Irish Research Council

Two projects from Science and Health funded as part of the Irish Research Council’s COALESCE programme

Projects examine the lived experiences of autistic pupils in Ireland and person-centred homecare services for community dwelling LGBTI people

The awards are being made as part of the fourth cycle of COALESCE (Collaborative Alliances for Societal Challenges), which funds excellent research addressing national and European-global challenges across a number of strands.

About the projects

Autism-Friendly Schools: Including the Voices of Autistic Pupils in Educational Provision in Ireland

Dr Sinéad McNally (Lead Principal Investigator) at Dublin City University’s Institute of Education and Dr Mary Rose Sweeney (STEM co-Principal Investigator) at DCU’s School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health have been awarded funding from the Irish Research Council to undertake the first large scale systematic investigation of the lived experiences of autistic pupils in Ireland.

Autism-Friendly Schools: Including the Voices of Autistic Pupils in Educational Provision in Ireland is a timely interdisciplinary research study which aims to capture the perspectives and experiences of autistic pupils of all levels of need in education in Ireland in order to identify principles and actions that would enhance the inclusion of autistic pupils in educational settings in Ireland. 

Funding for the study comes from the Irish Research Council’s COALESCE for interdisciplinary research stream which addresses national or global societal challenges.

This research is taking place in partnership with AsIAm, Ireland’s National Autism Charity.

Speaking about the award, study lead Dr Sinéad McNally said

“There is evidence that autistic children regularly experience exclusion and challenges in education that can result in lifelong difficulties.

The funding from the Irish Research Council for this study will enable us to conduct child-centred research that facilitates autistic children's rights to be heard and listened to. Using methodologies from psychology, education and health our goal is to ensure the voices of autistic pupils, including children at all levels of need, are included. 

Our study will work in consultation with autistic pupils, family members and experienced educators, to capture the voices of autistic pupils in policy and practice to address ongoing challenges around the full inclusion of autistic pupils in education.” 

Dr Mary Rose Sweeney, study co-lead said,

“Autistic pupils face barriers to their academic and social inclusion in educational settings. This study provides a forum for systematic data gathering from autistic pupils, their families and educators to identify and inform what needs to happen to improve their academic and social experiences and outcomes. Importantly our study will also examine attitudes to, and understanding of ASD, among the wider educational community of parents and teachers.

Autistic children and young people may require a range of individualised supports to take a full part in education. Current policies are intended to provide efficient and equitable access to a common set of services across Ireland - the voices of young people with autism need to be included to realise full access to those services."

About Dr. Sinéad McNally

Sinéad McNally is Assistant Professor in Psychology (birth to six) at the School of Language, Literacy and Early Childhood Education at Dublin City University's Institute of Education. 

Sinéad leads the Early Language and Learning Lab at the DCU Institute of Education, which investigates the ways in which early educational environments contribute to all young children’s development and learning. Her research on inclusive education and development highlights the importance of play, shared reading and language input in early childhood on children’s development and educational experiences. 

About Dr. Mary Rose Sweeney

Mary Rose Sweeney is an Associate Professor in Health Systems and Public Health Research in the School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health, in DCU and formerly Head of School.

Dr Sweeney was the lead investigator on the Irish arm of an EU project entitled Autism Spectrum Disorders in the EU, which was the largest programme of research ever undertaken in the EU on autism and involved researchers from twelve countries in Europe.

She has co-led Adult Autism in Homelessness: Prevalence, Experiences and Support Needs in an Irish Context - A Mixed Methods Study funded by the National Disability Authority (2020) and was the lead investigator and project lead for the Autism Friendly University Project at DCU in collaboration with AsIAm.

Homecare, Inclusive & Diverse (HID) - Person-Centred Homecare Services for Community Dwelling Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, & Intersex (LGBTI) People

Dr Mel Duffy (PI); Professor Anthony Staines (co-PI); Dr Eileen Courtney (AI)

In Ireland little is known about the experiences of community dwelling older Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,

Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people of receiving homecare. This study seeks to understand these experiences from the perspective of older LGBTI themselves, and by exploring the attitudes and knowledge of professional caregivers who provide care to LGBTI people in their homes. The literature that does exist in the area suggests that community dwelling older LGBTI people are vulnerable when receiving homecare. This may cause them to either try to conceal their LGBTI identity or neglect their healthcare needs.

General studies on the needs of older LGBTI people suggest that people want to be accepted for who they are including their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Just as older people in general, older LGBTI people want to feel respected in their interactions with healthcare providers.

Based on both the experiences of community dwelling older LGBTI people, and the knowledge and attitudes of professional home care providers, an educational resource for homecare services will be developed. This resource will be used to enable homecare providers to develop new skills in the area of diversity and inclusion which will facilitate the provision of respectful, appropriate person-centred services. It will examine the lived experience of community dwelling older LGBTI people and their support circle, and the attitudes of professional carers providing home care to older LGBTI individuals.

About Dr. Mel Duffy

Dr. Mel Duffy is Assistant Professor in Sociology and Sexuality Studies in the School of Nursing Psychotherapy & Community Health, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland. She teaches courses in sociology and sexuality studies at both undergraduate and graduate level.  After completing her PhD in DCU in 2008, she has pursued an active research programme in qualitative research, with a particular focus on hermeneutic phenomenology. Her work focusses on LGBTQI experiences of living their lives in the world they find themselves in, writing and presenting on: lesbian health and health care; coming out; relationship and sexuality education; disability; identity; residential care and experiences of health outcomes. She holds a BA and an MA by research from National University of Ireland, Maynooth and PhD from Dublin City University.

About Prof Anthony Staines

Prof Staines started out as a neonatal paediatrician, moved into public health, and academic epidemiology. After an MSc. in Epidemiology at the London School, and a PhD on spatial epidemiology in Leeds, he worked at Imperial with SAHSU. He moved back to Dublin in 1997 to UCD, and set about developing research activity in Public Health. moved to DCU as first chair of Health Systems in 2007. Deputy Director Centre for eIntegrated Care. His main focus is on the uses of health information systems.

About Dr Eileen Courtney

Lecturer in Nursing, RGN, RPN, RM, RPHN, RNT, B.N.S, Grad Dip Palliative Care, MSc. (Education) PhD.

Read more about the COALESCE programme here.