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Céira Is A Model For Autistic People

AN Ardnacrusha speech and language therapist, who was diagnosed with Autism and ADHD at the age of 25, is hoping to follow in the footsteps of a former Leaving Certificate classmate at the Miss Ireland final next month.
Miss Clare, Céira Moroney (27) is looking forward to participating in various Miss Ireland events over the coming weeks before the final in the Crown Plaza Hotel, Dublin on November 4.
They include a sports day, an online makeup challenge, a modeling round, and head-to-head public speaking.
Reigning Miss Ireland Doctor Ivanna McMahon, from Barefield who is Dyslexic, is an ambassador for Dyslexic Ireland, worked in the GP Scheme at Tralee General Hospital throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, before she was crowned the 75th Miss Ireland at a ceremony in Castlebar last year.
Dr Ivanna entered the competition as Miss Munster 2022 but left with the Miss Ireland title.
Interestingly, Céira Moroney was a Leaving Certificate classmate of Ms McMahon at Limerick Tutorial College.
The South-East Clare woman will join Miss Munster, Hannah Morrissey from Ballyea, who was inspired to enter Miss Munster following Dr Ivanna’s success and the Irish traditional musician recently completed a two-in-a-row of provincial crowns for Clare following a glittering ceremony at the Talbot Hotel, Clonmel.
Ms Moroney is enjoying the Miss Ireland competition.
“It is a beauty pageant with a purpose. There are so many elements to the competition. They are not just going on your looks. They want women to get involved in charities and help other people and be an ambassador to make a difference.
“They want someone who is a team player. For the modeling round, they are not looking for the skinniest or tallest. They want someone who will take on the advice they are given in terms of their walk and improving their stage presence.”
She plans to organise an Autistic-led fundraising concert with a mixture of poets, singers and writers for AsIAm’s Adult Support and Engagement services.
In addition to representing the national Autism charity AsIAm as her chosen charity,the Ardnacrusha native is using this opportunity to raise public awareness and understanding about this invisible disability, following her Autism and ADHD diagnosis two years ago.
“I am very proud of my Autism diagnosis. It is important to make changes in the work environment so that Autistic people can be fully embraced in society and reach their full potential, become empowered, and be able to advocate for themselves and others.
“Hospitals can be a very stressful place to be in. Having a sensory room or space can make a big difference. Little accommodations and adaptations can make someone with Autism feel valid.
“Even when I tell people I am Autistic, they still have an expectation that I will process things the same way as they do. I have to remind them I don’t have the same brain,” she says.
She believes Autism is still misunderstood due to perceptions that every Autistic person will be in the corner rocking or having a meltdown in public, which happens, but this isn’t applicable to all Autistic people.
“We tend to have one image of what Autism looks like and that is what it is. Some people may only be comfortable with having compassion for this type of Autistic person,” she explains.
When she was almost 21, Ms Moroney considered entering the Miss Ireland competition but didn’t have the confidence to make the plunge, opting out at the last minute.
Her sister, Gráinne, (32) who has Cerebral Palsy uses vocalisations and a device to communicate, which sparked her interest in learning different ways of communication, apart from speech.
This led Ms Moroney to complete a Speech and Language Therapy degree at Trinity College, Dublin.
When she was younger, she used to help with feeding and showering, Gráinne, who she says has a “wonderful quality of life”, is very interactive and understands everything that is going on around her.
“We are very close as sisters. I really wanted to help people when I grew up. I love communication and learning different ways about how to communicate. I am very passionate about how we can all communicate in a variety of different ways.
“I used to teach Gráinne how to read. I remember teaching her how to say the sounds. She gave me that ability to work with children and people with disabilities.
“I always knew that I wanted to work in the area of disability the most. Sometimes when my parents might not know what Gráinne was trying to say, I would be sent in to her. I would persist with her,” she recalls.
A passionate Clare hurling supporter, Gráinne attends a lot of games with her father, Tom, a Broadford native, while her mother, Breeda from Ardnacusha is her carer. She also has a brother, Martin.
Diagnosed with Autism and ADHD at the age of 25, Ms Moloney experienced a mixture of emotions mainly relief as she finally knew why she found certain situations difficult and overwhelming.
“It did answer a lot of questions. It was a bit frustrating. I was really angry that I didn’t know because if I knew, I could have availed of supports growing up.
“My parents and my family have been amazing. I was able to link in with Trinity Disability Services for anxiety to get a smaller exam room and more breaks during exams. The Trinity services were incredible.
“A lot of people are not for labels, but I find it incredibly empowering. I can connect with other Autistic people and I am not alone in the process.
“It helped me to support myself and other people to understand me better.
Now working as a speech and language therapist in a private clinic in Dublin for the last six weeks, she specialises in working with Autistic children.
“It has been a healing process in a way because I didn’t have the support when I was younger. I am very grateful to be able to work with Autistic children and give back what I didn’t have when I was younger.”
Despite her Autism diagnosis, some doctors are surprised she learn she has this disability they believe she presents “fine” and looks as if she is coping well in life.
“The way I present myself to the world isn’t the way I am feeling all the time. I still need to have my space away from other people. I can only stay in a supermarket or shopping centre for a certain length of time with music in my earphones to block off the sound.
“I used to find public transport very stressful, so I couldn’t get buses for ages. I didn’t know if it was just social anxiety.
“When I was socialising in nightclubs, I didn’t understand why I was feeling so anxious. On reflection, it was the lights, music, people are banging off you spilling their drink on top of your arm.
“That sensory input was often too much, oh my God, I am feeling this on my arm for the whole night. That would ruin my night. Now that I know, I am not going to make myself go into these situations. I love to go for a dance the odd time but I am a lot more comfortable sometimes to go home and do a jigsaw puzzle,” she explains.
While her friends were surprised initially, once she explained her different traits, rituals and routines, they understood.
Sometimes Ms Moroney can be a bit blunt, which is mistaken for rudeness, this isn’t intentional or meant to be hurtful.
Knowing when a conversation has come to an end and when to leave is another one of the social cues that she can find challenging.
Even though Autism tends to be more prevalent in boys, she believes girls don’t get diagnosed until they are older because they seem fine.
“A boy with ADHD could be racing around the class. A girl with ADHD is often the day dreamer in class. I was always the chatterbox in class, but I had good grades so I didn’t get in trouble.
“Everyone thinks a person is a little bit Autistic or has lots of Autism. This is not now it works. Every Autistic person is 100% Autistic. It is the traits themselves that are on their own spectrum. Whether a person is verbal or non verbal is on a spectrum.
“Autistic children in the clinic like to do the same things in the clinic again and again. I am not at that level. But I do like predictability. I eat the same things, I like to do the same things.
“Autism affects everyone in different ways. It is important that every Autistic person is made feel valid in terms of their diagnosis,” she explains.
For years, she found herself struggling somewhat in secondary school and the transition to college.
At the time, she felt this was due to anxiety but didn’t know what was going on exactly. Having tried various lifestyle changes including yoga, going vegan, reducing her sugar intake, walking and meditation, she still felt something wasn’t right.
During Autism and ADHD modules in college, she wondered if she had a different brain from other people.
“I did a few online quizzes for the craic and sent them to my friends. The quizzes were telling me I was Autistic and when my friends did them, they weren’t.
“I contacted the Adult Autism Practice in Galway, which does online consultations. We did loads of interviews. I had to send on stuff about my childhood and had discussions with my friends and parents.
“I started the process, met the psychologist and then left it for a few months and met again. The psychologist wanted to see if traits persisted when I was on her own away from her family following a period of a lot of change.
“She left it almost a year. She wanted me to be comfortable with the diagnosis and know for sure,” she recalls.
From a young age, she couldn’t cope with the chewy texture of fat and had to ensure this was removed from all meat.
She likes crunchy food like popcorn and crackers that provide good sensory input.
The psychologist put her in touch with AsIAm, who in turn helped to connect with women’s support groups.
In June 2021, Ms Moroney went to Spain for what was supposed to be a holiday but ended up staying on for two years, despite the fact she didn’t speak any Spanish and didn’t know anyone in the country.
After teaching remotely in Alacanta for a year, she found an English-speaking private clinic in Fuengirola in the Costa de Sol where she worked as a speech and language therapist for a year.
“The cost of living in Spain is a bit lower, but it is increasing. Groceries and necessities are the same. Eating out is a bit cheaper.
“A friend of mine told me she was leaving her job in two weeks and they badly needed a replacement. I did my interview on Zoom and got the job even though I was still living in Spain,” she adds.

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