Conor goes canvassing with Hildegarde: Autism power!
For anyone that knows Val and I, they will know we place huge importance on making sure our boys stay active in the community and understand the importance of giving back. And where best can anyone do this, than to participate in the political process and help shape their future? And thinking of their autism challenges, I can’t imagine a more social activity than meeting families up and down the length of Galway, sharing stories and chatting about what is important to all of us.
Without a moments thought, Conor wanted to join Hildegarde Naughton’s canvassing team. Hildegarde is one of those quiet but incredibly determined people who believes in the possible and gets out in front to make things happen. And I say this from a very unique vantage point……. as a parent of twin autistic sons. For anyone who lives our experiences and understands our world: believing in the possible and making things happen alters lives.
I know that Hildegarde’s signature achievement is the new 200 bed hospital for Galway. And this is an incredible achievement that will alter the face of healthcare in Galway when she sees it through. But what I think about most, and what people on the door steps often speak to is Hildegarde’s belief in community. And this sense of community drives what has been an incredible raft of achievements.
For Conor and I, what Hildegarde has done is enable community based investments across the county from fixing unsafe footpaths, growing local sports clubs, dealing with climate change, driving a new 200 bed hospital. And just about everything in between. These investments in our community are by no means token – they run into millions of Euros all of which, when taken together are growing the fabric of our lives for the better. Conor and I would really like to see this continue.
This work is personal to Val and I, because one of these investments, in sailing, changed the world for our Conor. For some time Conor, a non verbal autistic sailor has been trying to realize his dream of skippering a racing yacht in an offshore race. To participate, compete and be part of a world that Conor has loved since he was a child. To race as an equal against some of the best in the sport. And with Hildegarde’s vision and personal advocacy it happened last year.
And how did it go? An 8th, 6th and 5th place and the respect of the Irish offshore sailing community. The knowledge that Conor could go shoulder to shoulder with the best and deliver. But most of all, to be part of a community that sees beyond his challenges and accepts him as an equal. And for us, this is what Hildegarde is all about: improving our community in a way that makes the unthinkable real.
And what of our canvassing with Hildegarde and her wonderful team? Well let me speak as a parent who has lived with a severe autism diagnosis for both our boys. What this is supposed to mean….. a world without communication, isolation and dependency. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst…..
So to have Conor as a part of this group with Hildegarde, meeting families and teenagers with aspirations just like Conor’s. Just sharing expectations and the possibilities for the future. Well it just fills our hearts with joy and a belief that despite Conor’s differences….. there is an important place for him and millions who share is abilities in an enlightened society.