Autism-friendly health services ‘should be adopted nationwide’

Autism-friendly health services ‘should be adopted nationwide’

Susan Crawford and her son Tomás pictured on a recent walk/run to raise awareness for autism. 

AUTISM friendly strategies should be adopted in healthcare settings across the country, according to a leading autism expert from University College Cork.

Cork University Hospital (CUH) recently revealed plans to become the first autism-friendly hospital in Ireland. CUH developed autism-friendly, quiet spaces which are dog-friendly, and has established an Autism Friendly Hospital Project Group which meets once a month. With the help of autism charity AsIAm, the hospital hopes to gain accreditation as Ireland’s first autism-friendly health service in the next 12 months.

Dr Susan Crawford, a lecturer in Sports Studies and Physical Education in UCC, said such initiatives should be introduced to all hospital and healthcare settings. “I think this is a fantastic initiative and I hope it will include realistic autism awareness training,” she added.

“I also hope it will be cascaded to all other Hospital and Health Care settings. In my experience both professionally and as a mother of a young man on the spectrum, this is a gaping hole in relation to health care training and it will prove invaluable for those on the spectrum, their families and healthcare provision in general,” said Dr Crawford.

The UCC lecturer has taken a year out from teaching to pursue her Get Autism Active initiative. The initiative is a physical activity programme aimed at individuals with autism living and working in the community, designed to affect change in the fundamental movement skills.

It is part of the Healthy City initiative supported by Cork City Local Community Development Committee (LCDC) and Cork City Council which was recently awarded €99,000 through the Healthy Ireland Fund.

In 1998 at the age of two, Dr Crawford’s son Tomás was diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder.

She then undertook to learn what she could about the condition and went on to set up an ASD unit attached to a mainstream school in her native Clare.

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