Neurodiversity Ireland

 
 
What is Neurodiversity

Neurodiversity is a concept which encourages the world to view neurodevelopmental differences like autism, ADHD and dyslexia as brain differences, rather than deficits that need to be ‘fixed’.  It is estimated that about 15-20% of the population are “neurodivergent.”


Neurodivergent people experience and interact with the world in a different way. Embracing these different brains and their qualities and strengths can benefit the entire community. The world is made up of two types of brains, neurotypical and neurodivergent, creating a neurodiverse environment.


What is Neurodiversity Ireland

Established as a community group in Sandymount, Dublin, (as Neurodiversity Sandymount) we have quickly grown into a nationwide movement with a strong demand for roll out we launched Neurodiversity Ireland. The mission of our organisation is create neurodiverse-friendly villages and towns across Ireland, where ​different brains and unique thinkers are welcomed and celebrated.​ 


Our reputation has grown as the representative voice for the growing diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) movement, focusing upon neurodiversity inclusivity.  We are also a bustling hub for practical advice and support. We promote a better public understanding of the challenges faced by neurodivergent people and of the opportunities to create a more inclusive society via communities.  We work to ensure that the Neurodiversity movement is recognised and respected, adequately resourced and properly regulated.  We build networks of interest, share knowledge, provide information and deliver essential training on a host of relevant topics.  We partner with experts in varied fields and where necessary.  We also plan to offer further, bespoke services, facilities and support through our development of the Neurodiversity Ireland Sensory Centre, which will offer Speech and Language Therapy [SALT], Occupational Therapy [OT] and Sensory Processing Integration [SPI] therapies to children in our community currently on very lengthy waiting lists.  We will offer an holistic approach to children and their families and will create a hub for sibling clubs, afterschool and camps and music/play/sporting opportunities.  We are enthusiastically committed to transparency, accountability and high standards of practice and governance for ourselves, our members and the Neurodiversity movement. 


We passionately believe that as all our communities are made up of neurodiverse people, neurotypical and neurodivergent, both must be celebrated, included and supported within Irish society.  People in our communities play a central role in improving and enriching life in Ireland for neurodivergent people. So our simple and ambitious mission is to help make Ireland a leader in creating a neurodiverse-friendly venues across the country and to ensure Ireland is renowned as a place that welcomes and celebrates different brains and unique thinkers.


Our Mission


We will strengthen the neurodiversity movement’s ability to achieve a fair and just society in Ireland by: • Representing the shared interests of a neurodiverse community and driving awareness of these interests within business, schools and community organisations • Supporting neurodivergent people to thrive in daily life within their community • Fundraising to provide access to services and facilities needed for neurodivergent children.


Our Values


Our core belief is that people will play the most effective role in improving and enriching neurodivergent people's lives, by virtue of being proactively inclusive and by making those small but vital accommodations for neurodivergent people, which will allow everyone to have a fair chance at success in life. 


We believe that a strong, vibrant, independent and autonomous community is critical for sustaining a fair and just society.  We believe the societal value of a neurodiverse friendly-community comes from the transformative and unique contributions which benefit everyone. 


Our core beliefs are consistent with the vision of creating “a thriving community and voluntary movement at the heart of a fair and just Ireland” and have shaped our values: 



We value transparency, accountability and high standards of practice and governance within our Neurodiversity Ireland accredited towns, because it increases the impact of our work. 
We value the diversity of the neurodiverse community and believe it is a strength. 
We value the community approach, because it puts people and communities first and is driven by the pursuit of the common good. 
We value collaboration with other groups who support neurodivergent profiles as a way of increasing the impact of our work and of strengthening our movement. 
We value people’s individualism, the right to be heard and to be respected. 


The Neurodiversity Movement


Nations thrive when they have healthy, inclusive societies.  Our reputation in Ireland as being a friendly nation makes us stand out in the world, as more than just an economy.  However, we have not yet reached the goal of being equally friendly to everyone in our communities.  Inclusivity binds interests and entities into a vibrant human system for common good, thereby reducing social isolation and its outworkings. A vibrant community, voluntary and charity movement is at the heart of a healthy society. It powers the delicate, interdependent ecosystem that both creates – and protects – a successful society.   Hence, Neurodiversity Ireland is proud to create neurodiverse-friendly venues throughout the country and to ensure that Ireland is renowned for welcoming and celebrating different brains and unique thinkers.


We are passionate and determined to perform our work in an exemplary and effective manner. This movement is the heart and conscience of our nation.  We are driving positive values and the transformative outcomes of real inclusivity.  Despite the prevalence of neurodivergent profiles, the requisite services and facilities for supporting neurodivergent under 18s are almost entirely absent in Ireland.  A recent Irish report** showed that two-thirds of respondents are dissatisfied with neurodivergent services available in Ireland and 40% said that their neurodivergent children lost key skills during the pandemic.

 

Most parents and guardians of neurodivergent children are completely fatigued by the struggle to find adequate therapy for their children. Key findings also include:

Two-thirds of parents and guardians surveyed have had to wait 2 or more years to receive support for their child.  When it does become available, therapy is limited and ineffective; 
Over half felt very dissatisfied with the HSE support services for their Neurodivergent children; 
Almost 4 in 5 parents said that their children were not in receipt of any support from either the Early Intervention or School Age-Going Teams.
* Source Britannica 

**Report published by AsIAM


A key issue is the lack of available facilities, where qualified specialists have the correct equipment and space in which to conduct Sensory Processing Integration & Occupational Therapy.  Individual therapists cannot afford appropriately sized facilities or enough access to the correct equipment to run effective Sensory Processing Integration/Occupational Therapy programs.  


4 Focus Areas that underpin our business plan


Focus Area 1: Establish Sandymount as Flagship for Neurodiversity-Friendliness 


By starting with our Sandymount community and focusing on promoting active citizenship, we engaged in conversations about building the kind of society in which we want to live, including the role neurodiversity plays, through fun events, fundraising and training opportunities. We articulated clearly the link between a fair and just society and the role of community and business organisations in Sandymount and the response was powerful. We encouraged and created opportunities for children to play their part by educating them through a children's story so they could join in on making a grass roots shift in thinking and acceptance. To support this further we provide more education, support and accommodation suggestions in schools, businesses and community groups. When our symbol is displayed by neurodivergent children/families, those businesses, retail outlets, offices, and hospitality venues may demonstrate that they are a “friend” by making the requisite adaptations, thereby welcoming everyone.  


Many families of autistic children or other neurodivergent profiles can find dining out or availing of services an uncomfortable and highly stressful experience. In most cases, a child may have sensory processing difficulties and shops/restaurants/service providers are often an over stimulating environment. It can also be challenging when required to wait too long to be seated and dealing with unwelcome stares from others due to behavioural differences. 


We have compiled a few top tips that business can decide to offer to neurodivergent people, who display our logo (e.g. by wearing a lanyard):- 


Display our Neurodiversity sticker to show your support (or our A4 poster); 
Offer the Neurodiversity sensory box an arrival (we provide this to businesses for free and it serves two purposes - it makes families with neurodivergent kids feel welcome and it allows the children a sensory calming outlet keeping them happier and entertained; 
Offer a personalised social story of the experience a customer will likely have in the business, store or restaurant. We put this together and laminate it; 
If it is busy in-store or at a restaurant, offer lanyard wearers to skip the queue - this is an option, not a promise.
If applicable consider opportunities to offer specific quiet times shopping or eating for neurodivergent people i.e lower music and lighting between 5-6 on Tuesdays. We are open to all suggestions which each business may feel most suits them.
To avail of training we offer online modules in customer service, to be completed online and we offer bespoke, in person trainings and can arranges talks for schools; 
Welcome Autism Assistance Dogs, wearing their official service jackets displaying their charity provider and typically a ‘do not distract’ request. Autism Assistance dogs have the same legal access as Guide Dogs, but sometimes can be mistaken as they will be with a child and not an adult (as is expected with Guide Dogs). We can provide stickers for windows, to show these very special animals are welcome. 

What we want is understanding, if a child is being a bit noisy or having a meltdown.  It will pass and friendliness in that challenging moment is very helpful to the kids and parents. If another customer is unhappy with anything perceived to be disruptive from neurodivergent guest, we ask that perhaps they are offered a leaflet explaining about neurodiversity and our ‘Let’s be Friends to Everyone’ story. 



Focus Area 2: National expansion of Neurodiversity Villages


We will vigorously support other towns wishing to become neurodiverse-friendly and help their communities to be as effective as possible in delivering positive, high-quality change for neurodivergent people. We will emphasise the importance of promoting and supporting strong leadership, good practice, transparency and accountability in organisations and in showing the public the real impact of their work.


The Neurodiverse Friendly Town initiative follows a series of principles aimed at fostering inclusion and empowerment of neurodivergent people in local communities. These are referred to as the Neurodiverse Friendly Town Commitment and includes:

Putting together a Neurodiverse Friendly Town committee to work within the community to gather support; 
Recommend partnering with AsIAm to become an Autism Friendly town; 
Undergoing understandable staff training on all neurodivergent profiles. We supply this online resource, in addition to AsIAm training that focuses on Autism awareness. We cover other neurodivergent profiles. 
Each participating business must create a social story relevant to them and display our Neurodiversity Friendly sticker in their window to show their support to neurodivergent children/adults. We supply the artwork for Neurodiversity town committees to personalise.
All participating businesses must be assistance dog-friendly!
The community must commit to enacting at least one, local, tangible change such as creating running “football for all” or a similarly inclusive community activity. 
Working with local schools on understanding; by sharing our “let's be a friend to everyone” story and wristband distribution. We provide the wristband & T-shirt supplier who has the artwork and can personalise it for each town.


Focus Area 3: Support Neurodivergent people & their families


Neurodivergent people can feel isolated and excluded from communities, which lack understanding and awareness of their differences.  To overcome this challenge, we employ a ‘best practice’ approach to our work, demonstrating why it is necessary and how it makes such a difference to neurodivergent people’s lives in Ireland.  At its core, our work involves generating information, creating knowledge and modelling ways to use these resources to best effect. 


Our approach in this strategic plan therefore demonstrates how we can track and assess our own organisational impact by looking at it through the following three lenses: 


Contributing to knowledge - This impact is important because access to good quality, reliable information, insight, understanding and knowledge about our neurodiversity is essential if people are to appreciate and acknowledge the challenges faced by and the opportunities and potential for neurodivergent people to thrive, if supported properly; For example, we recently supplied a story for schools to distribute in Autism month called “Let’s be Friends to Everyone.” to over 1500 children via collaboration with local schools.
Changing thinking - Being successful means changing thinking and attitudes about our societal neurodiversity.  Throughout society, both adults and children need to change their point of view, so that business, schools, sport clubs and community activities may build the capacity to include and welcome everybody, not just neurotypical people; 
Changing practice - Where businesses and organisations pledge to become more neurodiverse-friendly, we will work with them to ensure practices and accommodations are most suitable and effective.  Entities can demonstrate their support for our movement by displaying our logo and recognising our lanyard, worn by neurodivergent people/their parents/carer.   We assist individuals, families and businesses to achieve a more fair and just Ireland via provision of training (eg. we are training Tesco staff, hospitality staff), supplying social stories and sensory packs to hospitality venues and resources to support educational establishments.  


Focus Area 4: Neurodiversity Ireland Sensory Centre 


We are creating a Neurodiversity Ireland Sensory Centre offering SALT, OT, Sensory Processing Integration which can provide the support and therapy needed, for all neurodivergent children in the vicinity. 


Sensory processing refers to the supporting mechanisms of how we feel, it is how we make sense of the world around us and it underpins every aspect of human functioning.  Everyone processes sensation. The sensory messages we receive from our bodies and the world around us are responded to in every single thing we do in life. In each instance, our sensory systems should provide the vital information that we use to be successful. Sensory processing and integration is foundational to healthy development, function, participation, learning and psychological well-being.  Sensory processing integration and Occupational Therapy aims to assist neurodivergent people, who may have difficulty with regulation. Medical models of diagnosis and therapy focus on illness and deficits and how therapy or medicine can “treat” or “cure” an illness.  Occupational Therapy & Sensory Processing Integration focus instead on how an individual’s profile can affect their ability to participate in everyday activities.  Assistance via OT/SPI is hugely beneficial in setting neurodivergent children up for future success in society. 


The Neurodiversity Ireland Sensory Centre would offer the following resources and services:

 

Intensive Therapy Model - Providing an intensive “burst” of consistent treatment (three to five times a week) as an effective way to manage sensory issues.
Parent empowerment - Parent-focused education and coaching helping families move treatment into natural settings, such as home and school.
Individualised and personalised - Every treatment programme would be different. Treatment is customised to each child’s strengths and needs.
Speech and language therapy and individualised programs for each child, integration with OT available where helpful
Holistic approach to each child’s needs, ensuring neurodivergent children are supported in feeding, toileting and other essential life skills and have equivalent opportunities to enjoy music, sport, play, drama, in afterschools, camps and clubs.  



Our Impact

Providing the Neurodiversity Ireland Sensory Centre will have an enormously positive impact within the Leinster community.  In particular, families who are awaiting support, who have no access to services, due to chronically long waiting lists created by persistent failure by the HSE to project realistically, thereby resulting in lack of resources, i.e. space and therapists and correct equipment.   We are keenly aware that the demand for a more inclusive community and neurodiverse-friendly environment is rapidly increasing.  The positive response to our initiative has come from across Ireland and beyond.  By expanding our initiative into provision of real life services we demonstrate that it is possible to offer an alternative to the present chronic situation.  The knock on effect on children’s lives is limitless. 






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Organizer

Neurodiversity Ireland 
Organizer
County Dublin

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