Aspire: The Asperger Syndrome Association of Ireland
KeywordsSocial Skill Asperger Syndrome Trinity College Social Skill Training Adult Issue
The Asperger Syndrome Association of Ireland Ltd. (Aspire) was established in 1995 as a registered charity (CHY 11438) and a company (incorporation No. 231996). The original founders were a small group of parents who were concerned at the lack of awareness and information concerning Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism among parents and professionals and the absence of services specifically designed for those with the condition. The association was set up to provide support to individuals who have Asperger syndrome/high-functioning autism and their families and other caregivers and to encourage and undertake research into the condition.
Address: The Asperger Syndrome Association of Ireland Ltd., Carmichael Centre for Voluntary Groups, Coleraine House, Coleraine Street, Dublin 7, Republic of Ireland.
Membership: On the 31st of December 2013, the number of registered members of the association was 220.
Mission Statement: The mission of the association is to assist people with Asperger syndrome/high-functioning autism to lead more fulfilled lives and to support their caregivers.
The major landmark contributions of the Aspire have been the raising of awareness of Asperger syndrome/high-functioning autism and the development of services to assist people with the condition and their caregivers. When the association was set up, there was very little information available and no services specifically developed for people with this form of autism in Ireland. Since 1995, the Aspire Helpline, the holding of regular conferences/seminars and courses each year together with the development of the Aspire website, has improved the awareness of Asperger syndrome in Ireland. The association has also encouraged and assisted in the production of a range of programs on radio, TV, and other media to highlight the disorder. Professor C. Gillberg addressed a conference in Dublin, Ireland, organized on the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Aspire. In 2006, the Honorary Secretary of the Association received an award from Dublin City Council for his voluntary work, over the previous 11 years, in raising awareness of Asperger syndrome/high-functioning autism in Ireland. Every year visits to schools are a priority in the Aspire awareness-raising campaign.
A major conference was held in October 2010 to address the co-occurrence of conditions such as Asperger syndrome with dyspraxia, hyperactive disorder, and dyslexia. This conference was the first of its kind to be held in Ireland.
In 2009, Aspire in conjunction with Trinity College Dublin produced a DVD entitled “Asperger Syndrome: A Practical Guide for Parents, Teachers, Young People and Other Professionals,” and this was circulated to all public schools in the Republic of Ireland. A landmark conference was also held at Trinity College in November 2013 entitled “Challenging DSM 5,” and international speakers Professor F. Volkmar and Professor P. Howlin spoke on the changes being introduced in the diagnosis of autism by the American Psychiatric Association under DSM 5.
The setting up of Educational Drama Classes in collaboration with the School of Education at Trinity College Dublin in September 2004 was a major contribution in the development of services for children, adolescents, and adults affected by Asperger syndrome/high-functioning autism. These classes have made a significant contribution to improving the social and life skills of participants and over the past decade have shed new light on the methods used in the teaching of social skills. The identification of a large number of subtypes within the diagnosis of Asperger syndrome/high-functioning autism by Dr. Carmel O’Sullivan (Director of the Drama Classes) has been a significant milestone in the understanding of the disorder.
The provision of a Helpline available to Aspire members and the general public from Monday to Friday. These telephone contacts with a large number of people keep Aspire up to date with the issues families are experiencing and identify the problems currently being encountered – mainly by parents. The supports provided by Aspire are tailored to take into account the issues raised on the Helpline.
Raising awareness and understanding of Asperger syndrome using all the media available assists people with a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome to develop their potential in a more understanding and supportive environment.
Provision of Educational Drama Classes to teach social skills to those with a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome/high-functioning autism.
A supported employment and career development service for adults with a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome/high-functioning autism.
Holding regular conferences, seminars, courses, and workshops for all those interested in the condition.
Assisting support groups set up to provide assistance to those affected by Asperger syndrome/high-functioning autism and their caregivers.
Residential unit for adults with Asperger syndrome/high-functioning autism.
Major Areas of Activity
Aspire Helpline service provides contact with over 1,200 callers each year who are seeking information, support, and advice. Topics of enquiry range from diagnosis, education, assessment, social skills, adult issues, local services, training, and general information. The majority of callers are parents of children with Asperger syndrome or those seeking a diagnosis. The Helpline also receives a large number of calls from adults with the disorder and professionals such as teachers and journalists.
Educational Drama Classes (in Conjunction with Trinity College Dublin) Provide Social Skill Training to About 90 Children, Adolescents, and Adults
Aspire maintains a website with up-to-date information about Asperger syndrome, the latest news and events, including fund-raising, together with general information.
It is divided into information for parents and professionals and information for people with Asperger syndrome. Aspire also keeps up to date using social media through Facebook and Twitter, to ensure that the information we provide is easily accessible to as wide a population as possible.
Aspire supports over 30 groups which were set up to support people with Asperger syndrome and their families. Aspire assists volunteer parents and people with Asperger syndrome to set up the groups and visit and provide informational talks to these groups where required. We also direct any families who contact us to their local group(s). This type of peer support has been found over the years to be extremely important and a hugely valuable resource provided at very low cost.
Aspire visits a large number of schools and third-level institutions each year to promote an understanding of Asperger syndrome and to advise on the supports which need to be provided to students with the disorder.
These visits are made to enhance the educational experience of students with Asperger syndrome and ensure that they have the opportunity to get the best from their educational experience which will aid them in later life in gaining and maintaining employment.
Adults who have Asperger syndrome struggle to find suitable employment as a result of challenges with communication, social interaction, and anxiety. As adult services are limited in Ireland, Aspire has developed a supported employment and career development program for adults with Asperger syndrome. The needs of participants are identified, and they are supported in areas such as CV preparation, interview skills, interaction with colleagues, and applications. Aspire also liaises with employers to ensure that they have an understanding of Asperger syndrome and provide them with relevant information and support.