This article was written by Jason Harley. Being from Donegal, I am an advocate for rural life and living. I enjoy farming, gardening and landscaping and I enjoy ‘digging’ into my family history!
Did you know one in every 65 people in Ireland are living with autism? And even with this figure that people still have a lack of understanding of the condition. That eight in ten people within the spectrum are unemployed or underemployed?(i) Someone who knows about these figures all too well is Greystones man Adam Harris, the Founder of Ireland’s National Autism Charity – ‘AsIAm’. Adam set up AsIAm based on his own personal experiences growing up as a young autistic person in Ireland. The organisation provides much-needed support for people living with autism and to make Ireland a more fair, inclusive and accessible country for autistic people to live in.
‘The best advice I’ve ever received is that challenges are what makes life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful’ (ii) says Adam Harris who has faced his own challenges and often overcame them. Adam Harris’s biggest challenge in life was growing up different to other people (iii) – someone who was on the autism spectrum. He has since devoted his working life to highlighting the supports needed for autistic people and their families and he works to support both the public sector organisations and communities to becoming more inclusive and accessible.
Diagnosed at the age of five with Asperger’s Syndrome (iv), Adam grew up in an Ireland that knew very little of the condition as we would know today. Adam spent his first primary school years in a special educational school before moving to a mainstream primary school in second class. He grew up facing many challenges as a person that was on the spectrum. Adam believes that if someone is on the spectrum, that people focus on their weaknesses rather than focusing and working on their personal strengths. Adam was lucky enough to have a supporting family with his parents and siblings who recognised that and had worked with Adam based on his strengths and that they were devoted to the idea of inclusion rather than integration.
Even though that around 80% of students attend a mainstream school, Adam Harris says that ‘schools aren’t doing enough to make necessary changes that will allow them to be more inclusive.'(v) Although the current schooling system may be deeply flawed, it does provide a structure that may be absent when people move onto adulthood. Adam considers himself as a ‘successful outcome – to someone that might mean working four hours a week in their community, being able to travel independently, being able to live independently. Success looks different to everyone.'(vi)
A person who enjoys hard work, creating ideas and projects, Adam is an active contributor to the media in Ireland and overseas. He has also advised the government and policy committees on the area of disability rights and inclusion. Adam was appointed to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission in July 2020 voicing his concerns and suggestions for disability rights.
i Thejournal.ie (2017) (Accessed on 26th of March 2020)
ii Irish Examiner (2020) (Accessed on 26th of March 2020)
iii Irish Examiner (2020) (Accessed on 26th of March 2020)
iv Thejournal.ie (2017) (Accessed on 26th of March 2020)
v Thejournal.ie (2017) (Accessed on 26th of March 2020)
vi Thejournal.ie (2017) (Accessed on 26th of March 2020)
https://www.thejournal.ie/autism-conference-dublin-3653847-Oct2017/ (Accessed on 26th of March 2020)
https://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/people/arid-40056389.html (Accessed on 26th of March 2020)