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Wednesday, 15th March 2023

Network Ireland Louth discuss Autism and disability in the workplace

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Ferris, Deputy CEO AsIAm and Roann Byrne, Co-Founder of DANU speaking at the Neurodiversity and Women in The Workplace Event on International Women’s Day with Network Ireland Louth and Local Enterprise Office Louth supported by AIB at The Mill. Photo: Jenny Callanan.

Autism, neurodiversity and disability in the workplace in general is a subject that does not get the attention it deserves but that was the topic of a recent meeting of Network Louth at The Mill Enterprise Centre.

Guest speakers at the event, which was opened by President of Network Ireland Louth, Niamh Pentony, were Fiona Ferris of the national autism charity AsIAm, and Roann Byrne, a start-up business woman and food academic from Drogheda.

Ms Ferris spoke about being diagnosed as autistic at the age of 15, her experiences at school and then as an autistic person in the workforce.  She highlighted the barriers that autistic people face when trying to access education and employment. 

In her role in AsIAM Fiona delivers talks, both nationally and internationally, about autism, neurodiversity, and disability.  Her aim is to give practical, relatable, knowledge and strategies to assist others in supporting the autistic community, to meet their own individual potential and fully participate in their community.

Fiona’s expertise covers a broad range of issues including Autism and Women, Neurodiversity, Disability Rights, Employment, Accessibility and Education. Outside of work, Fiona is an artist and is also completing an Honours Degree in Law.

Roann Byrne, who was diagnosed with ADHD in 2022, also spoke of her experience at school and college, prior to her diagnosis and how she has been able to harness her strengths to help her excel in her field. 

She founded a creative marketing agency - ‘Danu’ specialising in Irish culinary heritage to innovate modern business.  She is currently in a masters of Gastronomy and Food Studies, previous BSc in Baking and Pastry Management and a BA of Culinary Arts.

She is passionate about the participation of women in Irish food, with her thesis being on the ‘Influence of Women 1950-2000 Dublin City on Irish Cuisine’ and working within a non-profit organisation, Mna i mBia.

Fiona Ferris of the national autism charity AsIAm speaking at the Neurodiversity and Women in The Workplace Event.  Photo: Jenny Callanan. 

Both Fiona and Roann spoke about the strengths of having a neurodiverse workforce and of the supports and accommodations that can be made to facilitate the different ways of thinking, processing information and realising potential. 

There was a great response from the audience and many shared stories of their own experience.  The evening certainly opened up a new conversation on how a neurodiverse work environment is the workplace of the future.

Network Ireland Louth is a branch of Network Ireland, a Nationwide organisation supporting the professional, and personal, development of women.  It provides support, learning and networking opportunities for women in business and enterprise, throughout Ireland, through the branch network.

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