We are grateful to everyone who supported AsIAm during World Autism Month. Every April, discussions about Autism Awareness ignite across the world, but this year AsIAm was committed to advancing beyond Awareness and into action. Reflecting on our work so far, AsIAm announced our commitment to directly support over 25,000 autistic people by 2025. To meet this ambitious goal, AsIAm required the support of the public and you did not disappoint! Whether it was taking part in our walks, hosting coffee mornings or donating, we saw our community rise to the challenge. Let’s take a moment to look back over the last month and all the people who came together.
Same Chance Report
The launch of our Same Chance Report saw World Autism Month begin on a reflective note. The report, which can be read here, was based on an unprecedented level of community engagement and served as a sobering reminder of the barriers autistic people still face. Anton Savage hosted the event which featured discussions by CEO Adam Harris, autistic filmmaker Stephen Ford, Marie Reilly of Irish Jobs, teacher Maggie Greene and TDs James Browne and Micheál Carrigy. They spoke about the data presented in the report and points of action moving forward. Most of the speakers were also parents of autistic children and drew on their own experiences as they spoke about the meaning of AsIAm’s work to them. The event was closed with a musical performance by autistic singer/songwriter Emma Langford. If you missed the launch you can watch it online here.
Walking for Autism
The AsIAm Walk for Autism saw families from across Ireland gather for a 5km walk in the beautiful countryside setting of Belmont Demesne, Co. Wicklow. After a series of speeches by Adam Harris and Fiachna Ó’Braonáin, families walked together in support of AsIAm. Afterwards, we celebrated with some family fun through magic shows, face-painting and a mini-farm on a truly memorable day. This community spirit continued with the Boyne Valley Camino as part of our 23 for 23 challenge.
Same Chance Fundraising
Community members across the country rose in support of AsIAm with a series of fundraising events. The Same Chance School Challenge saw students and staff work together through bake sales, silly sock days and even our coin flip challenge! Workplaces such as Tesco, Nostra, ATU Sligo and NCIRL hosted coffee mornings in aid of AsIAm, with coffee provided by over a dozen participating cafés providing customized cups. One of these coffee mornings made national news, with community members Louise and Aisling sharing their experiences with Ireland AM which you can watch here. Our Autism Friendly Towns such as Castlebar, Waterford and Tralee took their fundraising to another level, hosting special community events as part of World Autism Month.
Adult Support and Wellbeing
AsIAm’s Adult Support & Wellbeing Programme reached its highest activity level over April and is set to grow further. The Adult Support and Wellbeing Programme hosted four informative webinars on a variety of themes in which the adult autistic community expressed interest. Over 4000 autistic adults took part. In one such webinar, AsIAm had the privilege of collaborating with ADHD Ireland, Dyspraxia Ireland and the Dyslexia Association of Ireland on a webinar entitled ‘Neurodiversity Affirmative Language’. Due to positive feedback from the adult autistic community, four new groups were launched in April. Our Book Club, which is the longest-running of all the Adult Support Groups, hosted a brilliant, informative session with author Darren Shan, after reading his novels as part of the group’s activities. The following groups are due to launch in May and June: A second Women’s Peer Support Group (bringing our total of women’s peer support groups to five!), Trans and Non-Binary Peer Support Group, LGBTQIA+ Peer Support Group, Self-Advocacy Peer Support Group, Lego Chess, Drama, and Yoga.
Child and Family Support
It was a wonderful and busy April for the Child and Family Support Programme, with 45 group events held for children and families. We were thrilled to expand our Hangout Clubs to Mayo, Cork and North Dublin. It has also been great to introduce new clubs, such as the very popular Coding Club, and our 2023 Youth Leadership Team. We also introduced work experience opportunities for our young people at the launch of our Same Chance Report. April also saw us continue our Empower and Educate programme for parents of newly diagnosed children, as well as our Next Steps group for parents of children transitioning to a new school stage. We also held some brilliant information sessions on a range of topics, such as the Equal Status Act. As ever, it has been our pleasure to see such fantastic connections building between the children and families on the programme.