Dochas Midwest Autism Support provides services to support children and young people on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), such as the young adult social club pictured above.
Dochas Midwest Autism Support reports a successful 2021 and exciting plans for 2022
By I Love Limerick Correspondent Ann Mc Donald
While 2021 was a tough year for many, Dóchas Midwest Autism Support, charity partners of the Sarsfield Credit Union, are delighted to say that their fundraiser for their Life Skills projects and facilities for their older teens and young adults was a huge success, and they have big plans for 2022.
“Fundraising has been such a difficult topic for charities like our own due to the restrictions that have been in place with Covid-19. We last carried out a fundraiser in December 2019, which was a bag packing event. 18 months later, we toyed with the idea of being able to carry out a safe fundraiser where people would not be brought together,” Cyril Kileen, Centre Manager of Dóchas Midwest said.
“We had been planning on developing our centre and its activities to adapt more to our members who have been with us from the start and are getting older. We decided that the goal was to fundraise for Life Skills Projects and Facilities for our older teens and young adults.”
One of the parents was able to source a signed Limerick Senior Hurling jersey and a Munster jersey, and Dóchas was able to find a signed Manchester United ball, a top signed by Padraig Harrington and a Munster jersey signed by Paul O’Connell.
“We now had a basis of very good prizes that we could sell tickets for. We made contact with hotels locally and were ably supported by The Strand Hotel, The Woodlands Hotel, The Dunraven Arms Hotel, The Deebert House Hotel and the Killaloe Hotel & Spa,” Cyril said.
Parents and friends of Dóchas were very supportive from the start and over a three-week period during the month of September 2021, Dóchas raised over €17k.
“The entire amount raised will go directly to developing the centre and its activities around Life Skills Projects, and we are going to hold a little back for a Christmas Party for our younger members, but all the money raised goes directly back into our members with ASD,” Cyril explained.
Over the pandemic, Dóchas Midwest has been continuing to offer their services online and wanted to make their place safer for online activities, and have been supported by the National Lottery to develop this. They are currently updating their online security, updating their technology and creating an internet café and hang-out area for their older members. This work is expected to be complete during the coming weeks.
This will allow their members to surf online, complete courses, do interviews, and do any other online activity they need, in a safe and comfortable environment.
Throughout 2021, Dóchas Midwest took part in many new programmes, which they plan on carrying over to 2022.
In a collaboration with Tennis Ireland, Limerick Sports Partnership, Limerick Lawn Tennis Club and Dóchas, an ‘Enjoy Tennis’ programme took place in Spring and Autumn this year. 12 young people with ASD participated in the Spring programme and 15 in the Autumn. Dóchas Midwest hope to collaborate on this programme again next year.
In early 2021, they teamed up with the Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board for an art programme. This programme is still ongoing, and the young people at Dóchas Midwest are working on a short animation movie.
Dóchas Midwest also partnered up with Limerick Lakers to start an Austim Basketball programme this year which ran from March to June, which they hope to run again next year.
The numbers in their Social Interaction Clubs also increased, and they now have 105 children in this group. There has also been two new clubs added in on Wednesday nights. The numbers they are currently supporting has increased by approximately 25% in the last year.
Dóchas Midwest Autism Support are proud charity partners of the Sarsfield Credit Union. Sarsfield Credit Union Sales and Marketing Manager Patrick Flaherty said, “We are thrilled to be able to support Dochas. Our policy is to support charitable, community, and civic organisations. We are committed to the communities we serve and we are proud of our employees’ dedication to community service. We believe in people over profits and consistently listen to the needs of our community.”
The charity is also excited to share their exciting plans for 2022. The plans include the continuation of a Speech and Language project run in partnership with UL in 2021. This project saw four students from the MA in Speech and language from UL on a six-week rolling basis coordinated by an experienced therapist and allowed over 80 people to avail of free access to speech and language in a timely manner.
“The feedback received from this was excellent, from the students to the reports and the overall coordination of the project. We are now going to continue the Speech and Language service into 2022, and take on the coordinator of the UL Project full time for a year, and hoping it will be sustainable beyond this timeframe. This will be our first venture into full-time therapy, and hopefully, it will be a catalyst for further similar roles in the future,” Cyril said.
Dóchas Midwest will also be focusing on life skills in 2022, which will focus on health and safety, career path and employment, self-determination/advocacy, peer relationships, socialization and social communication, community participation and personal finance, leisure/recreation, and home living skills.
This project will be targeted at older teens and young adults.
As part of this project, they hope to help the young people they support reach their potential, whether it be moving out of home, going to college or gaining employment. They had a successful 2021 in regards to developing employment opportunities, and currently have four people on their staff who have an ASD diagnosis, with three of them falling under the umbrella of the Community Employment scheme and one person in a paid role. They hope to expand on this in the new year and beyond.
The team at Dóchas Midwest recently completed training with Dr. Susan Crawford from Get Autism Active where they worked on Fundamental Movement Skills for those with ASD. They will develop their own classes in early 2022 for members and non-members. These classes will be advertised through the Dóchas Midwest social media accounts.
In early 2022, Dóchas Midwest will have their staff trained in Six Bricks/Lego therapy. This therapy will help children practice their memory, movement, creativity, and more through short activities with sets of LEGO DUPLO bricks in six bright colours. Following this, they will run classes for their members and non-members.
Dóchas Midwest Autism Support (registered Charity) provides services to support children and young people on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their family members. Their mission is to improve outcomes for those impacted by Autism in the Mid-West Region.
For more about Dochas Midwest Autism Support go HERE
For more stories about Dochas Midwest Autism Support go HERE