The Munster Express 29 March 2022yar

Newspaper clipping from The Munster Express Autism Opportunities Event

Text of article: Autism Opportunities Event

Saturday April 2nd is International Autism Awareness Day and Waterford Disability Network are hosting an information and networking event in St. Patrick’s Gateway Centre, Patrick Street, Waterford City with speeches beginning at 2pm. There will be numerous speakers talking about both the hurdles faced by and opportunities available to autistic people in Waterford. There will also be ideas put forward on how things can be improved, and examples given of success in improving services and opportunities for autistic people elsewhere.

This is a great opportunity to learn from not only what the guest speakers have to say on a range of issues but also to network, meet others in similar situations, some further along the road than yourself. For example, parents of young autistic children can benefit from talking to parents of adult autistic children, learning what challenges lie ahead, what supports are available etc. Facilitating networking is an important role of WDN and bringing people together at meetings has provided many opportunities for people to get to know each other and in many cases work together on various projects or simply to share information.

Among the speakers will be Amanda Fox who is coordinator of Cara Autism Support Service which is the unit within the NLN training centre on the Cork Road, Waterford, which provides specialized support for individuals with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Amanda will speak of how this is a highly proactive, structured and holistic service providing person centered outreach support.

WDN intend working closely into the future on numerous projects with Teresa Carr-Buckley and her colleagues in both New Ross Autism Friendly Town and Dreambig Project Southeast. She will talk about how Dreambig Project envisages a full range of services for autistic people, including employment, with both a bakery and a café among the list of things hoped to achieve at a location in the Southeast and how groups and individuals throughout the Southeast can work together and complement each other.

In contrast, Karen O’Mahony and her husband John, have already achieved in Cork City much of what the Dreambig Project Southeast hopes to. They set up the “Rainbow Club Cork Centre for Autism”. She will speak about the range of services they provide and what can be achieved with hard work and a purpose. One of the success stories from The Rainbow Club is her own teenage son Seán who found his passion for baking there and in May 2021 set up a business for himself trading as “The Autistic Baker” gaining widespread coverage on RTÉ and elsewhere last year.

Speaking about the event Seán Rohan, Office Manager of Waterford Disability Network, said “We are very excited to finally have our first post lockdown event and are in advanced planning stages for more about different issues affecting those with a disability throughout Waterford.

We are also proud that this will be the first conference on autism ever to be held in the Southeast. There will be a wide range of speakers with experience of the challenges faced and opportunities available to autistic persons from a very young age to much older and it will be especially interesting to compare the hopes and plans Teresa will speak of to the experiences Karen has had with establishing the Rainbow Club. There will be representatives from numerous organisations attending so plenty opportunity to network and with several politicians expected to be present we can further increase awareness of the issues faced by Autistic people in Waterford and generally.”

This is a free event, though donations to Waterford Disability Network, a registered non-profit charity, are always welcome. Light refreshments will be provided by catering students from the Waterford NLN Training Centre and all are welcome. For more details and info on additional speakers to be announced please follow Waterford Disability Network on Facebook.

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