Autism Acceptance

Autism Acceptance Week 2023, in partnership with DCU and ATU Sligo, took place 17-21 April.

6 hands reaching in and resting on top of each other


DCU, NCI and ATU Sligo are, respectively, the first, second and third HEIs in Ireland to receive AsIAm designation as Autism Friendly HEIs. 

We were delighted to work together to host the second annual Autism Acceptance Week, delivering a series of public-facing events to centre autistic people and promote autism acceptance. All events were online and free to attend. 

A list of resources that were identified as useful from issues that arose from panel discussions from both the 2023 and 2022 events can be found below. 

2023 Event Information

The below events took place during Autism Acceptance Week 2023, 18th-21st April.

#DivergentMinds

17 April - 4 May 2023

At 11am every day throughout Autism Acceptance Week and beyond, neurodivergent students shared their art, poetry and more on the hashtag #DivergentMinds, posted on @NCIRL and shared by DCU and ATU Sligo

Take a break from work or study for your elevenses, and look inside some divergent minds.

Videos

"Am I Disabled Enough" by Sam

 

"Who Am I" by Lia H James

 

When I Grow Up I Want To Be

1-2pm, Tuesday 18th April 2023

Jessica K Doyle is Autistic, Adhd and otherwise Neurodivergent, an Assistant Psychologist at the Adult Autism Practice and a Director at Thriving Autistic. Jessica K is the co-author of The Adult Autism Assessment Handbook. Jessica K is currently consulting on an autism, neurodiversity and relationships project at the Muiriosa Foundation, and is the 2022 chair of the PSI Special Interest Group in Autism. Jessica K is a speaker, writer and filmmaker exploring her own experience as an Autistic adult and her somewhat scenic journey through life as well as exploring theory, research and practice relating to sensory perception and Autistic/ND experience. 

Jessica K consults for various organisation and has conducted international research and is a current researcher on several projects with DCU. Jessica K is passionate about exploring Autistic perception and repositioning the lens away from thwarting Neurodivergent authenticity to designing for diversity, fostering growth and committing to universal design. 

You can view a recording of this event, which includes a showing of Jessica K’s film, When I grow up I want to be…  and the Q&A that followed, moderated by Fiona Earley, Autism Friendly University Coordinator at DCU. Or you can simply watch the film without commentary (approx. 20 min duration) below. 

Note, at times the screen goes dark and there is audio only: this is part of the film. Also mentioned during the Q&A is another short informational video by Jessica K on The Autistic Neurotype, or if you prefer to watch the video without background music, please see The Autistic Neurotype (No Music Version).

Jessica also recommends this useful resource on monotropism (a theory of autism by autistic people).

While our events focused on Higher Education, Jessica recommends this book by an Irish Autistic adult, teacher and parent, which would be helpful when guiding autistic children through the transition from primary to secondary school - The Strengths-Based Guide to Supporting Autistic Children.

Another useful resource is Thriving Autistic, which links to an international network of neurodivergent psychologists, therapists, coaches and educators, as well as many free resources, including for families, the workplace and healthcare.

Supporting Neurodivergent Students in the Classroom

1-2.30pm, Wednesday 19th April 2023

The panel included Amanda Mc Guinness, AsIAm; Miranda Lee Curry, current NCI student; Dr Marc Farbi, Leeds Beckett University, who each presented their advice to educators and then answered questions, moderated by Dr Leo Casey, Director CELL at NCI.

Amanda spoke about her past experiences of attending University as an undergraduate without supports and accommodations in place and her current positive experiences of attending University to undertake a Masters with supports and accommodations that suit her learning style and strengths as an Autistic individual. 

Miranda shared her perspective on what autistic students want an educator to know: who is autistic? and working against your internal biases, and the invisible barriers to education. 

Based on his experiences from the Autism&Uni and IMAGE projects, Marc talked about how best to support young autistic people during the transition from school into third-level education, and then into employment. His talk is particularly relevant to academics, disability advisors and careers advisors working in a university context. 

Following their presentations, a panel discussion was moderated by Dr Leo Casey, Director of the Centre for Education and Lifelong Learning at NCI. 

Amanda Mc Guinness is an Autistic Advocate and an Autism & Visual Supports Specialist. She is a Law Graduate currently undertaking a Master of Childhood Speech Language and Communication Needs at University Galway. Amanda is a Training Officer in AsIAm and the creator of the “Auti” character online through her social media littlepuddins.ie, which teaches and educates on Autistic lived experiences. Her areas of specialism include Visual Supports, Autistic Identity & Culture, Autistic Masking, Autistic Communication, and Autistic Lived Experience Education. She has extensive experience supporting Autistic children and their families. 

Miranda Curry is a 29-year-old autistic woman currently earning a BA Honours degree in Psychology at NCI. She is originally from Florida, USA, and she moved to Dublin in 2021. Currently, she also works part-time as a Research Intern at the Early Learning Initiative (ELI) at NCI, and she has recently started her work as an Autistic Advocate. Her career aspirations are to work in autism research to improve psychology’s, and therefore society’s, understanding of the autistic mind, to lead to better supports and treatment. As an advocate, she hopes to become a bridge between the research and autistic communities. 

Dr Marc Fabri is Reader in Participatory Design at Leeds Beckett University. His research revolves around supporting autistic young people during the key transitions from school into further and higher education, and then into employment. He has led three multinational, European funded projects: Autism&Uni, IMAGE and DesignMyFuture.

You can now view a live recording of this event. During the Q&A, Amanda recommended the books of Dr Luke Beardon, Marc includes links to many additional resources in his slides, which you can access here. Marc briefly referred to Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and you can learn more here.

Being An Ally As A Student And Peer

1-2pm, Thursday 20th April 2023

Ollie Bell from ShoutOut spoke about the autistic LGBTQ+ experience, in particular around trans identity and trans rights.

Ollie Bell first got involved with ShoutOut as a volunteer in 2016. They are now working with ShoutOut as their Education Coordinator, after completing their Masters in Community and Youth Work at Maynooth University. They work with ShoutOut's many amazing volunteers and liaise with schools interested in having LGBTQ+ educational workshops Following Ollie’s presentation, Linda Mulligan, Disability and Inclusion Officer at ATU Sligo, will moderate an audience Q&A.

You can watch back this event here. During the conversation, Ollie referenced Belong To (support group for LGBTQ+ youth) and TENI (support group for trans people). Ollie also mentioned that both autistic and LGBTQ+ people can be subject to bullying and abuse. If you have been affected by bullying, this article will be of value to you. Those seeking to assist others or who are themselves living in an abusive relationship can find support here. Ollie also referred to ABA: to learn more, read Statement on Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) - AsIAm. Linda has provided us with a number of other resources.

The Neurodivergent Talent Pool

1-2.30pm, Friday 21st April 2023

Moderated by Marketing Director, Robert Ward (in his role as a member of NCI’s Autism Friendly Campus committee), Peter Brabazon of Specialisterne was joined by Graham Keatley from SAP and Ryan McGinley from Accenture to talk about both the employer and employee experience in attracting and retaining neurodivergent candidates.

You can watch a recording of this event here and you can access the videos that were mentioned during the event below:

Other Resources

Read

Explaining Autism to Young People

  • Littlepuddins.ie is a site created by Amanda Mc Guinness, featuring her character Autie, who shares a lived experience of autism.
  • Aoife Dooley’s Frankie’s World and Finding My Voice are graphic novels designed for tween to teen readers, following Frankie from diagnosis through school life.

Books on the Intersection of Autism and Trans and/or Non-Binary People: 

Books About Autism by Autistic Authors: 

Applied Behavioural Analysis and Masking 

Organisations Run by Autistic and Neurodivergent People, for that Group:

2022 Event Information and Resources

Explore the events that took place during Autism Acceptance Week 2022 and review the resources gathered from the issues addressed.

Watch Party - Seeing the Unseen

Movie poster for Seeing the Unseen, an Icelandic documentary

7-9pm, Tuesday 26th April 2022

Seeing the Unseen is an Icelandic documentary, sharing the stories of 17 autistic women. The film was then at the centre of Wednesday’s panel discussion (which included Elín Sigurðadóttir, one of the women featured in the film pictured above, alongside Stefanie Preissner and Aoife Dooley).  

Access to view the documentary was provided by kind permission of the film’s Director and Producer, Bjarney Luðviksdottir, specifically to inform NCI/DCU’s panel discussion. For any queries regarding licensing this documentary, contact bjarney@eyjafilm.com

Content Advice: 

This documentary details both positive and negative experiences autistic women have had; be aware that the negative experiences include suicidal thoughts and descriptions of bullying (particularly at 22:30 to 26:40), and physical and sexual violence (particularly at 34:34 to 36:58). 

Resources:

  • Samaritans: If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, phone the Samaritans now on 116 113. You can find further supports here.
  • Spunout: If you have been affected by bullying, this article will be of value to you
  • SafeIreland: Those seeking to assist others or who are themselves living in an abusive relationship can find support here

Women and Autism

Headshots of Elín Sigurðadóttir, Stefanie Preissner and Aoife Dooley

1-2.30pm, Wednesday 27th April

Elín Sigurðadóttir, one of the women featured in Seeing the Unseen, was joined by Stefanie Preissner (writer, podcaster, actress, influencer) and Aoife Dooley (illustrator, author and stand-up comedian), to share and discuss the experiences of autistic women and girls and respond to audience questions. Facilitated by Fiona Early, Autism Friendly Campus Coordinator at DCU.

Aoife Dooley is an award-winning illustrator, author and comedian. She is also a graphic designer and public speaker.In 2018 Aoife was diagnosed as Autistic at the age of 27, She has shared how a diagnosis helped her to truly begin to understand herself and has created comics and diagrams around the subject of what Autism is to her.  In 2020, Scholastic UK acquired rights to Frankie’s World, a graphic novel based on Aoife’s real-life experiences of Autism. It was published in January 2022 and with praise from the Guardian and the Irish Times amongst others, it went to reprint after a month of its release. Frankie’s World is being published by Graphix and will be coming to stores across the US in August 2022.

Elín Sigurðadóttir is a 31-year-old student, who is also a radio amateur and scout, late diagnosed as autistic at the age of 26. She is currently studying Applied Earth Sciences at the Technical University of Delft, Netherlands, because she is interested in the technology behind studying natural phenomena. She also happens to like rocks, especially volcanic, but that's a given!  She participated in the movie Seeing the Unseen because she felt like it was the right thing to do, and has since participated in viewings, Q&A's and discussion panels on autism, whenever she has the spoons or gets the chance to. 

Stefanie Preissner is a screen-writer, author and weekly columnist for the Sunday Independent LIFE Magazine. She hosts a popular contemporary podcast Basically…. with Stefanie Preissner and is a regular radio and TV contributor. She was nominated for the 2021 Mental Health Media Awards for her continued work reducing stigma by sharing her own struggles in her newspaper column and podcast. Stefanie is proudly autistic.

Resources

  • Spoon Theory: Elín mentioned this theory which is a metaphor for the amount of mental or physical energy a person has available for daily activities
  • Spoon Theory Analogy: An audience member came up with her own way of describing spoons to neurotypical friends
  • Spectrum Women: Stefanie Preissner mentioned finding this book, written by Barb Cook, useful
  • AsIAm: An audience member asked about resources for parents of autistic children. AsIAm, Ireland's National Autism Charity, is a great place to start. You can also find resources for adults seeing a diagnosis, which admittedly is not a straightforward or accessible process in Ireland at the moment
  • Autistics Ireland Facebook Group: An idea that arose from the event was a space where Autistic Women could gather and share their experiences. The seeds of this idea have been planted, and if they come to fruit, we will add details to this resource page. In the meantime, there is an existing Facebook Group for Autistic Adults in Ireland which you might like to join

Autism in Education

1-2.30pm, Thursday 28th April

Lessons for educators: how can educators help autistic students to thrive in their classrooms and their institutions? What would members of the autistic community wish that people around them in educational and other settings knew?

Laoċín Brennan – Neurodiversity my experience

Headshot of Laoċín BrennanLaoċín was the first GetAHEAD intern in AHEAD, and is now Team Support Officer, a multifaceted role including public speaking on topics such as self-advocacy, the language of disability and the history of neurodivergence. Laoċín founded DCU’s Neurodivergent Society, the first of its kind in Europe. During his time in DCU he won many awards for his contributions to college life, including DCU's President's Award for Student Engagement 2020/21. He is passionate about human rights and takes an intersectional approach. Laoċín became aware of ableism in 2013, upon receiving the first of many diagnoses. Now, he is pursuing a career in disability advocacy with vigour, in the hopes of being the change he wants to see in the world. 

Billy Redmond - Making acceptance happen in education

Headshot of Billy Redmond

Billy is currently Principal of North Wicklow Educate Together Secondary School. He also works as a consultant with a number of educational partners such as AsIAm, Irelands National Autism charity where he is supporting the Autism Friendly Schools Project with over 100 schools.  Previously he worked as National Co-ordinator for Teacher Induction (Post-Primary) (NIPT) and as a RDO with the National Behaviour Support Service (NBSS). He received his BEd Degree as a Home Economics and Religion and was teaching for 12 years prior to secondment. He has studied at postgraduate level in Guidance & Counselling, School Development Planning, Educational Management and Mentoring, Induction and CPD. 

Ciara-Beth Ní Ghríofa – What I wish people around me knew

Headshot of Ciara-Beth Ní Griofa

Ciara-Beth  was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder when she was 14, but has been Autistic her entire life. After building an application to support Autistic people in making and maintaining eye contact in a way that's comfortable for them as a research project, she discovered a passion for using and developing technologies to make the world more accessible to Autistic people. She's now in her final year of a psychology and computing degree in UCC, and is excited to continue advocating for making our society a more accessible one for neurodiverse people. 

Resources

Eric M. Garcia: We’re Not Broken

1-2pm, Friday 29th April

Eric discussed themes from his book We’re not broken. Changing the autism conversation, which he describes as a message from autistic people to their parents, friends, teachers, co-workers, and doctors, showing what life is like on the spectrum. It’s also his love letter to autistic people: “For too long, we have been forced to navigate a world where all the road signs are written in another language.”

Eric M. Garcia

Eric Garcia is the senior Washington correspondent for The Independent and a columnist for MSNBC. Previously, he was an assistant editor at the Washington Post's Outlook section and an associate editor at The Hill and a correspondent for National Journal, MarketWatch and Roll Call. He has also written for the Daily Beast, the New Republic, and Salon.com. Garcia is a graduate of the University of North Carolina. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Resources

Other Resources

Watch

  • Crip Camp on Netflix 
  • Douglas (Stand up) on Netflix 
  • Employable Me on BBC 
  • Spoon Theory
  • Ted Talk: Invisible Diversity: A Story Of Undiagnosed Autism
  • Ted Talk: A Higher Functioning Form Of Autism

Listen

Read

  • Can I Tell You About Autism? A Guide For Friends, Family and Professionals written by Jude Welton
  • All Cats Are On The Autism Spectrum written by Kathy Hoopmann
  • The Little Book of Autism FAQs: How to Talk with Your Child about Their Diagnosis and Other Conversations written by Davida Hartman
  • Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century written by Alice Wong
  • But You Don't Look Autistic At All written by Bianca Toeps
  • NeuroTribes written by Steve Silberman
  • The Reason I Jump written by Naoki Higashida
  • Drama Queen: One Autistic Woman and a Life of Unhelpful Labels written by Sara Gibbs

Explaining Autism to Younger People 

  • Dr Stephen Shore: Stephen was diagnosed back in the 50s or 60s and is now one of the leading Educational Psychologists in the field. He discusses how we can have this conversation in an age-appropriate way and build on it over time:
  • Children's Videos about Autism: Rosie King has been an autism advocate since she was a young child. She made this nice short documentary for the BBC and her and her brother's autism
  • RTÉ: The series called Pablo is all written and animated by autistic people and explains the condition. Both the BBC and RTÉ produced this together 
  • Sesame Street: Julia is an autistic character on Sesame Street