The workshops are being run by behavioural psychologist Kerry Patterson and cover a range of different topics.
Patterson has worked with both children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and related disorders for over 13 years. She has worked with hundreds of different families across Ireland, Holland, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and The Cook Islands.
She says her aim is to use what she has learned through her academic and practical experience to empower parents, carers, grandparents, educators, siblings to be the best support and they can be for their loved ones with autism.
“Understanding autism and how to help improve the quality of life for people on the spectrum and their families is a life-long journey.”
Patterson says the more awareness and understanding that is available, the more people with autism can live an independent, fulfilling and happy life.
When talking about what autism is, Patterson says to imagine not being able to understand the words people are saying to you.
“You watch other children playing and want to play too but have no idea how to ask to join in or to understand the rules of the games and you feel like you want to be alone but have to be around people most of the time.”
Patterson says because no one can understand children with autism, they are always left out.
“No one asks you to play, or go to birthday parties. Instead you get bullied for being who you are.”
Patterson says children with autism can understand what people are saying to them, but are unable to say back what they think, feel, need, and want.
Patterson says they are also so overwhelmed by noises, lights, and smells that the only way to express themselves is to scream, cry, flap their hands, kick or hit.
“They scream in pain every time they have a shower, because the water feels like nails hitting their skin,” she says.
“Imagine trying to cope in public when you can hear every noise in the environment at the same volume and all the sounds blend together.”
Patterson says the only way sufferers can calm themselves down is to carry out repetitive body movements, which can look strange to others.
If there is any change in a daily routine, Patterson says they find it nearly impossible to cope. “They can’t understand facial expressions, much less humour, sarcasm, or common phrases, so they have no idea what other people are thinking or feeling.”
“They can’t sleep a whole night through, ever. They can’t stand to eat food unless it has a certain texture. Every single day, they feel trapped in a strange, chaotic world”
That’s what life is like for an adult or child who has Autism or ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), who is living with any or all of these torments on a daily basis, Patterson says.
Patterson says about one in 68 children is now being diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, which demonstrates a tenfold increase in the prevalence rate in the past 40 years.
Research has shown improvements with diagnoses and awareness of autism can only partly account for this increase in rates.
Although there is no known cure for autism, Patterson says research continually demonstrates that intervention as early as possible increases a person’s chances of living independently, developing speech, forming relationships and improving behaviours associated with autism.
For now, she says to remember that when people see a child or an adult behaving differently, they shouldn’t assume they are naughty, spoiled or out of control.
“They may be living with autism. Patience and understanding can go a long way in the life of a person with autism and their families.”
Workshops are free for all participants and everyone is welcome to attend.