As I’ve said before, the Bank of Ireland workbench is a strange and wonderful place where great synergies happen. It is what the community make it and you never know who will walk in the door. This week, it was a 16-year-old Ciara-Beth Ni Ghriofa.
It has been a crazy week here with little time to rest, but you honestly couldn’t help but stop and be immediately taken by the way this she holds herself in pitching her ideas that will solve a global problem. That’s no doubt why this Galway girl has already come 15th in the global competition, Adobe Youth Voices. No sign of an Irish competition for her, straight to the international stage.
Ciara was diagnosed with Autism when she was 14 years old and is building a product to solve some of the problems she faced around that. Autism is a disorder that affects approximately one in 100 people in Ireland. Autism is a term used to describe a spectrum of disorders. There are some people who have very high functioning autism, which means they will be able to live an independent life when they grow up and then there are people with more severe autism who might rely on a carer for a significant portion of their lives. There are also half a million other “types” of autism out there. Everyone’s experience of autism is completely different, there will never be two cases the exact same. Some symptoms of autism include having sensory issues, having social difficulties, having issues understanding language and having trouble making eye contact. I spoke to Ciara:
What’s your experience with autism?
My case was harder to diagnose because my symptoms didn’t manifest in a stereotypical way. I developed normally as a baby, I was reaching milestones at the right ages. It was only when I reached first year of secondary school, and routine changed completely my parents realised we had a problem. After diagnosis, it was a lot easier for me to live my life, as we were able to make the appropriate adjustments to my life. Things like stress balls or blu tack to fidget with, mean I am now able to sit at a desk and concentrate for longer, and because we know now that I can’t handle certain textures, there are fewer arguments at the dinner table over eating mashed potatoes.
How did you get introduced to technology?
Through the Galway Autism Partnership, I joined Foroige. Foroige run the Techspace programme, which aims to encourage young people between the ages of 10 and 18 to be media creators as well as consumers. Some of the projects we work on include filmmaking, photography, app concept development, video editing, audio production and so much more. Through techspace, I’ve been given so many opportunities to learn about technology and in a world where we’re almost completely surrounded by it, that education is proving highly beneficial.
What’s the idea that you’re working on?
My latest idea is an app that could potentially be used as part of an early intervention programme for children with autism. It aims to help children with autism to feel more comfortable making eye contact, a problem that could be contributing to high unemployment rates in people with autism.
What help do you need to move forward?
I need mentorship. I need someone to show me the ropes and teach me how to build apps. I only have experience in app concept development, and I really want to take the plunge and learn how to build apps that will make a difference in people’s lives.
Supporting young people when they have the gumption and initiative to work and stride towards what they feel passionate about, is something the whole community has an obligation to do. Foroige are running a few fundraisers to help ensure more kids are introduced to all that they can be. Come along to the Mr & Mrs show on February 6 in the Clayton hotel, and February 20, a night at the dogs run by Medtronic. Book by calling Julie on 083 1445 999.