WHAT IS THE TRIPLE A ALLIANCE?

Triple A Alliance was set up in 2002 by a group of parents who wanted to help establish an autism unit in the local secondary school. It’s grown into a registered charity, which supports over 450 families on the east coast area, stretching from Wicklow town to south Dublin.

WHAT CAMPAIGNS HAVE YOU RAN? ARE YOU RUNNING ANY AT THE MOMENT?

We recognise the value of family and the role that parents and siblings play in the outcomes for people on the autism spectrum. Our focus is very much on supporting and empowering parents and families and, in particular, siblings and caregivers.

We run many parent support workshops and seminars with experts in the area of autism such as occupational therapists, psychologists, speech and language therapists. We also run courses about effective self-advocacy, how to negotiate functional IEP plans for your child, and financial planning and trusts advice. We’ve ran courses for siblings and monthly sibling social groups, as well as social activities for our members on the spectrum like Lego club, swimming, marine biology camps, and therapeutic horse riding camps, even an annual carer spa day!

Last year we ran our first additional needs summer camp which included volunteers from the Wicklow Volunteer Service, SNAs, teachers, as well as a play therapist and occupational therapist who helped us run the camp. We included 26 children over four days, all who have mixed abilities and needs, and otherwise found that they were excluded from mainstream camps because of lack of staffing and or understanding. We aim to run it again this year, and are hoping to train mainstream camps about how they can become more inclusive.

This year was the first time that Triple A Wicklow participated in the St Patricks Day parade (we won Most Colourful Entry!). We recognised that not all of our members could enter, due to the noise levels and crowds, and we asked those members who could not attend on the day to create posters for us so that we could carry them and represent for them. It was a huge success and gave our community a great recognition in Greystones. We felt it was important to show that our group like to take part in community events; however, due to the set-up of these events, it might not always be possible.

WHO WOULD TYPICALLY BE INVOLVED WITH THE ORGANISATION?

We have a core committee of about eight or nine people. We have many other volunteers who’d help us out at different events and activities. We certainly couldn’t run things without all the support we get locally and across the wider community. This year at our table quiz we received 45 donations of prizes from local business in Wicklow! I’d like to say just how grateful we are for all of their continuing support.

WHY DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH THE ORGANISATION?

My youngest son was diagnosed with autism back in 2013. Like most parents, I found myself in a sea of paperwork. I realised that I needed to empower myself to give my son the best start in life.

I went back to college and finished with a degree in social care, then worked in various disability organisations around the country, dealing with adults as well as children. Meanwhile, I got involved with Triple A due to their great community spirit. It’s really infectious. I became chairperson last April when Alice O Donnell stepped down after eight years.

HAVE YOU ANY ADVICE FOR INDIVIDUALS OR FAMILIES WHO MIGHT BE FEELING ISOLATED AT THE MOMENT?

Don’t suffer in silence. I know what the frustration’s like, searching and waiting for an answer from someone, and getting nothing. It’s enough to make anyone pessimistic about their situation but really, no matter how lonely or helpless you might feel, there are supports out there.

If you’re looking to join a support group, come to one of their meetings. It’s that simple. Everyone in that room wants the same thing, the very best for their family members on the spectrum.