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This week delegates from across Ireland, the UK and as far away as Australia signed into the “Being Awesome, Autism & Adulthood 2021” virtual conference to explore the challenges and opportunities for adults with autism. 

Co-produced by Newry based charity Bolster Community; young adults with autism from across Newry and Mourne and the Southern Health & Social Care Trust, the on-line conference brought together a mix of local young people, internationally acclaimed speakers and professionals from the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, and challenged some of the myths about autism and explored opportunities to improve the lives of adults with autism.

Jacinta Linden CEO of Bolster Community
Jacinta Linden CEO of Bolster Community

The stars of the event were Beth, David and Gary, three young adults who articulated how they want society, education and healthcare services to champion diversity. 

They were joined on the virtual stage by Adam Harris, founder and CEO of AsIAm, Ireland’s National Autism Charity, which he founded based on his own experiences growing up on the autism spectrum. 

Also, on stage was Jude Morrow an autistic author, social worker, motivational speaker and advocate for all things Autism and Neurodiversity. Jude is the author of the globally acclaimed “Why Does Daddy Always Look So Sad?” 

“As someone who people spent their time trying to change, I see it as my turn now! Attitudes, perceptions and prejudices need to change – not us!” - Jude Morrow. 

Shane Devlin, CEO of Southern Health and Social Care Trust opened the conference by welcoming delegates.

Shane stated that “co-design and co-production is key to being awesome.  Stakeholders from health, education, housing, local government, families and people with autism must come together to design and deliver services in a society that are accessible, provide opportunities and support independence.”

Jacinta Linden CEO of Bolster Community said “Many young adults with mixed ability attend Bolster Community social enterprise, where they make amazing soy wax candles and vegan friendly soaps WWW.BOLSTERCOMMUNITY.ORG.  We have been struck by the numbers who struggle to find support services. They tell us that they feel unfulfilled at home, at work and throughout wider society.   This conference, stated Jacinta brought together three young people who are determined not to be left behind and who absolutely aspire to “Being Awesome” and is a celebration of the good that flows from listening and responding to those people who know the reality of living with autism. 

Jacinta went on to say “With support from leaders like, Barney McNeany, Liz McMonagle, Ivor Crothers and Noreen McComiskey from SHSCT, we have listened and learned from a wide-ranging consultative team to bring this conduit for change into focus!  We hope the conference highlights what is possible when the appropriate supports and services are connected and that “Being Awesome” is within reach for all.”

For further information contact allison@bolstercommunity.org or ring 02830835764.

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