A greater number of men are diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a condition which affects several thousand people in Ireland, according to a senior clinical psychologist who addressed a presentation on the subject in Athenry recently.
Rachel Counihan, who is the team co-ordinator with the Athenry Autism Spectrum Disorder service, stated that the syndome now forms part of the autism spectrum and is no longer given as a separate diagnosis.
“The autism spectrum is a very broad one, affecting people in a variety of ways and no two people on the spectrum are affected in exactly the same way,” she explained.
“The areas of difficulty for those on the spectrum can largely be summed up under three headings: social communication, social interaction, and stereotyped interests and/or repetitive patterns of behaviour.”
She went on to pay tribute to Adam Harris, a young man with Aspergers Syndrome, who delivered a presentation on the subject on the day. He is the founder of AsIAm, an autism charity established in March 2013 with the goals of encouraging a society of inclusion through education, empowerment, advocacy, provision of information and training and community participation.
Ms Counihan described his presentation as “outstanding” and acknowledged his work with AsIAM.
“Adam’s presentation focused on his personal experience of growing up with a diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome and the challenges that he and his family faced, including his experiences in both special and mainstream schools. He talked about the work that he does in educating young people in schools about autism, his plans for ensuring people with autism utilise their skills in paid employment and in policy development.
“He cited a number of challenges for people living with autism and gave thoughtful suggestions on what changes could be made. Adam’s honesty, coupled with his own personal experiences, provided a unique perspective on the opportunities and challenges faced by families whose children have such diagnoses.”
She outlined that the open discussion following his presentation gave young people an opportunity to talk about their diagnoses and living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD ).
“Feedback from parents was very positive and the presentation was described by many as being inspirational.”
Catherine Cunningham, the area manager of the Galway and Roscommon, Primary, Community and Continuing Care Services, said the talk was the first in a number of events being organised and hosted by the HSE-run ASD team.
“The autism service, which is based in the Athenry Primary Care Centre, espouses a strengths-based model which focuses on the unique abilities of children and young people with autism spectrum condition.
“The team provides assessment and intervention to young people and their families in both Galway and Roscommon. It also aims to work in collaboration with existing agencies to provide support both direct and consultative to other professionals.”
The team accepts referrals from professionals who have worked with the children over a period of time and where evidence exists from at least two professionals about possible autistic spectrum disorder in more than one setting. Referral forms can be obtained by contacting the team on (091 ) 737340.
The event, which was organised by the Athenry based Galway Roscommon autism service, was aimed at families of children currently receiving a service from the team.