Native Galway girl Ciara-Beth Ní Ghríofa is an eighteen-year-old who is on a mission to show the world that autism does not define you as a person. Along with studying for her Leaving Certificate this year, she is also developing a new app to help autistic people become more comfortable with eye contact. My Contact is due to be released in 2019.
When asked about her autism Ciara-Beth explained that, while she is ‘high-functioning’, she struggles with a lot of sensory issues like loud noises and bright lights which would annoy and upset her along with certain textures of food. Ciara-Beth claims she’s not a fussy eater but a picky one.
“I always say I’m a picky eater not a fussy one. So, I will eat what’s in front of me and I will eat around the bits that I won’t eat.”
Sarcasm is also something Ciara-Beth has an ordeal with. She claims she can’t make the link between the sentences and the meanings, which can prove to be quite tricky within our Irish culture.
“We have a lot of those sarcastic phrases like ‘It’s raining cats and dogs’ or ‘The cat’s out of the bag.’ When I hear that I think Which cat? What bag? I don’t always do well with reading between the lines”
When asked about her time in school, Ciara-Beth honestly answered that every child has a tough time at some stage but because of her autism, she felt that she stood out that much more. However, she doesn’t dwell on this fact as it’s these experiences that lead her to develop her app, My Contact.
“… I got a little bit more of a hard time for it. But it resulted in my project ‘My Contact’. Which is a beautiful thing that came from a kind of bad situation.”
She explained to Ryan that it’s said that everyone is on the spectrum to some extent and she believes that lack of eye contact is more of a societal issue currently. Ciara-Beth’s app is to help those who feel uncomfortable in holding eye contact by having a face on the screen with different shaped eyes and matching the eye shapes with the shapes below on screen. While the user is doing this, they are subsequently being desensitised to looking at someone’s face or eyes, resulting in better eye contact in real life.
“We had one child who was able to look in the direction of a teacher who he hadn’t been able to look in the direction of before.”
Ciara-Beth shared with Ryan that she wants to help people on the spectrum and make sure people don’t suffer.
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