b'AS I AMAs I AmB Y A D A M H A R R I SADAM HARRISIS A 24-YEAR OLD SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR AND FOUNDER-CEO OF ASIAM,IRELANDSNATIONALAUTISMCHARITY.ADAMFOUNDEDTHEORGANIZA-TIONIN2014INRESPONSETOHISOWNEXPERIENCESGROWINGUPINIRELANDAS ANAUTISTICPERSON.THEIRELANDFUNDSHAVEBEENKEYSUPPORTERSOFTHE WORKOFASIAMFROMANEARLYSTAGEANDADAMSHARESWITHUSWHYTHIS SUPPORT HAS BEEN CRITICAL TO THE GROWTH OF THE ORGANIZATION. 1Autism is something which we have all becomeBUILDING CAPACITY, EDUCATING SOCIETY I was lucky, by the time I was 16, to be in school very aware of in recent years. Many of us canI know this first hand. When I reached an age ofindependently with a strong group of friendsbut point to someone in our family or community whoself-awareness I did not want to discuss my autismthis is far from the reality for the majority and I is on the autism spectrum and, if not, we can citefor many years as I saw how people reacted whendecidedtotakeactioninestablishingAsIAm the names of a plethora of celebrities or televisionyou mentioned that you were on the autism spec- because I felt the challenges autistic people met and fictional characters who are autistic. This istrumdesperately wanting to do the right thingwere not inevitable but could be addressed through an important startwe cannot take any actionbut not knowing where to start. As a result, manybuilding the capacity of autistic people and their if we do not realize this diversity exists. It is sig- of the barriers which autistic people experiencefamilies and educating society to fully include the nificant in an Irish context in particular. When Itoday come from societys response to those withautism community.was a young child, this awareness did not exist.the condition. The statistics bear this out. 80% of But in just 15 years, through a government policyautistic adults are under or unemployed, autistic shift towards inclusive education, we now have apeople are at least 9 times more likely to end their reality that 86% of autistic young people attendlives by suicide and access to basic public services mainstreamschool.However,awarenessisjustsuch as education and healthcare remains a marked a start. The next steps, for meaningful inclusionchallenge. must be understanding, empathy and action.connect 201940'