With World Autism Day coming up on Sunday, April 2, the whole country is raising awareness and Longford is no different, with MWB Autism Support hosting a public meeting last week with Adam Harris, founder of AsIam.
People turned up in their droves on Tuesday, March 21 last, to listen to Adam speak about his experiences with Autism, and the work he does as an advocate for the condition.
“I thought it was very well-attended and it was quite an honour to have him in Longford to speak to us - he’s a very busy man,” said Chairperson of the MWB Autism Support Group Michael Bryson.
Brother of Minister for Health, Simon Harris, and advocate for Autism, Adam founded AsIAm.ie based on his own experiences of living with Asperger's Syndrome - a condition on the Autism Spectrum.
Adam spent three years in special education, five in mainstream primary education with the support of a Special Needs Assistant, and completed Secondary School without the support of an SNA.
As Adam benefited from early intervention, he felt the need to do something to give back to the Autism community in Ireland and felt that a poor online presence and a society which does not truly understand the condition were key elements of the challenges people with Autism face.
At the public meeting, Adam spoke to the large crowd of attendees about his experiences with Autism, the work of AsIam.ie, and also the various other challenges facing the Autism community in Ireland.
“He just got up there and he spoke. He didn’t want a microphone because he doesn’t like them,” said Michael Bryson.
“But he talked for 40 minutes and then he opened it up to the floor for a Q&A session, so the parents and the teachers had their say, and there was a bit of debate about issues and funding, but that’s healthy.
“There were a good few parents, teachers and SNAs in attendance from schools, so it was very enlightening for them.”
Adam Harris has received a lot of media attention lately, following his appearance on the Late Late Show a couple of weeks ago, and the RTE broadcast of ‘Autism and Me’, starring Adam himself.
“He was a very interesting character. People came from all over the country to hear him speak - a lot of primary and secondary school teachers,” said Mr Bryson.
People attended from Longford, as well as neighbouring counties Offaly, Westmeath, Leitrim, Cavan and Roscommon. And some came from as far away as Mayo to hear Adam speak.
One parent commented on the night: “Brilliant talk by Adam Harris this evening - such an inspiring young man. Here’s hoping for a more positive future for our little heroes.”
Ahead of World Autism Day, MWB Autism Support is encouraging those with Autism and their families to get in touch and join a local support group.
If you would like to get in touch with MWB Autism Support, you can do so online so by visiting www.mwbautism.com or finding MWB Autism Support on Facebook. Facebook msessage will be responded to.
Alternatively, you can contact Chairperson Michael Bryson on 087 9877 342, or Vice-chairperson Siobhan Kelly on 086 1077 897.