World Autism Awareness Day 2019: The Enactus Projects Empowering People with Autism

On World Autism Awareness Day 2019, we look at the Enactus Ireland projects which are empowering people we autism.

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Le Chéile – Enactus NUIG

Written by Paul Byrne –Project Beneficiary

You’ve worked with Enactus NUIG team for the past year on the Understanding Le Chéile project. Can you tell us a bit about Understanding Le Chéile and your role within the project?

This world is not kind to autistic people. People like me, we’re “weird”, “childish”, “ineffectual”, “lazy”. A lot of people don’t understand autism, and some people – unfortunately – think they understand when really they don’t. This project is an about showing publicly the struggles that autistic people must endure, and showing that autistic people are human beings with profound depths to their humanity. We have the power to show to schools and businesses the reality of autism, and that is exactly what we’re doing.

My role’s a two-parter: I’m Chief Content Adviser and Head Speaker. As Chief Content Adviser, I vet our content for accuracy, style, professionalism, and effectiveness; constantly I am working to refine, redesign, and create. As Head Speaker, I deliver most of our workshops to schools, and I even chip in here and there with the business workshops. In this job there’s connection, creativity, organisation – I have a little bit of everything. In terms of career, it’s been the best thing that could’ve happened to me!

What part of being involved in the project has had the biggest impact on you in your own life?

I’ve always been an insecure, passive person. Many autistic people are. This project, though, it has the uncanny ability to bring out the best in people. There is a whole new side of me now: Because of this project, I’ve grown into a leader of sorts! I’ve learned to work with people, make recommendations, organise, take initiative. This simple project is a powerhouse; it transforms, and it’s only going to grow from here, mark my words. What we’re doing is something extraordinary.

What impact do you hope you and this project will have on the people that attend the workshops?

Firstly, I want to show that autistic people are human – they have a deep and meaningful range of thoughts, hopes, feelings, and struggles, just like everybody does. To non-autists, autists can seem so alien, and vice versa. I want to show that it is possible for these two groups to connect as human beings.

Secondly, I want to teach people a valuable lesson: That with these kinds of conditions, things are never as simple as they seem. Many people believe they perfectly understand matters like autism or, for further example, ADHD or depression; they don’t appreciate how extensively complicated these kinds of conditions really are. I hope to make people see that there is always a lot to be learned before you really understand something. And when they see this, they will approach the subject with a new sense of humility, with a willingness to learn.

If you were to give one tip on dealing with autistic people, what would it be?

Please, be patient with them. They’re trying, but they have a mountain of obstacles that they’re trying to deal with. They may well need a little more to get things done; that’s just how their brain works, they struggle to adapt to certain things. Because of that, every little step in the right direction is something that needs to be savoured, because when you’re autistic, those little steps are what really bring about change – and change can come, if an autistic person is shown patience.


MAP THE WAY – Enactus MU

Written by Colin McAndrew - Project Leader

Can You tell us about your project “Map The Way” and what it aims to do?

Map the Way is aimed at helping people with intellectual disabilities to gain empowerment through map making. We teach people how to make maps so that they can take their destinations and their destiny into their own hands!

Our main partner is Way2B. They are developing an app to help people with intellectual disabilities such as severe autism to navigate independently. I met their founder Talita, who told me that their main technical obstacle was their mapping software. I was fortunate enough to be able to use my mapping experience to help Way2B figure a solution. We then decided to work together to coordinate “mapathons” where the users could help create the maps that they are going to use.

Where would you like to see this project go in the future?

I would love to see someone with an intellectual disability take this project and teach other people how to map. The vision for this project is to give people the tools and skill sets for shaping their future.

What tip would you give to students who are looking to start projects that empower people with autism in the future?

One piece of advice I would give to anyone working on any project would be to utilize design thinking. The only person who truly understands a problem is the person that works with that challenge every day. Another piece of advice is that we are all important when it comes to making the world a better place, and nobody should be excluded from making an impact on the world.

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A.C.E – Enactus CIT

Written by Aidan O’Driscoll - Project Leader

Can you tell us about your project A.C.E and what it aims to do?

Project A.C.E (Autism Cooking Education), in conjunction with the Rainbow Club, is an initiative that aims to aid children on the Autism spectrum with learning different life skills. Project A.C.E specifically aims to teach the children how to bake different baked goods such as brownies, muffins and cookies. While the focus of our A.C.E sessions are aimed towards baking, we hope that the lessons in the kitchen will teach the children general skills on team work, time management and organisation.

The Project A.C.E team has been very fortunate to have our workshops hosted by the Cork Rainbow Club. The Rainbow Club is an entirely volunteer operated organisation that gives the children a safe environment to learn and communicate with one another.

How have the children in the project been impacted by this project?

Ultimately, our aim is to help the children learn essential life skills in a safe and happy environment. Baking offers a structure to the children, with our sessions starting with the raw products and a simple set of instructions and ending with a finished product which shows the children an immediate result for their work throughout the workshop. Parents have offered us positive feedback on the workshops, with the children expressing their enjoyment in the responsibility of being able to come into the kitchen and go from seeing the basic materials being turned into their own baking creations. The volunteers for A.C.E have seen the children grow in confidence from week to week, with the children being able to start the basic steps of baking process without assistance from the volunteers.

What tip would you give to students who are looking to start projects that empower people with autism in the future?

My own advice to anyone hoping to empower those with Autism is to not be afraid of the challenge. Before starting with Project A.C.E I had a fear that I would not be capable of dealing with the unique challenges that I would face. I feared that I would cause upset or disappointment for the children. I have learned through working with the children that any help offered is hugely beneficial to the successful development of the children. Anyone who wants to help improve the lives of those on the Autism spectrum should take the plunge and not have fear of the unknown.

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Liam Redmond