Oireachtas Committee on Autism Hears Research on Assistive Technology

15 February 2023

InterAcT (Accomplish & Thrive) funded by EI and SFI within the ADAPT Centre at Trinity is a technology that aims to empower individuals and families by putting currently distant solutions online and in their hands.

The Oireachtas Committee on Autism recently heard about developments and the impact of assistive technology and other supports for autistic people developed by InterAcT.  ADAPT collaborator at Trinity College Dublin’s School of Psychology, Dr Olive Healy, presented the research with Dr Ciarán Seoighe from SFI and Dr Lorna Houlihan from Maynooth University.  The aim of the presentation was to provide an overview of research which aims to address individual, family and societal challenges that are experienced by autistic people and their families, many of which echoed submissions made to SFI’s Creating Our Future campaign. 

The Joint Committee on Autism was established to consider matters relating to the services and supports provided by the State for autistic people.  The Committee has 12 members, seven from the Dáil and five from the Seanad.  The Committee Cathaoirleach, Senator Micheál Carrigy, said: “The Committee is interested to hear from Dr Ciarán Seoighe, SFI Deputy Director General, about Creating Our Futures – a forum that asked members of the public to suggest topics for research that could benefit the country.  Members are particularly interested in the results relevant to the autistic community.”

Speaking at the event, Dr Healy said: “The theme that emerges involves ‘Science Communication’ whereby knowledge and effective solutions from research are made more understandable and accessible for uptake and use. I am committed to actionable research engaging with the public and involving families to improve person-centred and socially important outcomes.” 

“A research to practice gap exists in health and education in Ireland, in relation to strategies for autistic people, to ensure that living a fruitful and satisfying life is a given.”

“Embracing these solutions is a welcome development to inform what will work for real lives. Whilst my research streams cover a wide variety of topics all have an overarching focus on promoting self-determination, empowerment and enabling greater choices.”

Examples of areas Dr Healy’s research team examines include:

  • Tele-coaching parents of toddlers waiting for an Autism assessment and provision in ‘very early’ behavioural intervention in order to give children the best start.
  • Investigating differential Persistence of Primary Reflexes for autistic children as a novel precursor or biomarker, in order to identify those who would benefit from supports and to provide these critically important supports, at the earliest possible age.
  • Develop assistive technology platforms to support the dissemination of effective and empirically supported practices to address the issues that arise for autistic people, in particular related to stress and anxiety. Together with Dr. Rhona Dempsey, Dr Healy founded InterAcT (Accomplish & Thrive) funded by EI and SFI within the ADAPT Centre at Trinity. This technology aims to empower individuals and families by putting currently distant solutions online and in their hands.
  • Designing and disseminating Evidence-Based Practices and prevention protocols for the emergence or escalation of distressed behaviours that often limit an autistic person’s life experiences and happiness. The researchers are empowering educators, parents and autistic individuals with highly effective strategies in order to meet communication and developmental needs. 
  • Literacy, a life-long essential skill which is critical for all children. They are focused on high quality instructional reading strategies that improve outcomes for autistic children, who can be under served in terms of achieving literacy, in order to enable and expand learning.


Overall research goals are to build skills, minimise barriers, and optimise person-environment fit for supports.