THE IRISH AUTISM ALLIANCE

The aims of the IAA are to represent people with autism on the island of Ireland, to liaise with the administrations and political parties north and south, to increase awareness of autism, and to improve the provision of health and educational services writes Seamus Murphy

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The Irish Autism Alliance (IAA) was formed on 7 July 2001, following a meeting at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Athlone. The fifteen founder member organisations of the alliance are all established parents groups and its patron is Kathy Sinnott.

According to figures recently released by the Irish Society for Autism, there has been a 400% increase in the number of people diagnosed with autism between 1994 and the end of last year (Irish Examiner 16 May 2001). It is crucial that politicians now tackle this crisis head-on to provide the early intensive intervention that has been proven worldwide to be the most successful way of maximising the potential of people with autism.

The IAA is open to individuals and groups. Because it is an ‘umbrella’ for existing groups, it is the IAA’s policy to refer individual members to a local group in the first instance. However, if there is no local group, or if individuals prefer to join the IAA independently of a group, they may do so. The alliance is essentially owned and directed by the fifteen member organisations across the country. Each of them has a representative on the executive council which appoints the committee on an annual basis, thus enshrining parent/local group control and regional autonomy.

Specifically the Alliance calls for:

  • Biomedical research into autism and its causes;
  • The setting-up of a diagnostic body, independent of service providers, which is empowered to give a Statement of Needs to each person with autism—an assessment of each individual’s health, educational and therapeutic needs following diagnosis;
  • An all-Ireland Development Plan for the provision of autism-related services;
  • A government response encompassing medical, educational and therapeutic services and which offers parents a quality choice of internationally recognised teaching methods when seeking the appropriate education for their children;
  • An outline of policies and strategies for the education and care of those with autism from all political parties on the island.
  • The Irish Autism Alliance will investigate the establishment of a Truth Commission, independent of both government and the judiciary, to offer parents of persons with autism the opportunity to make sworn statements regarding their experiences in dealing with the state on their child’s behalf. With the respondents’ permission, these statements would be made available to the state and the judiciary to enable it to provide properly for the present and future needs of the citizens concerned. In the absence of an undertaking by the organs of the state to initiate appropriate action within three months, the IAA would release the findings to the media worldwide—the ‘name and shame’ policy followed by the exchequer and other state bodies.

Following the Supreme Court judgement in the Sinnott case, the IAA organised a public meeting in Dublin on 17 July 2001. The meeting was attended by individuals with disabilities, family members and friends, politicians, journalists and hundreds of concerned citizens. The overwhelming mood of the meeting was one of anger that the present government were refusing to meet the needs of individuals with disability, regardless of their age; that the government had appealed the High Court judgement in the Sinnott case; and that despite budget surpluses of recent years, little or nothing was being done to help individuals with disability and their families.

The meeting unanimously passed resolutions calling for:

  • The reconvening of the Oireachtas to debate the Jamie Sinnott case,
  • An amendment to the Constitution to establish the equal status of individuals with disability as full citizens,
  • The rights of people with disabilities to be enshrined in a Disability Bill, as proposed by NPSA (see www.namhi.ie/disabilitybill.htm).
  • Consultation between government and the IAA to discuss the way forward.

The IAA insists that all of the actions proposed by the Minister should be given strict timetables—we need immediate coherent, irrefutable legislation that will enshrine the absolute rights of the disabled to appropriate education and services, for so long as they may benefit from them.

The founder organisations of the Irish Autism Alliance are:

P.A.C.T. (Parents of Autistic Children Together) Dublin, Kildare, Wicklow (tel. 01-661 7394; email: crennick.thepoint@sfx.com).

P.E.A.T. (Parents’ Education as Autism Therapists) Northern Ireland (tel. 048/028-4483 9619; email: seamusmurphy@hotmail.com).

I.P.A.A. (Irish Progressive Autism Association) Cork, Kerry (tel. 021-4661306)

Grá Galway (tel: 091-870905; email autism@gofree.indigo.ie).

DÓCHAS (Hope for People with Autism) Limerick (tel: 061-815560; email: asddochas@eircom.net).

I.C.A.N.D.O. (Irish Children’s Autism Network for Developmental Opportunities) Dublin (email: fulhamc@aol.com).

B.P.A. (Beechpark Parents Association) Dublin (tel: 01-282 3584; email: graydon@esatclear.ie).

N.E.A.S.G. (North Eastern Autism Support Group) Cavan, Monaghan, Louth, Meath (tel: 046-76811; email: petesheridan@eircom.net).

I.C.A.R.E. (Inishowen Childrens Autism Related Education) Donegal (tel: 077-62276; email: icare@eircom.net).

The Sapling School Kildare (tel: Elaine Murry on 045-896425;).

A.C.S.G. (Autistic Childrens Support Group Kildare – tel: Christy Gannon on 045-861557);

M.A.S.G. (Mayo Autism Support Group) (email: breep@nortelnetworks.com).

C.I.D. (Cabas in Dublin) (tel: 01-843 9284; email: jean.fitzpatrick@oceanfree.net).

M.B.C.A. (Midland Branch of Children with Autism) Midlands (tel: 0506-21233; email: gloughlin@nissan.ie).

The Cottage School  Wexford (tel: 053-59218; email: timsue@eircom.net).

Kilkenny Autism Alliance Kilkenny (tel: Louise Sheehan on (056) 29075)

The Learning Centre for Autistic Children (tel: (01) 2807395; email: lcac@ireland.com)

Cáirdeas Clare (tel: 061 921672)

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