Irish Autism Action (IAA) was founded in 2001 as a voluntary organisation of parents to help advise families living with autism in Ireland. In 2004 IAA undertook a strategic review which led to the establishment of a national office. Since 2004 key achievements have been:
1) Autism in Ireland: Prevalence Study
A team of researchers from the DCU School of Nursing established that the prevalence rates of autism in Irish children is around 1% quite similar to UK and US figures. This landmark study into the prevalence of autism in Ireland was conducted by Professor Anthony Staines and Dr Mary Rose Sweeney as principal investigators, with Anthony Boilson of DCU and Alvaro Ramirez of European Protocol for Autism Prevalence as lead researchers. The study was part funded by Irish Autism Action.
The research involved a study of over 9000 children in Dublin, Galway, Waterford and Cork, and involved enormous cooperation from parents and schools. “Accurate prevalence estimates are important for several reasons, including monitoring trends, studying the burden of disease, determining risk factors, for policy making and health and social care provision”.
As the study shows that 1 in 100 people are affected by autism, this staggering statistic provides some idea of the scale of the issue and Irish Autism Action is striving forward in addressing this by lobbying a national campaign for the government to commit to a national strategy on autism.
2) Ireland’s First National Autism Awareness Day:
In 2016, Irish Autism Action managed to secure the support of the government to back the first ever Irish Autism Awareness Day, 8 years on from the first ever World Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd 2008 declared and supported by the United Nations. A series of government buildings participated in the “light it up blue campaign”, in acknowledgement of the 276,000 people in Ireland living with autism.
3) Solas Diagnostic Centre:
Given that parents faced unacceptable delays in receiving diagnoses through the public health system, IAA established the Solas Centre in 2008. The centre employed a multi-disciplinary diagnostic team for conducting assessments of children suspected to be on the autistic spectrum. The centre was able to do in one week, what the public system was taking 18 months to do. The centre diagnosed over 1000 children and was eventually closed for funding reasons and also, as it had succeeded in eliminating much of the public waiting list at that time.
4) Ireland’s First National Autism Centre:
IAA established the national autism centre in Multyfarnham Co Westmeath, in 2013. The centre operates as the headquarters for Irish Autism Action and also as a facility for meetings, training and therapy.
5) The establishment of 12 autism specific schools catering for needs of 350 children presenting with the most complex of needs. Our schools also have early intervention units.
6) Founding of an assessment and diagnostic centre, having assessed over 1000 children.
7) Provision of an advocacy support service to our members where on average 350 cases have been managed each year.
8) Outreach service to families in crisis with 70 to 80 families having benefitted each year.
9) Increase of our membership base to over 4000 individual members.
10) Provision of direct info service to over 200 families per week on entitlements, training, and provision of autism interventions that are evidenced-based including therapy services such as OT, SLT, psychology, counselling and behaviour support
11) IAA have been selected by Early Childhood Ireland to assist in creation of autism friendly pre-school settings. To date in this project IAA have developed an early intervention website which is scheduled to launch in October 2015. You can view the site as follows –www.accessautism.ie ,
12) IAA through our phone recycling scheme have provided assistive communication and learning devices (iPads) to over 3,000 families and a further 500 education packs to schools.
13) Establishment of the AUTISM ID cards.
14) Hosted the first ever Blue Nose Day in 2014 in partnership with GAA
15) Our website www.autismireland.ie Find us on Facebook/ Irish Autism with over 36,000 friends and over 11,000 following us on Twitter @IrishAutism
16) Calling for Government to support a national autism strategy
17) The Autism Friendly Badge and our autism friendly initiatives