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Conference Tackles Community Responsiveness to Intellectual Disabilities and Autism

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Conference Tackles Community Responsiveness to Intellectual Disabilities and Autism

We recently led a conference focused on advancing inclusion and empowerment for individuals with autism and intellectual disabilities. It was held at the CityNorth Hotel & Conference Centre in Co. Meath. A diverse array of stakeholders, experts and advocates attended. Their purpose was to delve into pressing issues and explore pioneering solutions in this field.

Professor Roy McConkey served as the conference chair. He set the tone of the meeting by urging action to match rhetoric on inclusion. Highlighting the potential for Ireland to become a more inclusive society, he stressed the importance of fostering genuine connections within communities.

Carol Breen, Anne Rabbitte, Ken Brundle, Amanda Gray

Minister of State for the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Youth & Integration, Anne Rabbitte, echoed his sentiment. She underlined the government’s commitment to ensuring no one is left behind, and called for a rights-based approach to disability. As well, she lauded our longstanding efforts as we celebrate 40 years as a charity in 2024.

Keynote speakers provide insights and recommendations.

Professor Malcolm “Mac” MacLachlan encouraged attendees to consider technological innovations as ‘liberating’ rather than as a threat. A reminder that innovations can give staff more time to provide focused care.

Dr. Geraldine Boland told how her research highlighted the social isolation experienced by many individuals with disabilities. She emphasised the importance of friendly acquaintances, and of ensuring people with disabilities have the opportunity to get into their communities to interact with others.

Speakers from the charity sector

Adam Harris, CEO of AsIAm

Other speakers from the charity sector weighed in, as well. Peter Brabazon, CEO of the Specialisterne charity, emphasised the importance of inclusive workplaces and outlined practical steps for employers to support neurodivergent applicants.

Adam Harris, CEO of AsIAm and an individual with autism himself, asked, “I have to adapt every day for a world not built with me in mind. When is the world going to meet me halfway?” He shared powerful survey data that showed the lack of true acceptance in Irish society of autistic people. However, he was also hopeful, giving examples of communities and events that are adapting to be autism-friendly.

Innovation and initiatives

The conference also featured updates on innovative interventions and initiatives. Dr. Martin Canavan explained how Praxis Care uses research to inform practice. Including using innovative implementation
strategies to get autism intervention consistently applied throughout the charity.

Highlight of the conference

Luke O’Daly and audience

A highlight of the conference was Luke O’Daly, who introduced a video showing a day in his life. Conference attendees were able to hear about his personal journey. The video told how he started as a
non-speaking child that did not want to go out of the house. It went on to show that now he independently goes out in his community. He can spend an afternoon out on his own, interacting with people at the library and shops in Navan.

Amanda Gray, Director of Care and Development

As Amanda Gray, Director of Care and Development at Praxis Care, said in her remarks, “We need our communities to adapt and welcome the people we support as valued members of their community, who participate and contribute in a meaningful way and have the same opportunities to experience the positive outcomes.”

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