Monday 23 September 2019

Resolute, proud young people with autism look forward to brighter future

Student with ambition: Niamh Biddulph
Student with ambition: Niamh Biddulph

Alan O'Keeffe

More young adults with autism are entering the world of work better equipped to meet life's challenges.

Trinity College student Niamh Biddulph (21) travels by bus from Ashbourne to Dublin each day to participate in a two-year course which includes work placements and it can lead to paid internships.

When Niamh was diagnosed with autism as a toddler, her family were informed she would never be able to speak.

"I'm not letting my disability stop me from being an independent woman," she said.

She told the Sunday Independent she has enjoyed working in the Level 5 certificate course in arts, science and inclusive applied practice at the Trinity Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

Her course's work placement included working in the Bank of Ireland's business banking department.

She intends to progress further with her education and promote awareness of disability rights, she said.

Course coordinator Dr Mary-Ann O'Donovan said young people in the past were hugely excluded from mainstream education but there were more opportunities now.

She called for better access to student grants for young people with intellectual disabilities.

Both Ms Biddulph and Dr Mary-Ann O'Donovan will participate in an autism conference at Croke Park in Dublin tomorrow.

The conference has been organised by the charity Inspire, Cork Autism Association, and the Irish Society for Autism.

Inspire provides services in mental health, learning disability, addiction and professional well-being.

Inspire CEO Peter McBride said the conference will "celebrate how far the movement for the inclusion of people with autism has come, examine barriers to development and look to the future with optimism and determination".

The keynote speaker will be Pulitzer Prize-winning US journalist Ron Suskind.

His writings were adapted into an documentary which tells the story of his youngest son, Owen, who, after being diagnosed with autism, found a way to re-engage with the world around him through his love for Disney movies. His family re-enacted the films with him, pioneering a now widely acknowledged method of emulative communication known as Affinity Therapy.

"I'm excited to be coming to the Inspire Conference in Dublin to share my family's story. The Autism community is global and I'm looking forward to hearing the stories of their journeys," he said.

Sunday Independent

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