The Irish Society for Autism has won the National AIB Better Ireland Millennium Award. The Society received the award of £125,000 in recognition of its development of services of excellence for people with Autism in Ireland. The Society has been in forefront of developing residential and vocational services on a national basis. The Society originally developed Dunfirth Farm near Enfield, Co. Meath as a residential service based on the organic farm model. More recently the Society has been developing services in Claregalway, and Galway city and new development at Athboy, Co. Meath, Kilmore, Co. Wexford, and Kinnegad, Co. Westmeath are currently coming on stream.
The Society has developed Dunfirth Farm near Enfield in 1983 as a model of excellence for people with Autism. Dunfirth Farm now provides for up to thirty seven young people with Autism, who live and work in a spacious rural environment. The Society provides a non-aversive environment designed to allow the person with Autism to grow and develop as much as possible. Dunfirth provides a range of activities including organic vegetable growing, poultry, woodwork, bakery and pottery production.
This year the Society is developing two similar services based on the Dunfirth model. Moygrehan House at Athboy, Co. Meath will provide for up to six young people with Autism.
A further four people will be provided with a service at Cluain Farm, Kinnegad, Co. Westmeath. The Society is currently planning to develop further accommodation at Cluain Farm which will provide for up to 12 extra places over the next two or three years.
The services developed in collaboration with the regional Health Boards are designed to provide a high quality of life to people with Autism. The philosophy of the Society is based on a non-aversive approach, where the person with Autism is allowed to grow and develop to his potential despite the restricting nature of his Autism.
The award was presented to the Society on Saturday night (15th January, 2000) at a special televised show live from the Point Theatre presented by Mr. Gay Byrne.
Receiving the award on behalf of the Society, Mr. Pat Matthews, Executive Director, said that the award was a significant recognition of the Society as a national organisation which could provide high quality services to people with Autism.
“The award was an endorsement of the Society’s efforts over the last thirty or more years in advocating and campaigning on behalf of all people with Autism and their families”, he said.
Autism is a devastating condition which results in impaired communication and social skills. The person with Autism needs special help and assistance to overcome these barriers. On behalf of the Society, Mr. Matthews thanked everybody who has worked tirelessly over the years to gain improvement for people with Autism.