articles outlining the basics of starting college, video resources where Autistic students share their own experiences and practical resources like cooking instructions.

DCU Neurodivergent Society founder Laocín Brennan presenting our 360 degree campus tour:

Accessing Supports In Higher Education

The transition from secondary school to third-level education is a huge jump, especially for those who are Autistic and may need some extra support. As we transition through different educational settings, our needs change so in this article we hope to clarify the process of accessing support for you, so it seems a little less daunting.

All universities and colleges will have a designated service for people with disabilities. When you first start attending college you can register with Disability Services, every college will have a different process, but generally, if you have applied through DARE, you will be contacted to see what kind of support they can provide for you. Even if you have not applied through DARE, you can still contact the service at any time.

After contacting the disability service, they will ask you to fill out a form called an Evidence of Disability form, where you can mention your diagnosis and explain how it impacts your learning. A letter from your GP or your Local Health Officer may be necessary as medical evidence. If you have already applied through DARE, you will not need to provide medical evidence. All colleges and universities’ Disability Services have a very strict confidentiality policy so do not worry about giving your information to them.

During your orientation week, you may be asked to come in a week before other students, to meet with other students and your disability officer. Your disability officer will sit down with you and assess your needs so they can allocate proper support. It might help to go with a parent or guardian who knows you well as extra support to help you further elaborate on any needs you may have.

Support you may get can vary from exam support to learning support. Exam support may include doing your exams in a separate hall, headphones, a scribe or allowing you to use a laptop. Learning support includes assistive technology to help you in lectures, access to a guidance counsellor, or occupational therapy. You may also be offered a tour of the campus, meet other students using the service etc. This is a good opportunity to meet similar people, break the ice and build your confidence before the semester begins.

Disclosing your Diagnosis in College

Understandably, you may be a little hesitant to disclose it to your college due to past experiences or other circumstances. It is important to note that you are under no obligation to disclose your disability, however, it could be a way to enhance your student experience in your college or university.

Firstly, disability services in colleges have a strict confidentiality policy, this means that just because you tell them does not mean that it will be shared with everyone, only the information that you would like to be shared is shared.

Not disclosing can make it difficult to get the support you need. Meeting with the disability service will provide you with all the information you may need to access support, but disclosure is a necessary part of that process. When you meet your disability office in person, you will see that they are very professional and knowledgeable about their roles, which will help put a face on the people that will be helping you which could put you more at ease to disclose.

If you are comfortable and confident doing so, being open about your Autism diagnosis can increase Autism acceptance, and create an understanding of the barriers, misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding different neurotypes and disabilities. Self-empowerment is a great way to improve confidence and find people who are like you.

Remember that Universities and Colleges want to see all students succeed, this is also true for neurodivergent and disabled students.

Disclosing your Diagnosis to Peers at College

Deciding to disclose your diagnosis to your peers is a personal choice that only you should make. Remember there is no obligation to share anything about yourself, everyone has a right to their privacy. Keep in mind that both masking and disclosure can possibly have consequences. However, here are a few questions you can ask yourself before disclosing your diagnosis:

Do I want my peers to know?

You should only disclose if you are comfortable or confident doing so. No one should force you to disclose anything about yourself unless you are ready to do so. At the end of the day, your needs come first when meeting new people. Assess your levels of comfort with your diagnosis and use that to decide if it is something you would like the people around you to know.

Do I need them to know, such as them knowing your triggers, or if they need to know crucial medical information?

This question comes forward if it is necessary to tell the people around you because it will make your experience in college a much safer and nicer experience. Some Autistic students like to tell people on a ‘need to know’ basis, if that works for you then that could be a good way to decide when to tell someone you are friends with.

Is it safe to share with this person?

Unfortunately, negative stigma towards disability can still exists, so it is understandable if you do not feel safe enough to disclose to your new friends in college yet. However, if you are certain this person is a person that you trust, and it is a genuine friendship then you could decide that it is safe to disclose.

If you do decide to disclose:

• Be specific - everyone is different, so it is always a good idea to describe your experiences, needs and wants.

• Feel prepared - you should feel safe and comfortable to disclose, make sure you have practiced what to say and you are in a setting where you feel at ease even if that means sending a text message or a phone call instead.

Student Unions, Clubs and Societies

Joining a student union, club or society is a great way to connect with your fellow peers who might have similar interests to you. There are huge benefits to joining a club or a society such as improving skills and learning new skills. You can even open your club or society if you have an idea!

Student Union
A Student Union is a representative body for all students who attend the college. The Student Union is a valuable resource for information on many issues such as accommodation, financial or welfare advice or awareness weeks. You can vote for Student Union officers, and even run for election yourself if you would like to. They also usually have social media so make sure to follow them for updates.

Clubs and Societies
There are different types of clubs and societies. Usually, they tend to be centered around sports, sci-fi, music, drama or around different subject matter. There are also action groups such as Amnesty, and St. Vincent De Paul and social support groups such as neurodivergent societies or societies for students with disabilities.If you would like to get involved, you will need to register during the early weeks of the first term, there usually is a small fee to join. You can also in some cases apply online through clubs and societies’ websites.

Joining a neurodivergent or disability society would be a great way to meet people who can share the same experiences, it is a good way to make lasting friendships with others which can in turn enhance your college experience.

Here is a list of some of the neurodivergent societies in Ireland:

Dublin City University
University of Galway
Trinity College Dublin

Assistive Technology

When you first join the Disability and Learning Support service, there are several assistive technologies that you may be entitled to access. Assistive technology allows students with certain disabilities to be able to complete tasks they may have otherwise not been able to complete. Each piece of assistive technology has a specific purpose which helps with a specific study requirement depending on your disability. Using these technologies can help increase the quality of your learning, revision and retention of information. It is also a great way to help you focus and engage better with learning.

Once you register with the disability service, you will then be referred to the Assistive Technology Officer who will then assess your specific needs. They will then provide continuous training to make sure you are using it correctly and to make sure you are getting the most out of the resource.

Here are a few examples of assistive technology your college may have:

• Text-to-speech software (e.g., Claro Read)
• Voice recognition software (e.g., Dragon Naturally Speaking)
• Dictation software-Recording software
• Screen reading/ Magnification software
• Adaptive keyboards and mice– Grammar and Spelling software (e.g., Grammarly)
• Organisation Software (e.g., Mind42)

You will only be able to use these technologies throughout your studies and in some cases on certain equipment. If that is the case, you will be asked to sign a borrowing contract for the use of the equipment. There is no shame in using Assistive Technology, it can substantially enhance your experience in college and can help you keep up with fast-paced university learning.

Autistic Teenagers Support

When we discuss Autism and relevant supports, it’s important not to overlook teenagers. Quite often the Autistic life cycle is split between when you’re a childhood and when you’re an adult. When you’re a child, getting a diagnosis, school place and the right supports is the big priority. When you grow up you might become concerned about college or finding a job. But your teenage years are an important bridge between these life stages.

Teenagers, Autistic and neurotypical alike, face a number of challenges. Exam pressure, puberty, socialising, bullying and the anxiety produced by all of these can be a lot to cope with, especially if you’re Autistic. This section will set out information on how to keep as happy and healthy as possible during these years.

Autistic Teen Voices
These stories have been gathered from Autistic teenagers attending our Child and Family Support Programme. We have not provided pictures, surnames or other details out of respect for their privacy


The world of making friends was one of the scariest experiences growing up. For somebody who liked to be alone and only enjoyed the company of my family who were safe and understood me, why should I even bother trying to make friends? Outside of school, it was okay: my mum knew me so well she didn’t pressure me to make friends or try and force relationships. She knew I would be drawn to the people who made me feel safe and got how my mind worked.

In school, there are so many pressures and expectations! I was a loud child, I liked to make people laugh and joke around. I also became hyper and didn’t know when to stop. I did not follow fashion trends, or like to sit and chat about going out with friends, or the latest person who everyone fancied. My focus was so much on having some friends that I didn’t think about whether they were good friends or what a good friend looks like. Everyone had friends so that was what I felt I needed to do. I managed to make a few friends who seemed to like me but they did things which I didn’t like. I was so desperate to keep them as my friends that it didn’t matter. I would pretend to like what they were talking about. I would make as many excuses as possible not to see them outside of school but occasionally would have to and join in with things I hated! But that was okay because they were still my friends. I remember the idea of my Debs and wearing a dress and make-up was my worst nightmare, but I did it because that was what I felt I needed to do to fit in.

When I left school, I never spoke to those people again, I was free of having to pretend with them. I made a couple of new friends after school. They were older and I thought they were amazing. I would always try and hide the fact I was Autistic as I didn’t think they would want to be my friend if they knew. These guys very quickly found their uses for me. I would pay for everything I could as I thought that would make them like me more. When I passed my driving test it was only me who drove. I was made to feel guilty if I didn’t provide lifts on nights out even when I was scared at times. I would finish work and refuse to do anything else just in case they text me and invited me out. Sometimes I would sit up until the early hours of the morning waiting for a message. My mum would try and tell me that these were not things that good friends did but it didn’t matter to me. I felt like I would do anything I could to keep them as friends. I finally built up the courage to start thinking for myself and they didn’t like that, so one day they just never spoke to me again. I felt sick with relief in the end that all the pressure of trying to fit in with them had gone.

Fast forward to me now being an adult in my twenties. I have quite a few friends. And they’re so good to me. My favourites are genuinely the ones who know I’m Autistic and accept it. I don’t hide it anymore. They buy ME gifts and always remind me that they’re there for me. They understand a problem I might be having from my perspective and I try to see it from their perspective, but no longer feel that I have to. And a couple of really special ones know there’s something wrong just from the look on my face.


I moved into a large secondary school from a very small country primary school. I was very unprepared for the overwhelm and I felt super anxious, I guess more than others would feel. The school itself definitely didn’t help. I felt trapped. The timetables, moving around and trying to concentrate in class, then moving to another class. Even at breaks I couldn’t relax and was constantly stressing about getting to the next class on time. If they had moved classrooms again, I might be in the wrong room.

After a few days, I didn’t feel I could be in the school. I tried a few lessons per week after the first month, but my anxiety was too much and I really felt I could not ‘learn’ or take in any knowledge or retain information in an environment like that. I went into deep defence mode and didn’t want to engage with anyone. I felt really bad that I couldn’t do something as simple as going to school – what everyone else could do every day. My confidence was very, very low and I didn’t want to do anything or go anywhere.

My Mum made contact with the local Education Welfare Officer (EWO) who visited us at our home. She was just brilliant and ensured me that she was here to support me and my family to ensure that I would get my education, letting us know that other avenues were available to gain an education. Together we applied for a placement with IScoil, a remote learning programme. They do have centres to go to also, but I preferred the online programme delivery. I didn’t get a placement on the first try as places were very limited, however, we received a call a few weeks later that more funding had been made available. I was offered a place to start in Sept 2020 studying Level 3 QQI which is Junior Cert equivalent to the national framework.

The iScoil remote programme is designed and tailored to my interests. It is delivered through multimedia content online via a software programme called Moodle, which I really enjoy. I log into my subjects every day, I have online tutors for each subject who set the tasks. In addition, I have an assigned Mentor, who I talk with once a week via Video, they oversee and bring together everything each day. Subjects are very hands-on and practical approaches – learning life skills. My parents then receive an update from my mentor each week on my weekly progress. The instructional online content combined with individual mentoring and tutoring support offers me guidance ‘every day’.

I complete each module which is graded and goes towards the final certificate for each subject which leads to QQI accreditation. I love the fact that IScoil is very flexible and adaptable. I set my own timetable and work at my own pace, from home which is my safe place. So, what’s next? I am one of the lucky students to be selected to study a pilot course with IScoil ‘Level 4 QQI’ which I am returning to complete this year. On completion, I would like to study Level 5 at the local Youth Reach and gain entry to a PLC Course then onto Degree level. For anyone who is Autistic, who is experiencing anxiety and overwhelm at school in addition to that feeling of being lost in a system – I hope sharing my own journey will help you and assure you that there might be an alternative pathway and options available to you.


Even though I identify as Male, I still dress similarly to the way I used to, just with more freedom. I have always loved colour. While I don’t necessarily shop for ‘Women’s’ or ‘Mens’ clothes, you’ll find my wardrobe is mostly ‘Women’s’ since I’m drawn to colour like a moth to a flame. I never really understood gendering clothes until someone mentioned that clothes were tailored for the body types of men and women. To better describe this, we call it gender expression. A boy can wear a dress and that doesn’t make them a girl since they identify as a boy, it just makes them a boy who is wearing something tailored for girls. Hence he would have a more ‘feminine’ gender expression.

Gender identity and gender expression are two different things. A tip from me: if the border between the Men and Women’s sections in the store is too daunting to cross, try buying second hand. The borders there at most will have a little laminated sign that is easy to ignore. Just in case it’s still too daunting, online shopping can give you all the privacy you require. I’ve found people have actually applauded me more when I wear what I want. Including elderly conservatives who live in the countryside. A wise person also once told me, “Everyone is too selfish to care about what you’re doing.” So start exploring who you are, and feel comfortable in the wild of uncertainty, for there’s nothing wrong with questioning it.

I have friends who are ‘Questioning’ their gender identity, and only realised recently that it’s a label you can use just like ‘Transgender’. Identifying as ‘Questioning’ takes the pressure off yourself to figure things out, and stick with an identity you’re not comfortable with until you do. Using they/them pronouns are gender neutral for example, and you can use them exclusively or with other forms of pronouns. Someone’s pronouns could be he/they, meaning they use both he/him and they/them pronouns. A top tip for telling someone your pronouns if you’re too shy, is to ask them what their pronouns are like ‘Before I forget to ask, I was wondering what your pronouns are?’ This way you can find out their pronouns which usually leads to them asking you your pronouns in return. Pronouns correlate with your gender identity, and as we’re coming into more inclusive times you can see people showing their Pronouns in their Internet bio more and more. Everyone putting their own Pronouns helps normalise and include the Transgender community online and in real life.

This also prevents misgendering from happening in the future. When it comes to misgendering, I’m the King since I don’t work considerably hard to ‘pass’. ‘Passing’ means being perceived as a gender that you weren’t assigned at birth. For example, Mulan ‘passed’ as a boy when joining the army. I take being misgendered with a grain of salt. I correct people who I’m close to, and I don’t feel the need to correct strangers or associates. If I ever need to correct a new friend I might tell them when the time is right. It can be daunting correcting someone in a group or crowd, so I try to do so alone or over text. Never feel bad for correcting people for your gender or pronouns, if they’re a real friend they should understand.

I still remember the first time someone asked me for my Pronouns, I was still ‘in the closet’ and was so shocked I couldn’t say anything. It was the first time in my life it felt like someone truly cared who I wanted to be and not just what everyone expected. They continued by telling me it’s okay if I ‘didn’t have any’, implying it was okay if I was ‘Questioning’. And at the time I suppose I was. Now whenever I make friends, it’s my mission to be that person for someone else, because everyone deserves to have that someone who cares about who you really are. Getting to write this, I hope I can help people without even physically being there!

Autistic Teenager’s Survival Guide

Welcome to our Autistic teenager survival guide! This page will give information on health, wellbeing and socialising for Autistic teenagers.

Why should I engage with supports available to me?

Some teenagers find it difficult to accept help from the supports that are available to them. What you must remember is that supports are available with the sole purpose of providing you with help. Some supports for Autistic people include but are not limited to, counsellors or psychotherapists, speech and language therapists or occupational therapists. You may not need to engage with supports at all times, you can choose to engage with supports as you feel you need them. You may need different supports at different stages. Using supports will never put you at any disadvantage, it is about doing what is best for you.

Why should I disclose my diagnosis to my friends?

It can sometimes be quite difficult to disclose your diagnosis to your friends. Having a friend who understands your struggles will help you feel supported in your time of need. If your friends are aware of your triggers they will be able to identify times when you might need additional support and help you. It can be comforting to know that you have someone to go to when you need to. It might be difficult to feel that you can trust someone but finding even one trustworthy person will make you feel more comfortable and supported.

What can I do to help me make friends?

One of the best ways to make friends is to join a club, society or other extra curricular activity based on your interests. The great thing about taking part in something that you are really interested in is that you will be able to meet people that have the same passions and interests as you do. Instantly, you will have a common interest which you can speak about, which aids the flow of conversation.

If your school doesn’t have a pre-existing club based on your interest, whether it be science or coding or animals etc., you could ask a teacher or the principal about how the process of setting on up goes. Alternatively, you can see if any of these clubs exist in your local community and maybe attend after school hours. Time spent discussing your interests is enjoyable, you should feel at ease and that you can be yourself.

How do I improve my sleeping routine?

Sleep is very important for people of all ages but getting enough sleep as a teenager is vital to ensure that you can manage your day as best you can. As a teenager you should get between 7 and 9 hours sleep. Different people have different energy levels which is why some people might be able to function well on 6-7 hours sleep, whereas others need 9-10 hours. Sometimes our sleeping pattern can get disrupted and we can end up going to bed too late which means when our alarm goes off for school in the morning we have not slept long enough. It is important to get to bed early the night before an early morning. Sometimes this can be difficult and you might feel as though you are not tired enough to sleep.

One of the most important things you can do before bed to help you sleep is to decrease your screen time. Try and put your phone or laptop away an hour and a half before you plan on going to sleep. Instead of watching the television, perhaps you could try and read some of a book.  You could also try to do some meditation before bed. This is a great way of relaxing both your mind and your body and decreasing any distracting thoughts that are keeping you up at night.

Our Autistic teenager survival guide will continue to grow as we engage with our community so watch this space!

Autism Financial Supports

Receiving an Autism diagnosis does not automatically entitle an individual to financial supports or assistance. Support is dependent on two things; nature of disability and in some cases, there will be a means test for some supports. The below information is an overview of some of the supports that are available to a family.

Disability Allowance

This is a payment made to people between the age of 16 and 65, who pass a means-test and are thought to be “substantially restricted” from undertaking work which would be otherwise suitable for someone of their age, experience, and qualification. If you qualify for this benefit you may also be eligible for further entitlements such as the household utility package and a free travel pass.

In order to qualify for Disability Allowance, you must meet the criteria of the scheme and supply medical evidence to support this. You must also pass a Means Test, which assesses all your sources of income. You must earn below a certain amount to qualify through the Means Test.

For further information, see our application guide.

Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA)

Domiciliary Care Allowance is a monthly payment to fund support for children with significant complex needs, including some Autistic children. This payment is not based on any one disability, but on the impact of the disability. It applies to children “with a severe disability requiring ongoing care and attention substantially over and above that usually needed by a child of the same age.” Please note that terms such as ‘severe’ or ‘mild’ are not the most accurate in the case of Autism. It would be more accurate to say Domiciliary Care Allowance applies to Autistic children with higher support needs but not necessarily all Autistic children. Once your child reaches this age, payment will cease but they will be eligible to apply for Disability Allowance.

See our explainer below:

Applying for Domiciliary Care Allowance

This payment comes from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and is NOT means-tested. This means that your child’s care needs are the only deciding factor for receiving payment, and DCA can be claimed alongside other payments such as Child Benefit. Children receiving DCA are automatically qualified for a Medical Card. The application form for DCA is long and complicated. We recommend you complete it gradually over several days.

See our explainer on how to apply for DCA below:


If your application for Domiciliary Care Allowance is refused, this is not necessarily final. You have the right to have your application reviewed and to appeal the decision: Over 70% of refusals for DCA were reversed in 2020 through this method. The most common reason for refusal is a lack of supporting information, so carefully review documents relating to your child’s care. Make sure you make your appeal within 21 days of hearing the decision.

See our explainer on how to make your appeal below:

Carers’ Allowance

Carers’ Allowance is a means-tested payment paid to people who provide full-time care to a child or adult who needs support because of age, disability, or illness (including mental health illness). In qualifying for a carer payment, you may also be entitled to access other services such as Free Household Benefits (if you are living with the person you are caring for) and a free travel pass and a Carer GP visit card.

For more information on Carer’s Allowance, see our explainer below:

Incapacitated Tax Credit

You can claim an Incapacitated Child Tax Credit if you are the parent or guardian of a child who is permanently incapacitated, either physically or mentally.

To qualify the child must be either:

• Under 18 years of age, or;
• Over 18 years of age and unable to support themselves. In this situation the child must have become permanently incapacitated before they were 21, or after they were 21 if they were still in full-time education or training for a trade or profession for a minimum of 2 years.

Home Carer Tax Credit

A Home Carer Tax Credit is a tax credit given to married couples or civil partners (who are jointly assessed for tax) where one spouse or civil partner works in the home caring for a dependent person. The tax you are liable to pay is calculated as a percentage of your income. A tax credit is deducted from this to give the actual amount of tax that you have to pay. A tax credit has the effect of reducing your payable tax by the amount of the credit.

For more information on this see Citizens Information Home Carer Tax Credit (

VAT Refunds on Aids and Appliances

If you live in Ireland and you have a disability, you may get a refund of Value Added Tax (VAT) on certain special aids and appliances that you need. In some cases, people who pay for aids and appliances that are for the exclusive use of a person with a disability can also claim the VAT refund. People with both physical and cognitive disabilities can avail of these refunds.

This scheme of VAT refunds on aids and appliances can also apply to adaptation and installation work being carried out to make a home more suitable for an older person or for a person with a disability.

Some of these financial supports apply to Autistic adults as well as children.

Housing Adaptation Grant

A Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability is available from local authorities if you need to make changes to a home to make it more suitable for a person with a physical, sensory or intellectual disability or mental health difficulty.

For more information on the above please see Citizens Information.

Disabled Parking Permits

Disabled Person’s Parking Permits or Cards (also known as European Parking Cards or Disabled Parking Badge) are available to people living in Ireland with certain disabilities and those who are registered blind, whether they are drivers or passengers. 

How do Disabled Parking Permits work?

The parking card scheme for disabled drivers and passengers applies to public car parking areas only. However, the scheme also enables private car parks, supermarkets, etc., to more effectively monitor parking in areas that they have designated for people with disabilities. If you have a parking card, the disabled parking spaces provided by local authorities are free of charge.

Under local bye-laws, each local authority has the discretion to set time limits for parking in these spaces. Some local authorities apply no time limit, while others state that you must abide by the time limits displayed for the area. The parking card scheme is administered by the Disabled Drivers Association of Ireland (DDAI) and the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA).

In order to apply for a Parking Permit, you must complete one of the following three options:

Certified by your GP: Being certified by your GP or medical practitioner that you fall under the relevant criteria. You must bring the permit application form which is available online to your GP for completion.

Be a Primary Medical Certificate holder: The Primary Medical Certificate is not the Medical Card and is only awarded to people with a very high level of disability.

Be Certified Blind: Be certified blind by the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) a GP, Ophthalmologist or Optician. Applicants certified blind automatically qualify for a permit. Please note if you proceed with this option you will be required to return an application form certified by one of the following: 

• Ophthalmologist
• Optician
• GP

To request a parking card application form from the Disabled Drivers Association, you can email Alternatively you can apply online on the website of the Irish Wheelchair Association, or email Decision makers within the issuing authorities will determine if you are eligible based on the information provided.

Government Supports

There are several Government supports which can help Autistic people find and keep work within the private sector. These are described below.

Workplace Equipment Adaptation Grant

The Workplace Equipment Adaptation Grant is available to private-sector employers, employees or self-employed people of up to €6,350 to adapt the workplace or purchase specialised equipment for staff with disabilities if they are currently working, offered employment or an apprenticeship, changing jobs, or are self-employed.  

Workplace adaptations may include minor building modifications, like ramps or disabled toilets. It may also include assistive technology such as voice synthesisers, text-to-speech software, picture cue or scheduling software. It also includes training to support these adaptations. Additional funding of up to €9,523 is available if the organisation needs specialist training to use this technology.

Wage Subsidy Scheme

The Wage Subsidy Scheme provides incentives to private-sector employers to employ disabled workers for more than 20 hours weekly. There are three strands to this Scheme which employers can benefit from:

• Strand I – is a general subsidy for any disabled employer working between 21 and 39 hours per week, and whose perceived productivity shortfall is in excess of 20% when compared to a non-disabled peer.  The rate of subsidy is €5.30 per hour and is based on the number of hours worked, giving a total annual subsidy available of €10,748 per year based on 39-hour week.

• Strand II – Depending on the total number of disabled workers, their employer can apply for a grant to cover additional costs. This ranges from an additional 10% for 3-6 employees to a maximum of 50% of the wage subsidy for 23+ disabled employees.

• Strand III – where 30 or more disabled people are employed, employers can avail of a grant of €30,000 per year. This grant assists with the cost of employing an Employment Assistance Officer.

Disability Awareness Support Scheme

The final Government support falls outside the Reasonable Accommodation Fund. But it can be a very useful support in integrating people with disabilities into the workplace. This is available to private sector companies who are interested in employing or retaining or people with disabilities, and fund up to 90% of costs, and up to 80% of costs in subsequent years of up to €20,000 for providing disability awareness training, with additional funding available for providing materials related to the training.

Autism Healthcare Supports

AON (Assessment of Need)

The Assessment of Need (also known as AON) was established under the Disability Act, 2005. An Assessment of Need is an assessment carried out by the HSE for children or young people with a disability (Autism is classified as a disability). If your child has a disability or you think they may have a disability, you can apply for an Assessment of Need. In recent times the AON has been a source of legal wrangling.  

In 2020 a new system was introduced called the Standard Operations Procedure under the AON Guidelines, which introduced the Preliminary Team Assessment. The Preliminary Team Assessment evidenced the presence of a disability but did not provide any formal diagnosis. This then had a knock-on effect on families seeking to access Autism specific supports (e.g., an Autism class). The High Court has since stated that this new procedure introduced in 2020 was unlawful and not in keeping with the Disability Act, 2005 because it did not meet the standards to provide a diagnostic assessment.  

Under the Act a child/young person should receive (i) a full and complete assessment of their needs and (ii) a service statement stipulating the services required to address the needs identified in the assessment. You can apply for an Assessment of Need here: Disability Assessment –

After you send in your application, you will get a letter from the HSE confirming they have received your application and the date when the assessment will start. The HSE must send you this letter within 14 days of your application. If the Assessment Officer is satisfied that your child needs an assessment, they must arrange this referral within 3 months 11 of receiving your completed application. Once this referral is made there will be a further 3 months to assess your child and complete the Assessment Report this is legally mandated under the Disability Act 2005, please see section 14(1) of this Act for more information on this.

You will get a Service Statement if your child is deemed to have a disability. A Service Statement lists the services the HSE proposes to provide to meet your child’s needs and the timeframe in which those services should be provided. It is prepared by a Liaison Officer and must be completed within one month of the assessment report being completed. By law, the HSE must provide the services named in the Service Statement. The Service Statement must be clear and easily understood.

If you do have any questions on the AON process, our Information Line Team would be happy to speak through these with you.

Service Statement

If your child has gone through the HSE Assessment of Need process and is deemed to have a disability, you will get a Service Statement. A Service Statement lists the services the HSE proposes to provide to meet your child’s needs and the timeframe in which those services should be provided. It is prepared by a Liaison Officer and must be completed within one month of the assessment report being completed. By law, the HSE must provide the services named in the Service Statement. The Service Statement must be clear and easily understood.

If your Service Statement is not completed or provided for within the statutory timelines, you can make a complaint within 3 months of the date on which you became aware of the cause of the complaint. In the first instance, you can contact your Liaison Officer. If you are still not happy and wish to escalate your complaint, you can contact the Disability Complaints Officer. You can ask the Assessment Officer or Liaison Officer for a form to complete. This form also lists the grounds on which you can make a complaint. The form, when completed, needs to be returned to the Complaints Officer. The Complaints Officer is an independent body. This means that the Complaints Officer will look at your complaint objectively and fairly. You can also contact the Complaints Officer directly on 045 880 400 or by e-mail to If you are unhappy with the findings and recommendations of the Complaints Officer, you can appeal to the Disability Appeals Officer. If 12 the HSE has not acted on the recommendations of the Complaints Officer, you can appeal to the Disability Appeals Officer or you can go to the Circuit Court to seek an enforcement order.

If you do have any questions on the service statement process, our Information Line Team would be happy to speak through these with you.

Children's Disability Services

If your child has a difficulty or difference in one area (e.g., a speech delay), it is likely a referral to Disability Services will result in you being seen by, or on the waiting list for, Primary Care. However, if your child requires specialist services delivered by more than one professional together as part of a team, they will be seen by the Children’s Disability Network Team (CDNT). The CDNT provides specialist support for children who have a disability and complex health needs associated with their disability. If your child is assessed by the CDNT, it is likely they will be seen by the occupational therapist and/or speech and language therapist in the first instance. The therapists will likely want to observe your child playing. This is so they can gain insight into a wide range of your child’s skills and preferences.  

The therapists will also want to have a discussion with you to gain your perspective on your child’s developmental history, their strengths and interests, and the past and current barriers to your child’s participation at home and in school. Based on these observations and discussions, the team psychologist, alongside the occupational therapist and/or speech and language therapist, may decide to proceed with a standardised diagnostic tool for Autism, such as the ADOS.

If your child already has an Autism diagnosis, they may receive what is often described by healthcare professionals as ‘intervention’ by the CDNT or Primary Care Team. This may involve them being seen by the psychologist, speech and language therapist, occupational therapist and/or physiotherapist.  The format of this support may be individual, group or consultative. Currently, we are aware there are significant waiting lists impacting families nationally.  

If your child has a Service Statement, the provision, and timeline of said revision, should reflect the Service Statement.  As a parent/guardian, you can self-refer your child to the Children’s Disability Services regardless if they have a Service Statement or a diagnosed disability. You do this by completing the electronic forms housed on the HSE Children’s Disability Services webpage: Referrals to a children’s disability network team – The team will review the forms you submit and based on this information will contact you regarding next steps.

Adult Disability Services

Relevant community care services may include public health nurse (PHN), home help, personal assistance, psychological services, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, social work services, physiotherapy, daycare and respite.  You can find what disability services are available in your county here: Disability services in your county – Currently, we are aware there are significant waiting lists impacting families nationally.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)

CAMHS is a HSE service that provides assessment and treatment for young people and their families who are experiencing mental health difficulties. The term ‘CAMHS’ is usually applied very specifically to services that provide specialist mental health treatment and care to young people up to 18 years of age through a multidisciplinary team. To access a CAMHS service you need to be referred by your GP. The GP should have a copy of the referral form, but you can also access it here:

Community CAMHS referral form (docx)

It is often reported that Autistic children can have difficulty accessing CAMHS as it can be viewed that the difficulties the child is experiencing are in line with an Autism diagnosis, and thus better understood by Children’s Disability Services. However, Autism is not a mental health condition. A child can be Autistic and have mental health difficulties, and a child can be Autistic and not have mental health difficulties – much like a non-Autistic child.

Adult Mental Health Services

Mental Health Ireland have put together a helpful webpage explaining how Adult Mental Health Services in Ireland work: Mental Health Services – Mental Health Ireland

It is often reported that Autistic adults can have difficulty accessing Adult Mental Health Services as it can be viewed that the difficulties the adult is experiencing are in line with an Autism diagnosis, and thus better understood by Adult Disability Services. However, Autism is not a mental health condition. An adult can be Autistic and have mental health difficulties, and an adult can be Autistic and not have mental health difficulties – much like a non-Autistic adult.

Private Therapies

Regarding Autism assessment, many families and adults face anxiety regarding selecting a reputable private assessor. This anxiety can be compounded by the fact there is currently no regulation of psychologists in Ireland. This makes it frighteningly easy for an individual who has not completed the full psychologist training to present as one. If you are considering a private psychologist to complete the assessment, check the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) website to see if they hold Chartered Membership. If you are concerned that the psychologist you are considering does not hold Chartered Membership, ask them for their 2023 PSI Chartered Membership certificate.  

It is critically important to research the professional in advance of the assessment. Any chartered psychologist will be more than happy to clarify their credentials and qualifications to you and will understand why you need to request this information.  

Once you have confirmed this, you should also consider whether the professional is neuroaffirmative. When you look on their website, is the language they use neurodiversity affirmative (exploring neuro differences, highlighting strengths and areas of support) or medicalised (referring to Autism as Autism spectrum disorder, focusing on difficulties and impairments)? It is hugely important that you or your child’s experience of the assessment does not reinforce any negative stereotypes they hold of themselves, and instead empowers and supports them. Additionally, a diagnostic report should not leave you or your child feeling it was a confirmation of ‘deficit’. Instead, it should accurately capture a person’s experience of the world, their strengths, and where they need more support.  

You or your child may not only be seeking private support with regards assessment. You may be seeking private occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, psychology, counselling or physiotherapists. You can contact the Information Line Team to be signposted to reputable professionals.


Currently, if a carer would like to request respite, they need to contact HSE Disability Services directly. For adults, contact: Disability Services –

Autism Housing Supports

Social housing support is housing provided by a local authority or an approved housing body to people who are assessed as being unable to afford housing from their own resources. If living in a local authority dwelling, the State is effectively your landlord.

How can I apply for Social Housing Support?

The provision of social housing is delivered through your Local Authority and an approved housing body. To qualify, you must be eligible for social housing, and you must be in need of social housing.

• The housing authority will assess your eligibility first.
• If you are eligible, it will then assess if you need social housing.

To be regarded as eligible for social housing you must satisfy the income criteria. You must also show that you do not have suitable alternative accommodation.

More information on social housing provision can be found here.

What is HAP?

The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is a form of social housing support provided by your local authority.

Local authorities make a monthly rental payment on your behalf to your landlord, subject to terms and conditions, including rent limits. In return, the HAP tenant pays a weekly contribution towards the rent to the local authority.

HAP allows you to work full-time, while still receiving housing support.

How do I apply for HAP?

You must be qualified for social housing support by your local authority, which means you must qualify to go onto your local authority housing waiting list. If you are already on your local authority’s housing list and are not currently in a form of social housing, you will be eligible for HAP. Your local authority can check if you qualify for social housing support and HAP. More information on HAP can be found here.

What is Homeless HAP?

The Homeless HAP scheme helps people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. It gives more supports to tenants than the regular HAP scheme. These extra supports include deposits and upfront rent payments to help homeless households find a suitable HAP tenancy. The Homeless HAP scheme is also known as the Place Finder Service. This service is managed by local authorities. If you are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, you may apply to your local authority for these extra supports.

How do I apply for Homeless HAP?

To qualify for Homeless HAP, a household must be accepted as homeless within the meaning of section 2 of the Housing Act 1988 by one of the 4 Dublin local authorities.

What is the Rental Accommodation scheme?

The Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) is run by local authorities. The local authority makes the final decision about who is eligible for the scheme. In general, people who are getting Rent Supplement for more than 18 months are considered for RAS.

How do I apply for Rental Accommodation?

Under the Rental Accommodation Scheme, local authorities draw up contracts with landlords to provide housing for people with a long-term housing need. The landlord agrees to provide housing for a specific amount of time, and this is covered in the contract with the local authority. The local authority pays the rent directly to the landlord. You may continue to contribute to your rent, but you pay this contribution to your local authority, not to your landlord.

For more information on RAS click here.

What is the Exceptional Social Grounds scheme?

Provision for the recommendation of a Priority under the Exceptional Social Grounds Scheme is contained in the Housing Allocations Scheme 2018, Section 7.5. A recommendation in respect of a Priority on Exceptional Social Grounds may be made by a Senior Social Worker or by the Chief Housing Welfare Officer in the case of an Appeal.

A priority will only be recommended in cases where the social circumstances relating to an applicant’s housing need are deemed to be of an extremely serious nature. In order to prioritise applicants with the most urgent need a designated staff member of the Social Work Section will examine all of the written evidence made available by an applicant and consider whether the circumstances, as described, meets all of the following criteria:

• The circumstances relating to where the applicant lives are extremely difficult and significantly more urgent in comparison with other housing and transfer applicants and;
• The circumstances are proven to be exceptional e.g. not commonly experienced by others or experienced by others in the general area where the applicant lives and;
• The applicant’s difficulty can only be resolved by a change of housing and;
• That change of housing cannot be, or could not have been, sourced by any other means and;
• The issue cannot be catered for /addressed under any other Scheme or potentially improved by intervention from another appropriate agency.

How do I apply for the Exceptional Social Grounds scheme?

  1. Before you can be considered under the Exceptional Social Grounds (ESG) Scheme you must have applied for and been accepted onto the Housing Waiting List or have applied to go on the Transfer list.
  2. You must complete the Exceptional Social Grounds (ESG) application form.
  3. All application forms must be signed by the housing or transfer applicant/s.
  4. Applications must be supported by a signed and dated report or letter that must be on official headed paper containing valid contact details from a third-party professional who has first-hand knowledge of your situation.
  5. All supporting documents, including reports and letters, that you wish to have considered as part of the application, must be listed on the ESG Application Form at Section 3. Make sure you submit them with the application form or say what ones will be sent in later otherwise they may not be included for consideration under the Exceptional Social Grounds Scheme. It is your responsibility to ensure that the documents listed arrive in the Social Work Section.
  6. Letters and reports must be written within the last six months, be fully legible and should be relevant to your housing issue.
  7. If your case is based on an allegation that you are subject to anti – social behaviour such as threats, harassment or intimidation this must be investigated by the Area Housing Manager and An Garda Síochána in the first instance.
  8. A report from the Area Housing Manager and/or the Anti-Social Behaviour Unit and/or An Garda Síochána may be requested in order to assist in assessing your application. Proof of significant risk must be obtained from An Garda Síochána and the Area Housing Manager and/or the Anti-Social Behaviour Unit. Such cases will normally only be considered under the ESG Scheme where the allegations of anti-social behaviour relate to the immediate vicinity of your home and where they are directed exclusively against you or another family member who has permission to reside in the tenancy.

What is Medical Priority Housing?

Provision for the recommendation of a priority under the Exceptional Medical Grounds Scheme is contained in the Scheme of Letting Priorities 2018, Section 7.4. Medical priority will only be provided if it is relevant to an aspect of the current or required housing. Important to note that having a medical diagnosis will not automatically result in priority unless it creates a specific housing need.

How do I apply for Medical Priority Housing?

You apply at your local authority office and fill out the appropriate documentation, this is known as HMD Form 1. A form must be completed by two medical professionals. The local authority’s Chief Medical Officer will then make a decision, which can be appealed.

Fingal County Council have provided a step-by-step guide on applying for this.

What is the Housing Adaptation Grant?

The Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability is a grant for people with a physical, sensory, mental health or intellectual disability. It provides funding so you can improve how you enter and move around your home.

You can use this grant to make your home more accessible by:

• Adding ramps or other ways to access your home.
• Extending your home to create more space, for example, adding a downstairs bedroom.
• Adding accessible bathroom facilities, such as an accessible shower or a ground-floor bathroom or toilet.
• Installing a stair lift.
• Installing grab rails.
• Installing a fixed track hoist. (This is a ceiling or wall-mounted track with a sling attached to it, which means you can be mechanically lifted and moved to different places along the track).
• The grant should be available to provide funds to adapt your home to build a sensory room or space.

How do I apply for the Housing Adaptation Grant?

Download an application form or contact your local authority and ask for one to be posted to you. The form has a section that must be completed and signed by a doctor. You may also need professional advice from a building contractor when filling in the section about the work you want to get done and how much you think it will cost.

Send the completed form to your local authority along with any documents that are needed, such as:

• Proof of your household income for the previous tax year
• Proof that the Local Property Tax (LPT) for the home is in order
• A letter from the landlord giving you permission to get the work done, if you are renting
• An occupational therapist’s (OT) report if you are using the grant to add an extension, get a stair lift or make a big change to how a room is being used.

The local authority can arrange for the OT assessment, or you can employ an OT yourself and get up to €250 of the cost from the local authority as part of the grant. You can search for an OT on the website of the Association of Occupational Therapists Ireland. The application form gives full details of the documents you will need as proof.

More information on this grant can be found here.

Domiciliary Care Allowance and Autistic Children

Domiciliary Care Allowance is a monthly payment to fund support for children with significant complex needs, including some Autistic children. This payment is not based on any one disability, but on the impact of the disability. It applies to children “with a severe disability requiring ongoing care and attention substantially over and above that usually needed by a child of the same age.”

Please note that terms such as ‘severe’ or ‘mild’ are not the most accurate in the case of Autism. It would be more accurate to say Domiciliary Care Allowance applies to Autistic children with higher support needs but not necessarily all Autistic children. See our explainer here:

Applying for Domiciliary Care Allowance

This payment comes from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and is NOT means-tested. This means that your child’s care needs are the only deciding factor for receiving payment, and DCA can be claimed alongside other payments such as Child Benefit. Children receiving DCA are automatically qualified for a Medical Card. The application form for DCA is long and complicated. We recommend you complete it gradually over several days.

See our explainer on how to apply for DCA below:


If your application for Domiciliary Care Allowance is refused, this is not necessarily final. You have the right to have your application reviewed and to appeal the decision: Over 70% of refusals for DCA were reversed in 2020 through this method. The most common reason for refusal is a lack of supporting information, so carefully review documents relating to your child’s care.Make sure you make your appeal within 21 days of hearing the decision. See our explainer on how to make your appeal below.

This support is for children under the age of 16. Once your child reaches this age, payment will cease but they will be eligible to apply for Disability Allowance

Government Guide For Schools

Autism Good Practice Guidance for Schools has been developed by the Department of Education as a resource for schools and others. It is designed to help support the wellbeing, learning and participation of children and young people with Autism in education.It aims to assist school staff to understand the varied nature of students’ strengths and needs, as well as to identify whole-school and individualised approaches to supports for students.

Downloads available below:

Information Note on the publication of Autism Good Practice Guidance for Schools: Supporting Children and Young People
Autism Good Practice Guidance for Schools Supporting Children and Young People
Indicators of Effective Practice

* Content provided by The Department of Education. We are sharing information on these guidelines as they are an important piece of national policy for the community to be aware of. Our organisation does not support the use of ABA or behavioural based approaches.

AsIAm Statement on ABA

AsIAm, Ireland's National Autism Charity, opposes the practice of Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) and associated therapies and practises. We do not undertake, support, or fund any projects which are ABA-based. We do not participate in any research which is ABA-based.  The aim of any evidence-based therapy should be to empower an autistic person to enjoy autonomy, independence and positive self-esteem within their family and community. Any therapy which approaches autism as a deficit, or which aims to make an autistic person conform to neurotypical norms should be avoided as they constitute a breach in the fundamental rights of autistic people. This includes Applied Behavioural Analysis which has a deeply troubling history, and which has been cited by countless autistic people as a source of distress, trauma, and poor mental health. We do not believe that the principles and practices associated with this approach are compliant with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities   As a national, non-profit and autistic founded organisation, we are focused on bringing about a society which accepts and embraces autistic people. This means the correct, neuro-affirmative supports for autistic people and their families, and for communities, public services and businesses which respect, value and celebrate autistic people. The focus of our advocacy and programmes is in advancing this aim.   In engaging with community members and stakeholders, and in our communication strategy, we take an approach which maximises the opportunity to successfully promote and realise the rights of autistic people. AsIAm exists to serve all in the autistic people and family members and delivers our services in a person-centred, non-judgemental and supportive manner to all who engage in our programmes and activities.

GP Visit Card

GP Visit Cards enable you to visit a general practitioner for free. They are passes issued by the HSE and you may be entitled to one if you are not eligible for a Medical Card.

What does it cover?

GP Visit Cards cover the costs of visiting a doctor at a general practitioner’s office. This will depend on the practice you attend, but most visits will typically cost anywhere between €60-€80.  The Card also entitles you to some additional healthcare services, such as public health nursing, social services and community care services.

The Card does not cover the costs of medicines that the doctor may prescribe to you, even if they are for treating a chronic condition. Some of these medicines may be covered by the Prescribed Drugs Scheme or the Long-Term Illness Scheme.

The Card does not cover out-of-hours GP services or hospital visits. Blood tests to diagnose or monitor a condition are covered, however.

Who’s eligible?

Anyone can apply for a GP Visit Card. There’s no age limit, but there are different types of Cards for children aged 6 years old and under, older people aged 70 years old and over, and for carers.

All children aged 6 years old and under are entitled to a GP Visits Card. The GP visit card is available to everyone aged over 70 without an income test.

If you get Carer's Benefit or Carer’s Allowance (scroll up for more information), at full or half-rate, you are eligible for a GP visit card.

An Autism diagnosis in itself does not automatically entitle you to a Medical Card or a GP Visit Card.

How are applications assessed?

You must live in Ireland full-time and meet a means-tested criteria in order to qualify for a GP Visit Card.

This criteria will look at your income to decide if you are eligible for either a Medical Card or a GP Visit Card. It will decide if your income is at a level where refusing you a Card of either kind would cause financial difficulties for you. If you are under 16 years of age, your parent’s income will be decided on if you are eligible.

If you don’t qualify for a medical card (scroll down for more information), you are then assessed for a GP Visit Card. The criteria will also look at any social welfare payments you are currently receiving, whether you are out of work or in work. You must include all details of any payments that you are receiving, as your application may be disqualified if you do not.

If you are not currently receiving any social welfare payments, you do not need to include them in your application. If you are currently working, include your most recent payslips in your application form.

How long does it take to assess an application?

The vast majority of applications for Medical Cards and GP Visit Cards take approximately 15 days for the HSE to assess.

Where can I apply?

You can apply online for a Medical Card or a GP Visit Card at This may be an easier and quicker way for some people to obtain their card if they are in urgent need of one.

Alternatively, you can access the application form here and send it by post to the HSE.

If you have any questions before you send in your application you can phone Lo-call 1890 252 919 or email

What if I lose my Card?

If you lose your Card, inform the HSE, by calling LoCall 1890 252 919 or emailing They will provide you with a new one, free of charge.

When informing the HSE of this, make sure that you provide:

• your full name;
• address;
• PPS number, and;
• the name of your GP.

Do I need to keep anything if I visit the GP?

If you are filling out a new prescription and you are on the Long-Term Illness Scheme, bring your booklet with you to every doctor’s appointment. This is so that your doctor can monitor your dosages and make any changes if they need to.


If your application for a Medical Card or a GP Visit Card has been refused, then you can appeal the decision. Your local area’s HSE Appeals Office will reassess your application. It will be conducted by staff who were not involved in deciding on your original application.

Further Information

GP Visit Cards’ page on the HSE’s online services directory
GP Visit Cards’ page on Citizens Information

Medical Card

What is a medical card?

Medical Cards enable you to access certain health services free of charge. The main service it covers is visiting a GP, including ones who work out-of-hours. It also covers the medicines they prescribe (although some prescription charges will be included). Other services that a Medical Card entitles you to include:

• dental checks;
• eye and ear tests;
• maternity and baby care;
• in-patient hospital services, and;
• short-term counselling for mild to moderate mental health difficulties.

Usually, the medical costs of your spouse or partner and children are also covered for the same range of services, if you are a Medical Card holder. The Card also entitles you to some community care services. This generally includes:

• home support services;
• occupational therapy;
• physiotherapy, and;
• respite care.

Many of these are especially important for Autistic people. However, some community care areas will have varying levels of demand, and so Medical Card holders will not necessarily be able to access these services immediately. A Medical Card does not always prioritise you in terms of waiting lists, either. The Card does not cover all medical expenses, even if you are living with a chronic condition, such as arthritis, asthma, or diabetes. Some of the prescription costs for the medicines used to treat illnesses like these may be covered under the Prescribed Drugs Scheme or the Long-Term Illness Scheme.

Who’s eligible?

Anyone can apply for a Medical Card. There’s no age limit, but there are different types of Cards for the following groups of people:

• children diagnosed with cancer;
• young people aged 16 to 25 years of age (including students);
• older people aged 70 years old and over, and;
• carers.

Any child under 18 years of age who has been diagnosed with cancer within the last 5 years can apply for a Medical Card.

The HSE will send out a Medical Card to a child of a Medical Card holder when they turn 16 and are still living with their family. They may use this card until it expires when they reach 25 years of age, so long as they are still living at home with their families from when they received their own Card at 16. If the young person’s parents do not have a Medical Card, and the young person has a medical condition, the HSE advises them to apply anyway, along with their parents. Medical Cards are available to people aged 70 and over if they satisfy an income-assessed means test. You can apply for a Medical Card for your child, if you receive a Domiciliary Care Allowance (scroll up for more information) for that child. Medical Cards may also be given out on a discretionary basis if you have high medical expenses or during certain emergencies.

Some people may automatically qualify if they:

• are participating in certain government schemes;
• are in foster care;
• live in direct provision;
• qualify under EU Regulations;

An Autism diagnosis in itself does not automatically entitle you to a Medical Card or a GP Visit Card.

How are applications assessed?

You must live in Ireland full-time and meet a means-tested criteria (in most cases, but not all) in order to qualify for a Medical Card. This criteria will look at your income to decide if you are eligible for either a Medical Card or a GP Visit Card. It will decide if your income is at a level where refusing you a Card of either kind would cause financial difficulties for you.

If you are under 16 years of age, your parent’s income will be decided on if you are eligible.  If you are aged between 16 and 25 years of age, your parent’s income is also assessed. If you have gotten a job during that time, and your income is over the limit of a single person living with their family, then you are considered financially independent. This means that the same means test used for an adult who is earning and lives away from their family home will apply to you.

If you are aged 70 and over, your application’s assessment will depend on your gross income per week (this means including the money you earn before paying tax). If you are single, this limit will be at €500 a week; if you are a couple, it will be at €900 per week. If you are applying for a Card on a child’s behalf, for whom you are getting DCA, the child is eligible for a medical card, without a means test.

If you don’t qualify for a medical card, you are then assessed for a GP Visit Card.  The means test will also look at any social welfare payments you are currently receiving, whether you are out of work or in work. You must include all details of any payments that you are receiving, as your application may be disqualified if you do not. If you are not currently receiving any social welfare payments, you do not need to include them in your application. If you are currently working, include your most recent payslips in your application form.

Check out the video below for more advice on filling out the form.

How long does it take to assess an application?

The vast majority of applications for Medical Cards and GP Visit Cards take approximately 15 days for the HSE to assess.

Where can I apply?

You can apply online for a Medical Card or a GP Visit Card at This may be an easier and quicker way for some people to obtain their card if they are in urgent need of one.  You will also find applications for the different types of medical cards outlined in this section, along with additional information about the rules for applying and the means test for each.

Alternatively, you can download a general application form here and send it by post to the HSE.

If you have any questions before you send in your application you can phone Lo-call 1890 252 919 or email

What if I lose my Card?

If you lose your Card, inform the HSE, by calling LoCall 1890 252 919 or emailing They will provide you with a new one, free of charge.  

When informing the HSE of this, make sure that you provide your

• your full name;
• address;
• PPS number, and;
• the name of your GP.

What happens if my circumstances change?

If you are awarded a Medical Card, the HSE will ask you to update them with your healthcare needs from time to time. They will notify you in advance and will usually ask you to do this by completing an online form. You can also request a paper version from your GP or Local Health Office. There will be a deadline set, but you may extend this if you give the HSE a reasonable explanation. If you do not complete the form, or do not provide the information asked for, then your application can’t be re-assessed and your card may not be re-issued.

If your circumstances do change, then you must inform the HSE as soon as you can. Your circumstances may change for several different reasons. These may be because of:

• your personal finances;
• your living situation;
• if you have children, or;
• if you cohabit, marry, separate, or divorce from your partner.

There are many other reasons why your living circumstances may change, but it is important that you inform the HSE if there are any big changes, as you may no longer be eligible for a Medical Card.


If your application for a Medical Card or a GP Visit Card has been refused, then you can appeal if you are unhappy with the decision. Your local area’s HSE Appeals Office will reassess your application. Their contact details will also be contained in your letter of refusal. It will be conducted by staff who were not involved in deciding on your original application.

Further Information

Medical Cards’ page on the HSE’s online services directory
Medical Cards’ page on Citizens Information

Occupational Therapy

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy is a crucial support for Autistic people. It's defined as therapy which supports people in developing and maintaining ‘meaningful activities.’ Activities are usually defined as skills necessary to daily living and working (in school or professionally.) An Occupational Therapist works with people of all ages who are experiencing difficulty managing every day activities as a result of an underlying health condition, illness, or injury. This support focuses on the ‘occupation’ or activity that needs to be built up, and works backwards from this while considering the person’s access needs. In other words, it is about empowering someone to do something rather than targeting their condition as a problem to be ‘fixed'. This means that it can be considered part of a person-centred approach. For more information on Occupational Therapy, how to find an Occupational Therapist and what they usually work on, check our pages below.

Is Occupational Therapy a medical model of Autism therapy?

Medical models of healthcare and therapy focus on illness and injury and how therapy or medicine can “treat” or “cure” an illness. Occupational Therapy however, focuses on how an individual’s condition affects their ability to participate in the every day activities that are important to them within the context of their family, community and society. Occupational Therapy therefore, doesn’t necessarily focus on the issues related to a diagnosis such as Autism. Instead it explores how this diagnoses impacts the individual’s life and the goals that the person wants to achieve. This is with the goal to improve their own quality of life in their own unique set of circumstances.

How can I access an Occupational Therapist?

There are two main routes by which you can access an Occupational Therapist, through the public healthcare system or privately. Access to an Occupational Therapist is not based on diagnosis or diagnostic criteria instead it is a needs based service. This means the Occupational Therapist will want to know which every day activities you/your child is having difficulty with. Both public and private routes to Occupational Therapy will provide you with an equal standard of care, however, unfortunately much like with Autism diagnosis there can be long wait times for public services.  

In order to access occupational therapy through the public healthcare system a great place to start is visiting your GP. Explain your needs to the GP and they can provide you with information available services. If you are already working with a primary care therapist, early intervention team or disability network team there should be an occupational therapist working as part of that team/service. If you are looking for a private occupational therapist, the Association of Occupational Therapists of Ireland is a useful starting point.

Should I choose an Occupational Therapist who has experience working with Autistic people?

As Occupational Therapy is not a medical model of therapy or treatment, an occupational therapist will not focus on an individual’s diagnosis. Instead, the occupational therapist will focus on the individual and the occupations that they may struggle with.  However, given many Autistic people view Autism as part of their identity rather than a condition to be studied, it is important that providers of occupational therapy have a thorough understanding of Autism and the needs of Autistic individuals.

It can be useful to identify your areas of concern before choosing an Occupational Therapist and trying to make your choice based on a therapist’s experience in these areas. Occupational Therapist may have undergone additional training in sensory processing or restricted eating for example.

Why might an Autistic individual require Occupational Therapy?

Occupational Therapists work with Autistic people in a number of areas. However, one of the most common reasons an Autistic individual may require the support of an Occupational Therapist would be when sensory processing difficulties are impacting their participation in everyday activities. Occupational Therapist can support with a number of other experiences of daily living (e.g., sleep, sexuality, puberty, play, handwriting, friendship, money management, advocacy).

What role does an Occupational Therapist play in an Autism assessment?

For children, the Autism assessment is typically multi-disciplinary in its approach. Members of a multi-disciplinary team may include an occupational therapist, speech and language therapist and a psychologist who each assess the child and collaborate to examine needs and ultimately come to a conclusion of the child’s diagnosis. The role of an occupational therapist in the assessment of need is to focus on function (participation in everyday activities).  

For young children who may be pre-verbal, the assessment will be an observational assessment in which an occupational therapist may observe motor skills, play and sensory processing. They also may interview parents based on how their child manages everyday activities based on their age and typical development such as brushing teeth, toilet training and getting dressed for example.  For older children or teenagers or even adults, the occupational therapist may speak directly with the individual being assessed about their everyday occupations, sensory challenges and general functioning.

What is a typical session with an Occupational Therapist like?

It is important to note that an Occupational Therapist will not always work directly with the individual alone. Recent evidence suggests the occupational therapist should be focused on working at a universal level (e.g., within the child’s school), or at a targeted level (e.g., with the child’s class). By the occupational therapist working with the people and environments around the child, there should be less need for individual input. Again, the focus should not be on changing the child, it should on changing the environment around them.

The number of sessions an required with an Occupational Therapist depends on someone’s level of need and personal goals. If your child requires the support of an Occupational Therapist, your first session will typically involve discussing your child’s strengths and needs in the 3 core areas; personal care, self-care and leisure. The course of the sessions will depend on these goals that have been set. OTs consider someone’s needs within the context of the demands of the activity and the environments. As a result, support can vary significantly from person to person. For example, if a child has difficulty with toothbrushing the child may be given ideas to desensitise the mouth (support the person), use a flavourless toothpaste (change the activity) or try toothbrushing away from the noisy bathroom fan (change the environment).  

Typically, you will visit your Occupational Therapist more frequently at the beginning e.g. once a week. This will be while you complete the assessment and decide on goals together. The phases between your sessions will likely increase as you are working on your goals. For example, you might move to once a fortnight or monthly. Eventually, once the Occupational Therapist sees you are implementing these skills at home, they may discharge you.  

Your Occupational Therapist may also suggest that you attend group sessions or workshops. This would involve attending a sessions alongside people with similar difficulties or challenges to you. For example, an Occupational Therapist may hold a workshop about various sensory strategies to support you in school. If you are a parent who is visiting the Occupational Therapist with your child, they’ll probably mix parent education with one-on-one work with your child. It is helpful for you to learn the various skills that the Occupational Therapist is teaching your child so that you can help to support them in their learning and development at home and maintain the progress over time.  Finally, the Occupational Therapist may also help parents or individuals communicate their sensory difficulties to schools or workplaces. This can be helpful in order to make the school or work environment a more comfortable place for the individual.

Speech and Language Therapy

What is Speech & Language Therapy?

Speech and Language Therapists provide treatment, support and care for individuals in the areas of communication, eating, drinking and swallowing. Speech and language therapy looks at how we send messages and communicate with others as well as how we understand and interpret the messages that are sent to us. Speech and Language Therapists can also help individuals with exploring the social context of language, providing support to those who might struggle with communication within a social context. Speech and language therapy is for people of all ages. Individuals may need different levels of support across the lifespan.

How can I find a Speech & Language therapist?

Speech and Language Therapists are key members of local disability teams. There are a number of people you can contact to get some information about Speech and Language Therapists, including your early intervention service team, your school or private speech and language therapists (Independent Speech-Language Therapists of Ireland). Some Speech and Language Therapists may also be involved with specific groups or associations. A good place to start would be to get in touch with your service provider and ask them for more information about the services you require and they can direct you to somebody who is suitable.

What should I expect in my first session?

Before your first session with a Speech and Language Therapist you should reflect on your communication, or if attending with your child, their communication. You should also spend some time thinking about what it is you are hoping or expecting will change from working with your Speech and Language Therapist. Your first session is a chance for you and your therapist to get to know each other. Initially, there may be a lot of observation as you begin to build a relationship with your therapist and interact with one another. If you are attending a session with your child, they may be encouraged to play.

What tools are used?

Speech and language therapists use both formal and informal tools and techniques in their assessments. Informal tools the therapist might use include observation, creating opportunities for play, or providing direction for opportunities so that parents can interact with their child. During these informal sessions there is a lot of opportunity for learning. Speech and Language Therapists may also use formal assessment tools to gather information about your communication methods. One example of a more formal tool is questionnaires. The therapist might ask you to fill in forms reflecting on your communication. These questionnaires could be completed in advance of a session, or you may even complete them during the session with the Speech and Language Therapist.