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23 April – Making The Right Connections Conference

image description

23 April – Making The Right Connections Conference

Welcome door sign on blue background
White circle with text: "How can communities become more responsive to the needs of people with intellectual disability and autism?"
Bottom of photo: "MAKING THE RIGHT CONNECTIONS" on a purple background.

A Praxis Care Conference

Making The Right Connections: How can communities become more responsive to the needs of people with intellectual disability and autism?

Date: 23 April 2024

Time: Registration from 9:00 am with presentations 9:30 am to 1:30 pm, followed by lunch

Location: CityNorth Hotel, Co. Meath

Cost: Free to attend, but spaces are limited

RSVP is required to ROIConference @ or form at the bottom of the page.

Conference Objectives

The UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities calls on us to ensure that individuals are supported to live independently and to be included in their community. From our experience in working with people with complex needs and their families, we are acutely aware that people with intellectual disability and autism are at risk of social exclusion and face many barriers to being treated equally within their community.

We wish to explore these, find ways to overcome the barriers and enhance the facilitators and ultimately make communities more responsive to the needs of people with intellectual disability and autism.


This conference is open to:

• people with intellectual disability and autism and their loved ones

• service providers

• commissioners

• students and academics

• those involved in service planning, policy and legislation

Refreshments and lunch will be provided.
When registering, please indicate dietary or accessibility requirements.


Professor Roy McConkey Emeritus Professor of Developmental Disabilities at University of Ulster (Chairperson)

The National Scene: Challenges and Opportunities

A psychologist by training, Roy has previously held posts in England, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. He has been a visiting Professor at the University of Cape Town, South Africa and Trinity College, Dublin. Roy has worked in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities for over 50 years and has authored, co-authored and edited over 15 books and published around 200 book chapters and research papers in learned journals. 

Adam Harris, Chief Executive at AsIAm

Autism-friendly communities

The story of AsIAm began in 2014. Adam Harris founded the organisation based on his own experiences growing up as a young autistic person in Ireland.

Frustrated at the lack of any real understanding of autism and by the many barriers to inclusion the autism community were and are subjected to, Adam’s aim was to amplify the autistic voice and start a national conversation. What began in 2014 as an online platform for the community to access information and share experiences quickly grew into a movement for change for the autism community.

Dr. Geraldine Boland, Freelance Researcher and Adjunct Assistant Professor at UCD Centre for Disability Studies

Social inclusion in neighbourhoods- how can adults with intellectual disabilities be best supported to make connections? 

Geraldine will give an overview of common barriers and facilitators to engaging locally. She will also give a summary of recent Irish research. She will highlight implications for practice and some tools that can be used by staff and family members supporting individuals to make connections with people and places close to where they live. 

Prior to her research work, Geraldine worked in leadership positions in Irish services for people with intellectual disability.

Geraldine’s research interests include:

  • social inclusion of adults with intellectual disabilities in neighbourhoods and the supporting role of service providers;
  • the role of siblings in the lives of adults with intellectual disabilities;
  • accessibility of local public and commercial services.

Luke O’Daly, Resident at Praxis Care

Lived experience

Luke’s personal experiences will be shared at the event. An example of the independence he has developed to access his community is going on walks on his own to the local rugby club. Luke brings his mobile phone to use in the event of an emergency. Luke will inform staff of the time he is leaving and the time he is expected to return at. This has become one of Luke’s favourite activities.

Professor Malcolm MacLachlan, Professor of Psychology and Social Inclusion and Co-director of the ALL (Assisting Living & Learning) Institute at Maynooth University

Setting the scene nationally

Malcolm was the inaugural Lead for the National Clinical Programme for People with Disabilities (NCPPD) in the HSE (Irish Health Service) from 2020-2023. 

Dr. Martin Canavan, Learning & Development Manager at Praxis Care

Co-Producing a practice learning community to support people with autism

Martin’s current research interests include an exploration of the pivotal role of L&D in organisational development and service delivery change management, utilising logic modelling and application of learning to practice methodologies.

Martin is an active member in a number of Praxis Care developmental working groups, which include: embedding PBS into service delivery; the SPELL Champions initiative; and the development of an Assisted Decision Making Act Practitioners’ resource.

Peter Brabazon, Founder and CEO of Specialisterne Ireland CLG

Employment for people with autism

Peter is a Dubliner and is married with three sons, one of whom has Asperger autism. In 2012 after 35 years working as an engineer and manager Peter became a Founder and CEO of Specialisterne Ireland CLG, a social enterprise company and registered charity.

Specialisterne Ireland is a not-for-profit recruitment and support service that promotes and supports employment for people with autism spectrum and similar neurodiverse challenges. Through its employer partnerships it arranges for candidates to be recruited through an autism friendly process. Following a multi-stage assessment process, candidates may be placed in one of our partner companies and paid at the full rate for their work. In addition, Specialisterne Ireland provides individual on-going employment support for those candidates and their employers.

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