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Autism Initiative Launch Autism Initiative Launch


DEASP Limerick Autism Initiative Launch

Pictured at the DEASP Limerick Autism Initiative Launch in the Intreo Centre on Dominic Street are Jim Lynch, DEASP Division Manager, Kat Broderick, DEASP supervisor, Adam Harris, CEO of AsIAm, Denise Houlihan, DEASP event organiser, Neil Hoefig, DEASP Limerick and Helen Mulqueen, office supervisor. Picture: Conor Owens/ilovelimerick.

DEASP Limerick Autism Initiative Launch

By I Love Limerick correspondent Chloe Reidy

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) in Limerick held their Autism Initiative Launch on Friday, July 5, at their offices at Intreo Centre on Dominic Street. The initiative resulted in the development of one of their interview rooms into an autism-friendly room, with the intention of making the DEASP journey for customers and their dependants more amenable to their place on the spectrum. The DEASP in Limerick is the first DEASP nationwide to begin an autism initiative.


Denise Houlihan is the organiser of the DEASP Limerick Autism Initiative Launch. She saw a need for better support at the DEASP for their autistic clients, after meeting with two customers at DEASP who were on the autistic spectrum and seeing their discomfort due to the loud noise and high activity that often fills the DEASP building.

Denise Houlihan said, “This is really a bottom-up idea and reflects the Culture and Values of engaged and innovative staff and is driven by a committed group on the ground. There is no claim that this solves lots of issues but it is a positive in our dealings with people with disabilities and makes the customer journey a more pleasant experience.”

The project entailed fitting out an interview room that is autism-friendly. This sensory room can be used for Activation, PSC, PPSN, Carers, Disability, or Jobseeker’s claims. It is intended that a group of advocates will be fostered and this advocate would make an appointment to bring the person into the office and post them a social story pack in advance. They would meet them at the door at the appointed date and time and then bring them to this sensory room to complete their application process

The room itself has softer lighting, appropriate colouring, and stim toys so a person with autism will be more at ease but it is equally important that there be awareness among staff in how to deal with people with autism.

At the point of the phone call, the person can give this option or offer to walk them through the process in the normal way if they prefer.

Adam Harris, the CEO of AsIAm, was present at the launch and provided insightful information on the importance of understanding autism and how it affects people.

Adam Harris said, “Thank you so much for inviting me here today and giving me the opportunity to speak to you. I think it’s fair for me to particularly thank Denise Houlihan for the huge amount of work and effort that she has put into this mission over the last few weeks.”

“Right around the country, people desperately want to do the right thing. When you come to people with a proposal, an idea, around how to help autistic people, there’s a real desire to do that. I think the challenge that has often existed is people simply haven’t known that: a) a person was experiencing any barriers, b) what does barriers were, or c) what they could actually do to improve the situation for the person. Knowledge really is power. I think what we are seeing in our work around the country and with this project, is a real example that in Ireland we have a real advantage in becoming what is AsIAm’s dream, which is the most autism-friendly country in the world,” he added.

For more information on the DEASP, go here.

For more information on AsIAm, go here.

For more stories on AsIAm, go here.

Pictures: Conor Owens/ilovelimerick

Richard is a presenter, producer, songwriter and actor. He was named the Limerick Person of the Year (2011) and won an online award at the Metro Éireann Media and Multicultural Awards (2011) for promoting multi-culturalism online. Richard says that the concept is very much a community driven project that aims to document life in Limerick. So, that in 20 years time people can look back and remember the events that were making the headlines.