Autism West

An Interview with the Acting CEO Louise Sheehy

Louise Sheehy, Acting CEO

IRE-Map

Louise Sheehy is a registered high school teacher and has been working with teenagers and adults on the Autism Spectrum since 2011.

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Louise has worked as an educational disadvantage policy officer in Ireland for a national network and was a founding member and co-ordinator of Galway Autism Partnership, an autism organisation which focuses on person centred social groups for individuals with autism.

Louise’s role at Autism West involves managing service development using a person centred approach for members focusing on their interests and talents.

She is passionate about ensuring that individuals on the autism spectrum are actively involved in planning delivery and development of services.

Q1. How has the autism landscape changed since 2011 when you were working with teenagers and adults on the spectrum in Ireland?

I am really excited about the growing momentum behind the autistic community’s voice and the assertion of the right to be involved in decision-making and choice in their lives.  We are at a point in time when the community is questioning how society labels and also define what is appropriate and acceptable.  One area I am very interested in is the role of the non-verbal autistic advocates who has opened a door into their world where we get to see the world through their experiences through different forms of communication.  This demonstrates their unique perspective and potential as well as challenging our assumptions around what we perceive when we meet someone who behaves differently.  It makes life so much more interesting to think that there is more than one version of reality.

Q2. Do you feel that the NDIS will be a hindrance or a blessing when it’s eventually rolled out in WA? (It’s due to be rolled out from July 1 2018)

I think that the fact that the National Disability Standards clearly underline the rights of Individuals to choice and to have a say in their lives is a great step in the right direction.  There is potential for the NDIS to be utilised to foster and develop strengths to be truly an insurance scheme and have the potential to enable people to become who they can be rather than being funding to plug deficits.  The implications of that as a potential to enable a better quality of life is there if we can work towards ensuring this is an integral part of a person’s plan.

Q3. In regards to the representation of autistic people on TV, do you feel that shows like The Good Doctor and A typical are a step forward in people understanding autism?

I must admit that I have not seen The Good Doctor which must make me an exception to the rest of the population, I am too preoccupied with bingeing on The Walking Dead who are still walking years on, you would think I would know by now!!  Representation of any minority is reflective of our society and with autism, this gives potential to enlighten wider society on autism.  It can challenge some of the preconceptions and stereotypes out there.  I suppose my only comment would be that there must be a lot of aspiring autistic actors who could fill these roles and bring a unique perspective to it and gain employment in their chosen career. 

Q4. Do you think attitudes towards autism have changed?

Yes I think so, my one thought is that I am immersed within the community and diversity is a welcome common conversation I see in mainstream media which is very welcome.  That’s why I think equality and rights are so important for the autistic community so that like other minorities they become more visible and understood. 

Q5. Why do you think that employers are still reluctant to employ someone with autism?

Similar to the previous question, fear of the unknown, misconceptions from stereotypes they have seen or heard of all can add to a reluctance or fear to employ someone who may think or act a little differently.  As the labour market changes however there is also a growing acknowledgement of the value of diversity and creativity in the workforce which employers are recognising but it is a slow process as it gathers momentum.  I would hope this would change

Q6. You rely a lot on donations so that you can fund your social groups do you feel that you should as a non for profit organisation be able to access money direct from the government?

As a service provider Autism West is now registered as an approved NDIS service provider which means that families can access our social groups with their funding, which is great for our families and individuals who use us however the reality of maintaining and responding to the needs of the community is not covered which is a real struggle.  It would be great to get State support.

Q7. As someone (me) who is over the age of 30 would you consider running social groups for people of my age and above?

Absolutely again, Autism West does not receive state funding and needs to be sustainable which is so difficult as we get requests to deliver services in so many areas and for different audiences but the answer is YES and WITH your age group we would love to do so in the future.

Q8. Finally, what’s coming up in the Autism West’s calendar for the year ahead? 

This year has already been busy where we have launched a further four social groups and we welcomed Rockingham as a new location which joins Fremantle, Claremont and Marangaroo where our social groups run from. Well we are excited to be hosting a night of entertaining discussion with UK author, Robyn Steward, on 22 March 2018 at The University of Notre Dame.  Robyn Steward is an internationally acclaimed autism advocate, mentor, consultant, author and musician. 

Our annual cocktail party will be held in Stackwood at Beaconsfield on April 6th and we are busy preparing for our annual Symposium, now an established event for the autism community which we are hosting again in November. If you are interested in going to the Robyn Steward here is the link http://autismwest.org.au/event/evening-robyn-steward/

CONTACT INFO 

Address

Autism West
B Block, Ground Floor
2 Alma Street (Corner of Alma Street and South Terrace)
Fremantle WA 6160

Call our friendly staff on 08 9431 2111

Email us:

For general information: info@autismwest.org.au

For enrolments: enrolments@autismwest.org.au

Postal Address

Autism West
PO Box 255
SOUTH FREMANTLE  WA  6162

Media Enquiries

Autism West welcomes Media Enquiries. Please contact Louise Sheehy, our Chief Executive Officer (Acting), on 08 9431 2111 or email lsheehy@autismwest.org.au.

My thanks to Louise who took time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions.

 

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