Focus Ireland: policy conference

Conference to take place on Thursday 25th September 2014 in the Aviva Conference Centre, Dublin
‘Where do we go from here?': Why do people who lived in settings within the care of the State have such an increased risk of becoming homeless when they leave and what can be done about it?
People live ‘under the care of the State’ for a wide variety of reasons and for varying periods of time. They may be children whose family are unable to care appropriately for them, they may be physically or mentally unwell, they may have committed a crime and be incarcerated or, in some countries they may have served in the army.
Evidence from Ireland and throughout the world indicates that people who have lived, for any reason, in the care of the state experience to a significant risk of becoming homelessness after discharge or release.
This problem arises in a wide range of very different institutions from psychiatric hospitals, general hospitals, residential settings, national armies, prisons and state care for children. Traditional responses concentrate on the nature and practice of each of the institutions separately, but are there common underlying issues involved? What are they and what can be done to address them? Since the State has responsibility to care for the individual until the date of their release/discharge/coming of age, why can’t they make better arrangements to ensure they can find and sustain a home? If we know where they are living today, why can’t we ensure they have a decent place to live tomorrow?
The conference will explore the issues of: De-institutionalisation and the housing first model; the challenges facing young people who grow up in institutional care, prison release and how the State could prevent crisis situations developing by the provision of specific supports.
Speakers include:
  • Stephen Metraux: Associate Professor of Health Policy and Public Health, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia
  • Eoin O’Sullvian: Assistant Professor in Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin
  • Paula Mayock: Assistant Professor at the School of Social Work and Social Policy, and a Senior Researcher at the Children's Research Centre, Trinity College Dublin (TBC)
  • Shari McDaid: Director of Mental Health Reform. Has worked in social policy in Ireland, specialising in mental health, for over ten years.
Registration costs €35.00 but if financial considerations prevent attendance, please note that there are a limited number of free places available so please contact us at if you wish to be considered for same.
You can register for the conference here
Please see here for the agenda for the day.

Youth Work Ireland’s Consensus Conference 2014

Venue: Dublin Castle Conference Centre
Date: Saturday 11th October 2014

This national event is open to anyone involved in youth clubs in Ireland.

The theme of our Conference this year is the Youth Club and the important part youth clubs play in the lives of young people in Ireland today. We will also look at the policy related issues in regards to the delivery of youth work through voluntary led youth clubs.
By far the vast majority of young people in Ireland who engage in youth work do so through parish or community based voluntary youth clubs. This conference will feature inputs from young people, volunteers, staff and key policy makers that will provide evidence that youth clubs do serious and challenging work in a fun way – work which has a transformative positive influence in local communities in both the rural and urban context.  A feature of this discussion will be the particular value of voluntary youth work in local communities and in the context of an Integrated Youth Service Model.
An important feature this year will be the activity based workshops that will focus on issues identified by club support workers, volunteers and young people as being those they face in their clubs every week. The workshops will be delivered in a fun way with expert facilitators who will equip participants with real and worthwhile skills they can bring back to their club.

Speakers will include

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. James Reilly
Prof. Michael Fitzgerald, Henry Marsh Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Trinity College Dublin
Seamus Boland, Chief Executive Officer, Irish Rural Link
Jim Breslin, First Secretary General of the Department of Children & Youth Affairs
Janet Gaynor, Acting Function Manager with Health Promotion and Improvement, HSE West
Cormac Clancy, Principle Officer, Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government
Lorraine Thompson, Regional Director, Donegal Youth Service
Dr. John Bamber, Project Specialist, Centre for Effective Services
Lisa Marie Sheehy, Limerick City & County Council

Who should attend?

This conference will provide valuable policy and practice insights for practitioners, managers and policy makers working in the areas of youth work. The day will feature inputs from senior policy makers from Government Departments directly related to voluntary youth work, communities and work with young people.
The workshops will provide tips, skills and real knowledge for anyone working with young people in local settings. The day will offer an opportunity for people to informally network and share their own learning with volunteers, staff and policy makers involved in youth clubs in Ireland.
Those who should attend: Youth officers, youth workers, social workers, Local Community Development Committee members, Children Services Committee members, County Managers, community & voluntary organisation representatives, academic and policy makers, young people, youth leaders and volunteers.

Conference Cost €80

Irish Autism Action - Autism Expo 2014

This event is free to attend. Please register on iRegister, here.

More information is available from Irish Autism Action.

Parents' fights can disrupt their kids' emotional development

Credit:  Namibnat on Flickr
Fights between parents can disrupt their children's abilities to identify and control emotions, reports a study from New York University.  In addition, children that are exposed to fighting over a long period have a higher risk for anxiety and depression, according to the study published September 12.

Researchers followed over 1,000 children from 6 months of age until they were nearly 5 years old. Researchers established that parents' verbal and physical aggression could interfere with "children’s ability to regulate their own feelings of sadness, withdrawal, and fear, placing them at greater risk for symptoms of anxiety and depression later on."

In addition to parental conflict, researchers investigated whether other symptoms of adversity affected the children's emotional development.  They discovered that household chaos and poverty contributed to the children's inability to recognize different emotions.

“This study shines a bright light on the importance of supporting parents as they navigate the ups and downs of partnership or marriage,” says lead author, C Cybele Raver. “Parents need help regulating their own feelings of anger, frustration, and worry when balancing the demands of work, family, and romantic partnership, especially when money is tight.”

The study, "Poverty, household chaos, and interparental aggression predict children's ability to recognize and modulate negative emotions" is published in the journal Development and Psychopathology.


Poverty, household chaos, and interparental aggression predict children's ability to recognize and modulate negative emotions

Exposure to Aggression Between Parents Can Interfere with a Child’s Ability to Regulate Emotions, Finds NYU Steinhardt Study

This article was originally published by me on

Special Needs News: Slow Brain Connections and ADHD, Brain Scans and Dyslexia & Shocking Autism Treatment - 16 September 2014

Brain Connections Develop Slower in Kids with ADHD

Brain images of children with ADHD show that connections between networks in their brains grow slower than those of children without ADHD. Researchers from the University of Michigan studied brain scans of over 750 children with and without ADHD. Using fMRI, they were able to see less developed connections in areas of the brain dealing with internal thoughts and focus.

"It is particularly noteworthy that the networks we found to have lagging maturation in ADHD are linked to the very behaviors that are the symptoms of ADHD," said the study's lead author, Dr. Chandra Sripada.

Researchers hope "the new findings, and the methods used to make them, may one day allow doctors to use brain scans to diagnose ADHD - and track how well someone responds to treatment."

The study, "Lag in maturation of the brain’s intrinsic functional architecture in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder," is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.

Brain Scans Predict Reading Problems in Children - may predict Dyslexia
Credit: John Morgan on Flickr

Researchers used brain scans to follow 38 children from kindergarten through to third grade - the time when children learn to read and develop their reading skills.  Using the scans, researchers watched "white matter volume" develop in the children's brains.  Through their analysis of the white matter volume, researchers were able to "show that white matter development during a critical period in a child’s life, when they start school and learn to read for the very first time, predicts how well the child ends up reading,”  according to senior author Fumiko Hoeft, MD, PhD. 

 “Early identification and interventions are extremely important in children with dyslexia as well as most neurodevelopmental disorders,” said Hoeft. "Accumulation of research evidence such as ours may one day help us identify kids who might be at risk for dyslexia, rather than waiting for children to become poor readers and experience failure.”  

The study, "White Matter Morphometric Changes Uniquely Predict Children’s Reading Acquisition," is published in the journal Psychological Science.

FDA Considers Banning Electric Shock Treatments Used On People with Autism

Credit: FDA website
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating the use of 
graduated electronic decelerators or GEDs to control negative behaviors of people with autism at a Massachusetts treatment center.  GEDs are attached to the arms or legs of some students at the 
Judge Rotenberg Educational Center. If the student has a behavioral problem, a facility worker can activate the GED which then gives a two-second shock to the student.

The use of GEDs has been heavily criticized with the United Nations referring to it as "torture."  In addition, some parents brought claims against the Center over the use of this device. On the other hand, some parents contend it is the only treatment that works for their children.  The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center is believed to be the only center in the US using this type of device as a treatment.

The GEDs are designed and manufactured by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center.  Since its initial design, the voltage used has increased.  The current device is not approved by the FDA.

More Autism Tips From Temple Grandin

Credit:  Counse on Flickr
Autism advocate Temple Grandin spoke at the University of San Diego recently.  Grandin offered these tips for parents and teachers who interact with children on the autistic spectrum.  

  1. Children with autism or other "labels" often have uneven skills.  They may be really good at math but have poor reading skills.  Parents and teachers need to build up that area of strength. Give full support to children in the subject they are good at.
  2. "If you don't stretch these kids, they don't develop." Grandin advises that children with autism must be "pushed" outside their comfort zones.  Make them do things they are afraid to do.  How far the child should be pushed depends on the child's circumstances. Parents and teachers must use their judgment on this issue.
  3. Stop doing things for your child that he or she should learn to do.  Grandin gave an example of a ten-year-old child who is out with his parents.  When they meet someone, the parents do all the talking including talking or answering for the child.  Parents should not do this, as the child needs to learn how to talk to people.
  4. In some cases, parents and teachers need to raise the expectations they
    Credit:  Brad Flickinger on Flickr
    have for a child. Again, Grandin emphasized the need to push children outside their comfort zone.
  5. Parents must be proactive when searching for help, answers to questions, etc.  Grandin mentioned the huge amount of resources available for parents online now.  She mentioned Khan Academy as one example.
  6. Consistent with prior talks, Grandin reiterated the need to think about "outcomes." Instead of playing video games all the time, kids need to learn work skills.   What are your children going to do with their lives?  Are your children learning skills that will help them get jobs? Grandin also stated that skilled trades would be good careers for some with autism, as they would be building something. 

For people not on the spectrum, Grandin offered some advice on how to interact with people who have autism.  She used the analogy of teaching someone how to behave in a foreign country that has different customs, languages and protocols.  Every instruction or explanation must be explicit. You need to explain things with step-by-step instructions.

For more tips from Temple Grandin, click here.


KPBS San Diego

Hope and Frank Talk on Autism from Temple Grandin