Shine Ireland & The Rainbow Club (Cork) are pleased to announce:

The Autism Aware Conference (Cork)

Millennium Hall City Hall

Sunday 14th of October from 10.30am to 4.00pm


Tickets Cost: €20.00 per person

Tickets only available online – Book your tickets at the bottom of this page

(Distributed on a first come, first served basis)


Supported by:      aviva-logo  community foundation logo


Why Autism Aware?

“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating.”

Kofi Annan


Informing & Empowering Parents:

The parents, carers and educators of children, adolescents and teenagers with autism face a unique range of challenges in unlocking the undoubted potential that all children with autism possess.  Autism is a complex condition and offers a unique set of challenges to those on the spectrum but small incremental steps forward can enhance the quality of life of the child and the entire family. This progress is made possible by an enhanced understanding of the complexities of the condition and by building knowledge of how these challenges impact each child.  The Autism Aware Conference is focused on building that understanding and on informing and empowering parents and others to better understanding the challenges that a diagnosis brings for their child.

Building Parent Resilience:

Another key focus of the conference is on Parent Wellness and Positive Mental Health. Research has consistently shown that the parents of children with autism will experience an emotional rollercoaster when their child is diagnosed with autism. Parents can experience many challenges including higher levels of stress and anxiety, mental and physical exhaustion, frustration, sadness and anger. These challenges are very real for many parents and can impact their mental resilience to keep bouncing back when they are challenged. Research has further shown that parents who look after their own mental health and build their emotional resilience leads to better outcomes for the child, siblings and the parental relationships. We are delighted to have Hugh O’Donovan (Psychologist & Coach) and Pat O’Leary (Coach and Mindfulness Practitioner) from the University College Cork to address these issues and offer practical strategies to parents to build their own personal resilience.


About our Speakers:


Vivienne Foley:

Co-morbid condition in Autism

Consulting Speech & Language Therapist &  Managing SLT – Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) across 8 clinics in HSE Cork & Kerry Community Health Care area. Vivienne sat on the Child Psychiatry / Autism Area Management team for Dublin mid-Leinster from 1997-2003 and has been on the Cork Mental Health Management Team since 2012. Her special area of interest is in autistic spectrum disorders and she was a founder team member of the specialised Beechpark Autism Services in Dublin, Wicklow and Kildare in 1997.  She has many years experience assessing individuals with autism both as a speech & language specialist and as a member of a multidisciplinary team exploring social-communication. She is also involved in designing and delivering improved intervention pathways for individuals with autism and their families which has resulted in positive outcomes. Vivienne has contributed to national policy for health and education. She has formulated reports and has acted as an expert witness for these state departments. Her lecturing audience has involved educators, parents and professionals at UCC, ACE, College of Commerce and at conferences organised by ASPIRE, SHINE and Autism Ireland.

Laura Crowley:

Social Skills Training – A Ground Up Approch:

Laura Crowley holds a Masters Degree in Education and a Degree in Early Childhood Education from University College Cork and is currently the Programme Manager for the PALS (Personal & Life Skills) & Building Blocks Programmes at the Shine Centre. Laura Crowley has over 17 years’ experience working with children and adolescents on the Autism Spectrum. In 2009, Laura designed and co-ordinated the PALS (personal and life skills) Programme for the Centre, the first of its kind in this country. The programme has achieved huge success, and is currently in its eighth year of operation. The Programme specialises in teaching social skills from a ground-up approach, mindful of barriers that may impede advancement. The PALS programme has also been developed into a free app format with over 120.000 users worldwide. The “Social Skills for Autism” app series  provides parents, carers, teachers and SNA’s with the opportunity to provide elements of the PALS programme in the home or school classroom. Laura also lectures on the Autism Studies Programme in UCC and heads up the Connect Autism Consultancy in Cork.   

Diarmuid Heffernan:

Sensory Challenges & Autism:

Diarmuid Heffernan has been working with people with autism for over 10 years and continues to do so through his organisation Autism Spectrum Consultants. Dairmuid was a member of the initial team of professionals involved in setting up the Autism Studies programme in UCC and he continues to lecture on the course. He has co authored the book “Living with Asperger Syndrome in Ireland” with Stuart Neilsen and is the author of “Sensory Issues for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders”.

Pat O’Leary:

 ‘Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are just that – thoughts.’ 

As a strengths based coach Pat works with people in dealing with change, managing challenges and developing opportunities. Pat holds a Masters in Mindfulness Based Interventions from UCD and works closely with many organisations, schools, healthcare centres and businesses in the introduction of mindfulness based coaching interventions to support the wellbeing of their staff and members. Core to his work is an exploration of how the mind works, positive psychology, mindfulness, turning towards difficulty and self care. Pat works in private practice in Cork and he also holds a Masters in Counselling and Psychotherapy where his study specialised in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy and lectures on the H Dip & Masters programme in Coaching and Coaching Psychology and a number Mindfulness programmes at University College Cork.

Hugh O’Donovan:

Reconnecting with what POWERS us:   “Taking your Natural MEDS”

Hugh O’Donovan is a Chartered Psychologist (Work & Organisational), Performance Coach, former Army Officer and Munster second row forward. As well as being Principal of Hugh O’Donovan and Associates, ( Hugh has a passionate interest in and commitment to applying the best practice, evidence based insights of strengths based psychology (positive), coaching psychology and contemplative neuroscience, in order to enhance the life experience, work performance and well-being of individuals, groups and organisations.

Hugh is Co-Founder of the 1st Masters in Coaching Psychology to be delivered in an Irish University (University College Cork) and Programme Co-Founder and Director on the Higher Diploma in Coaching / Coaching Psychology, also in UCC.  He is an honorary vice-president of the International Society for Coaching Psychology, published author in the academic coaching domain and conference speaker.   He has recently published (May 2015) Mindful Walking: Walk your way to Mental and Physical Well-Being which integrates a mind / body understanding of physical, mental and emotional health, well-being and happiness.

Alma Carroll:

Understanding Behaviour:

Alma Carroll has been working with children on the Autism Spectrum for 20 years. Alma works as a Behavioural Specialist at the Shine Centre in Cork having previously held the position of Deputy Manager of the Shine Early Intervention Unit. Alma also worked in an ABA school for 7 years where she received extensive training in Applied Behaviour Analysis and held the position of Supervising Class Teacher. Alma holds a degree from University College Cork in Psychology and Sociology and holds a Post Grad in Social Science from the Open University. Alma has also completed courses in PECS, Lámh and Occupational Therapy. Alma has a particular interest in Behaviour Management and lectures on both Early Intervention and Behaviour Management on the Autism Studies course in the College of Commerce. She also delivers workshops on Behaviour Management in Autism for parents and educators and Autism Awareness workshops for companies and organisations in Cork.

Colette Quinn:

The Parent Journey:

Colette Quinn, hails from Kerry originally but we won’t hold that against her! Mom to two lively, fun-loving boys, Ryan (9) & Harry (6) & wife to the long suffering Neil (a proud Tipp man!) Colette become involved with Shine when her son Harry attended our Early Learning Unit and subsequently was invited to join the Board of Directors. She has a no nonsense, practical approach to everything in life in general and  always tries to look forward and keep positive. Her mantra has and always will be ‘Onwards & upwards!’ Colette will talk about the long and arduous journey from initial concerns and observations in behaviour through to diagnosis and beyond including where Harry is at now 4 years post diagnosis.

Ken O’Mahony is the father of 3 children and 2 of which are in the autism spectrum. His daughter aged 16, is in a special education setting and his son is in Main Stream school with additional resources. Ken and Lorraine have fought to support their children’s educational needs and Ken sits on the Board of Management of his daughter school. Ken will give a father’s perspective on the impact that autism has had on his life and on that of his family.


Running Order:

10.00 – 10.40      Vivienne Foley

10.40 – 11.20        Alma Carroll


11.40 – 12.20        Laura Crowley

12.20 – 1.00          Hugh O’Donovan


2.00 – 2.40           Pat O’Leary

2.40 – 3.20           Colette Quinn & Ken O’Mahony

3.20 – 4.00           Dairmuid Heffernan

4.00                        Panel Questions & Answers




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