Aspect, 73 Penrose Wharf, Penrose Quay, Cork
021 239 3678 or 2396462
Aspect is the A.S. support service of the Cork Association for Autism. Aspect offers a wide range of support services to adults with autism spectrum diagnoses living in the community in the Munster area.
I write this now because Aspect gets a lovely mention in Deirdre O’Shaughnessy’s article in the Sunday Business Post (12 January 2014) in which she writes:
Although there are no state supports for adults diagnosed with autism – 70 per cent of whom suffer from another psychiatric problem as a result of their condition and what Neilson calls “the stress of trying to work people out” — he was put on the list for the Cork Association for Autism. He was assigned a key worker by the association and has made steady progress with her. As part of their work together, they meet at coffee shops and in hotels to help Neilson deal with the social anxiety that can be part and parcel of Asperger’s. Our interview, which takes places in the bar of a Cork hotel, is the type of event that would previously have caused a meltdown, but thanks to the work Neilson has done with his key worker, it doesn’t cause the stress it otherwise might have.
This really gets to the core of Aspect’s role as the only HSE-funded community outreach service for adults with an autism spectrum diagnosis anywhere in Ireland. Aspect started serving adults in Cork in 2007 as part of a pilot study for a national scheme to support adults living independently and semi-independently in the community. Aspect’s aims are “to enable and support people with Asperger syndrome to maximise their independence, utilise their talents and link in to social networks. Person Centred individualised packages of support are arranged based on the individuals aspirations and goals”. The evaluations of Aspect’s services have been extremely positive and there are now more than one hundred adults on the service in Cork and Kerry. Individuals are offered tailored action plans that may include combinations of one-to-one socialising, group activities, therapeutic counselling, access to occupational therapy and other services as necessary.
One vital component of the busy keyworker’s role is “interpreting” with housing, education, employment agencies and all kinds of bodies and organisations that tax even the most socially skilled. As an aside, a keyworker familiar with autism and its traits can be an excellent interpretative sounding board for all kinds of social communication issues – the issues that many people are able to disregard as insignificant may cause intense distress to people who struggle to comprehend intent and emotional state.
In addition to supporting the individual with the diagnosis, “there are also supports to Parents and families through regular Parental information evenings that are held with guest speakers with expertise in related areas”, autism being a diagnosis that affects the whole (and often extended) family.
Deirdre O’Shaughnessy also highlights some of the most visible effects of my interaction with Aspect and with my keyworker, Yvonne Scriven, namely to pursue an educational course to completion and to publish a book:
Once he was well enough, he completed a diploma in disability studies at UCC, and now lectures on the new certificate in autism Spectrum studies being offered at the university in association with the autism charity Shine, the Cork Association for Autism and the Cope Foundation.
The certificate is one of the first of its kind anywhere in the world, and is aimed at helping parents and professionals who deal with autism every day to better understand and contextualise it.
Another goal of Neilson‘s recovery was to write a book which draws on his own personal experience of Asperger’s and on his academic work – he has previously written books on coping with motor neuron disease and multiple sclerosis. The book, Living With Asperger Syndrome and Autism in Ireland, aims to provide information and advice about the condition in general, and specifically for adults.
I am still amazed, even seeing the paperback book in my hand, that Yvonne guided me through the original process of deciding on some meaningful life goals – something both far more tangible and far more difficult to define than broad, symptomatic aspirations – and then ensured that all the supportive measures were in place to see those goals through to completion. The evidence, for my own doubting mind, is in this extract from our joint 2010 client action plan:
For the record, I have still never been into a coffee shop (or bar) unaccompanied in my life, but it is unlikely to be in my new action plan – although daily exercise, physical activity and increasing my general fitness are.