Two parents are aiming to establish a centre to support neurodiverse people from preschool to adulthood, and their families, in the South-East.
The term ‘neurodiversity’ was coined in the late 1990s by Judy Singer, a sociologist who has autism, and refers to the concept that certain developmental disorders are normal variations in the brain, and that people who have these features also have certain strengths.
Autism, ADHD, dyspraxia, dyscalculia and Tourette's syndrome are all examples of neurodiverse conditions.
Teresa Carr Buckley and Mag Furness, parents of neurodiverse children, are the co-founders of the Dreambig Project South East to support neurodiverse people and their families from preschool through to adulthood.
The project is based in New Ross, Co Wexford, and the founders hope it will lead to the development of a neurodiverse centre of excellence in the South-East.
One part of the project is the establishment of a social enterprise where work skills will be taught in a real business environment, allowing the neurodiverse individual to build confidence and avail of employment opportunities.
The proposed project will include a bakery, art gallery, restaurant, and a pottery business, and will further explore the establishment of a preschool and respite centre.
“Unemployment in the neurodiverse community is high, so establishing a social enterprise that will help the neurodiverse community increase their confidence, learn new skills and offer them employment opportunities — a project that will be for them and run by them — is something we are passionate about,” explained Ms Furness.
“We hope this will eventually lead to the development of a neurodiverse centre of excellence in the South-East, which will provide much-needed support to families and children, teens, young adults and adults in the region.
“The support the project has received has been overwhelming,” she added.
Committee members come from Waterford, Wicklow, Carlow and Kilkenny, while Wexford County Council and New Ross Municipal District Council have supported the project too.
The Dreambig project is currently in the process of applying for charity status and is also looking for a suitable property in New Ross which would suit their needs.
“There are a number of sites we are interested in but we would welcome any help from local businesses who might be in a position to offer a property to us,” Ms Furness said.
During the summer, the founders of the Dreambig project paid a visit to the Rainbow Club charity in Cork, a similar enterprise to the one they wish to establish.
“The Rainbow Club is a lifeline to families, children, young teens and adults living with autism,” added Ms Furness.
“This is something that the Dreambig Project is hoping to have for the South-East.”
The Dreambig Project has already established its own youth club and has received a grant from the Wexford Childcare Committee to establish a parent and toddler group.
The project also plans to offer training courses, family support, and a wraparound programme.
“Funding from Wexford County Council, the Government and other bodies will be needed to realise our dream to support the neurodiverse community and families in the southeast,” Ms Furness explained.