Leading specialist says Clare can become Autism Awareness Hub

County Clare could become the autism awareness hub of Europe, a leading specialist on that subject has told a Shannon Chamber seminar.

Autism spectrum condition specialist, Dr Susan Crawford, PhD said that Clare County Council and a number of businesses, schools, sports and public amenities have undertaken significant initiatives to create a better understanding of autistic people’s needs in recent years.

Dr Crawford was conducting training on autism awareness, understanding and acceptance for a number of local businesses and interest groups at the Chamber event, as part of Clare County Council’s initiative in this field.

She outlined how various interests have promoted greater autism awareness in recent years. All libraries in the county undertook training and produced video clips of their premises and what can be expected when visiting their libraries, for their websites.

“Shannon Airport is a world leader in the provision of support and services in this field. SuperValu in Miltown Malbay is just one of a number of businesses and public amenities that have undertaken training and offer appropriate support,” said Dr Crawford.

“The county has led the way on many fronts over the years and I believe it has the capacity to excel in this particular sphere too,” she said.

“There is no reason why it cannot attract leading researchers and innovators interested in the subject to the county. Exploring the strengths of autism, Steve Silberman documented in ‘Neurotribes’ how many of those engaged in Silicon Valley were found to be autistic. Clare has the potential to be the autism support hub of Europe,” Dr Crawford added.

In her training presentation, Dr Crawford spoke in detail about the various aspects of autism and experiences of autistic people. This included definition and diagnosis of the condition; social communication and interaction; some common traits, patterns and strengths, and sensory processing difficulties.

Steps to assist autistic people at work were also outlined. These included having a well-structured environment, providing sensitive yet direct feedback and offering support in stressful situations.

Dr Crawford offers training in autism awareness to businesses and public amenities in the county, with certification of participation being provided in collaboration with Clare County Council.

Commenting on the training initiative, Helen Downes, Shannon Chamber CEO said that the provision of an inclusive work environment for autistic people is an important priority. “We will explore further opportunities to expand training for companies in this field through our Chamber Skillnet network, in cooperation with Dr Crawford and Clare County Council,” she added.