Monday 14th May saw a very special gathering in Croke Park Dublin, as decision makers, public representatives, commissioners, regulators, campaigners, human rights activists, service delivery organisations, health and social care professionals and people with autism and their families and carers met to discuss the past, present and future of Autism in Ireland.
The conference was organised by a unique partnership between Inspire, Cork Autism Association and Irish Society for Autism. Inspire CEO Peter McBride said “Working together our three organisations aimed to create a day to celebrate how far the movement for the inclusion of people with autism has come, reflect on current success and barriers to develop and look to the future with optimism and determination.”
The event was opened by Finnian McGrath, Minister for State with special responsibility for people with Disabilities, who remarked on the importance of the event and the inclusive nature of the speakers, venue and audience.
People with autism and their families and carers participated in the event as panel members, speakers and in the numerous question and answer sessions spread throughout the day.
The keynote speaker was world renowned journalist Ron Suskind who shared his family’s story of life with his son Owen. Ron’s bestselling book Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes and Autism, was adapted into an Academy Award-nominated documentary. Life, Animated tells the story of his youngest son, Owen, who, after being diagnosed with autism, found a way to reengage with the world around him.
Ron’s fascinating and engaging talk told how seizing upon Owen’s love of animated Disney movies, the Suskind family re-enacted the films with him, pioneering a now-widely acknowledged method of emulative communication known as Affinity Therapy.
Speaking before the event Ron said “I’m excited to be coming to the Inspire conference in Dublin to share my family’s story. The autism community is truly global, and I’m looking forward to hearing about the journey of other families with autism."
Watch the conference video here-
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