Saint John of God Research Foundation clg Present The Learning Exchange Series 2021

Three-Part Learning Exchange Series in Collaboration with Psychological Society of Ireland’s Special Interest Group in Autism to Focus on Autistic Women & Girls

The first Saint John of God Research Foundation Learning Exchange Series will take place today, Wednesday the 27th of January, with the first of three webinars focusing exclusively on Autistic women and girls.

The purpose of the Learning Exchange Series is to provide a unique forum which connects  research to real life through the lived experiences of individuals and clinicians. The Autistic Women and Girls Learning Exchange Series will be delivered by the Saint John of God Research Foundation in collaboration the Psychology Department of Lucena Clinic Services and the Psychological Society of Ireland’s Special Interest Group in Autism.

The Learning Exchange Series will bring together an entirely female panel of  autistic and non-autistic researchers, clinicians, and the lived experience of autistic individuals. Over the course of three weeks, the webinars will focus on a different area within the domain of Autistic Women and Girls, with individual presentations followed by a 30-minute panel discussion and a dedicated question and answers session.

January 27th, 2021 @6.30pm: Autistic Women and Girls: Assessment, Assessment in later life and lived experience.

The first webinar will focus on the assessment of autism in women and girls, looking at specific traits and presentation of women and girls in the context of an autism diagnosis.

The audience will hear from women who have had a personal experience of receiving a diagnosis at different life stages including autistic writer and performer Jody O’Neill. Ms O’ Neill will talk about the experiences that led to her autism diagnosis in 2019 exploring some of the challenges she faced spending 39 years as unknowingly neurodivergent in a largely neurotypical world.

Una Sheehan, who was nearly 70 at the time for her diagnosis with autism, will talk about her own reasons for seeking assessment later in life and the positive experience she had on confirming that diagnosis. They will be joined by student Louise Claffey whose talk will cover her experience of being diagnosed during childhood and the effect that getting a diagnosis during childhood has had on her as she has grown up and gone through life.

Psychologist Jacinta McComish and Speech and Language Therapist Elaine McGreevy will provide the clinicians’ perspective while researchers Aisling McKenna and Niamh Doody will present research on the topic of the assessment and diagnosis of autism in women and girls.

February 3rd, 2021 @ 6.30pm : Autistic Women and Girls: Co-occurring Conditions

This webinar will focus on the prevalence of co-occurring conditions in autistic women and girls, those which can emerge because of undiagnosed autism, or because of the stresses of living in a world organised and designed by non-autistic communities.

Speaking at the event is Dr Mary Doherty, an autistic consultant anaesthetist who, in her spare time, researches barriers to healthcare for autistic adults and the experiences of autistic adults using mental health services.  Her interests include reframing the tragedy narrative around autism, which is pervasive in healthcare and improving the healthcare experience for the autistic community.

She will be joined by Danni Burke who is an Autistic and ADHD Inattentive type adult with co-occurring Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).  She discovered she was neurodivergent in her late 20s after many years of misdiagnosis in the mental health system.

Also speaking is Jessica K Doyle, who is an Autistic woman, a researcher and assistant psychologist at The Adult Autism Practice. Jessica will summarise her ongoing international research into perception, cognition and anxiety in autistic adults. She will explore the predictive coding model of autism that prompted her investigations and inspired her prototype outdoor sensory space. While Vanessa Lacey, Health and Education Manager of Irish Transgender Organisation (TENI) will talk about transgender related training for health care professionals throughout Ireland.

The final speaker is Dr Fay Murphy, Principal Clinical Psychologist and Head of the Department of Psychology in Lucena Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) who has a special interest in feeding and eating disorders.

February 10th, 2021 @6.30pm: Neurodiversity in the Workplace

The final talk in the series will examine women and autism in the workplace and consider how workplaces can adapt to enable the recruitment and retention of autistic women.

The speakers are Tara Killen, founder of Thriving Autistic, a strengths-based coaching psychology practice that supports the mental wellbeing of autistic adults. Tara is a mother of three autistic children and is herself an autistic woman.

She is joined by Kirsten Hurley the project coordinator for the Autism Friendly University Initiative in UCC and Elaine Chapman, library assistant, whose work involves making libraries more accessible to the autistic community. Also speaking is Senior Occupational Therapist Claire Gleeson who has been working collaboratively with the autistic community for over 12 years in supporting engagement and participation in meaningful daily activities.

Dr Sonia Morris, Clinical Psychologist at Lucena Child and Adult Mental Health Services, who is organising The Autistic Women and Girls Learning Exchange Series said:

“The Learning Exchange Series on Autistic Women and Girls is an opportunity to create awareness of autism and in particular an awareness of the diversity of presentation. I am hoping the audience will learn more about the assessment process, and the considerations which are needed when assessing autism in girls.

“Through my own clinical work in Lucena Clinic Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, I see a significant number of referrals on my team of teenage girls and women presenting with mental health concerns in the context of an undiagnosed autism spectrum disorder. It is very important that we gain a greater understanding of the conditions and struggles that can co-occur in a female presentation, the co-occurring conditions which can emerge because of undiagnosed autism, and also because of the stresses of living in a world organised and designed by non-autistic communities.

“I am hoping that the third webinar, which looks at neurodiversity in the workplace, while acknowledging systemic difficulties in the workplace for autistic people, will take a strengths-based perspective of autism and highlight the strengths of being autistic. Autism remains a condition that is subject to stereotyping and if we can break down some of these stereotypes by bringing together research, clinicians and the individual experience we will have achieved the overall aim of the Learning Exchange Series.”

Dr Lesley O’ Hara General Manager of The Saint John of God Research Foundation clg said “Research is an invaluable tool for building on knowledge and a critical means of understanding the complexities of health and wellbeing.  At Saint John of God Research Foundation, we are committed to showing that research is not an abstract concept, but something that has real impact on people’s lives.  The Learning Exchange Series is a forum for making that connection between that research and the lived experience and we are delighted to be able to work so closely with the Psychological Society of Ireland on it.”

Attendance to the Learning Exchange Series is free but places are limited. For further information go to


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