A day in the life: autism miracles on NUI Galway campus………
University Press, Galway Ireland
Teenager Conor Dodd, diagnosed as severely autistic as a child, now teaches special needs children to communicate. In this story of hope and miracles, we look at how this came about and what the future holds for Conor.
Can you imagine being here but no one listening, being trapped and not being able to escape, being frustrated that no one hears you, well this was how Conor started out, and what a journey it has been. A best seller in the making of how this young child now a 19 year old adult did the impossible without any 007 props.
Conor was diagnosed with a particularly severe autism including deafness, cognitive deficits, profound language disorder and global dyspraxia. Any of these conditions would have left Conor with communication deficits but in combination his condition was viewed as hopeless. And yet, deep inside, his parents felt he showed determination and abilities if they could just reach him. But it took Conor and his equally autistic brother Eoin to show their parents how to turn hopeless into hopeful through their incredible interest in all things Disney.
Having discovered how to develop the boys’ communication through using Disney media, Enda built a multinational research team to make the solution available to parents around the world. One evening he was building the technology way into the night at home with Conor frequently at his shoulder. Tired from a long day, Enda stepped away from his computer to get a cup of tea downstairs in the kitchen. When he came back Conor was on the keyboard programming language concepts effortlessly.
From that day forward Conor emerged as a key to creating the language content which is now being used by hundreds of families around the world. With the support of Disney and Adobe the family all worked very hard on this new concept over the years. Conor is particularly adept with computers and very determined when he can see a challenge in front of him.
The usual talk in the office based on campus each day is “let’s do more Dad, I can do that better Dad, I know how to fix that problem Dad, to, Mum I am having so much fun”, says Conor
The enormity of what Conor is doing is not lost on his parents as they speak about what the day might have been for Conor: Hospitalized and unresponsive because of the severity of the condition, attending clinics seeking private schooling beyond our financial reach, ultimately unchallenged and unfulfilled.
The contrast with his daily activities couldn’t be greater: Working in the family business on campus, developing their animated language learning platform through programming, to running with the Galway City harriers, sailing and playing tennis with NUIG and enjoying his new life on campus. He has been overwhelmed with the support students show him in learning new skills. Based in the business innovation center at NUIG, Conor works with his Dad and a small team of language researchers. He is focused on the creation of language programs for children who cannot communicate as he once was as a child. Employing media from Disney and specialized tools provided by Adobe in Silicon Valley, he is changing the world for autistic children.
“For Conor to have overcome profound communication disabilities was a miracle in itself. But for Conor to have dropped out of school to become a leader in language development research is just beyond anything we could have imagined”, says Enda.
Conor’s time at the University just lights up his day and there is just so much opportunity for growth both professionally and personally. We owe a great deal to the University and its leadership in making our presence here a reality commented Enda. Conor is a happy fun loving person so make sure if you see him on campus to say Hi!
Now as a family we are doing all the Christmas cheer instead of remembering what could have been and Enda, Val Conor & Eoin wish you all a Healthy, Happy Christmas and best wishes for 2017
If you would like to find out more about Conor and his language development activities at Animated Language Learning see: www.animatedlanguagelearning.com