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84th Biological Society Meeting focuses on Children with Special Needs
Examining special needs and disability with a focus on children was the theme of the addresses at the 84th Biological Society Inaugural Meeting which took place in the Albert Lecture Theatre in RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) on Friday, 27th January 2017. The Biological Society (BioSoc) is the oldest student society in RCSI and the event was organised by students from the Biological Society Committee with assistance from the RCSI Student Services team.
Speaking in advance of the evening, Biological Society President Professor James Paul O'Neill, Professor of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery at RCSI, said: "Special needs and disability in children is of relevance to a broad range of medical and healthcare specialities and is therefore a very apt focus for the year's Biological Society Inaugural Meeting."
"This is a topic very close to my heart. My daughter Ellie has ‘non-specific global development delay' and is on the autism spectrum. When we were told she had special needs it left myself and my wife shocked and numb. What kind of future would this little girl have? Why her? Can we ‘fix' her? Where do we go next? We have been on somewhat of a roller coaster ride since then and have met some amazing people, but we've encountered some intensely frustrating barriers. Fortunately there are many people now in medicine, teaching, journalism and politics who are making real progress for these children, including our two speakers tonight, Susan Dennehy and Minister Zappone." concluded Professor O'Neill.
Minister Katherine Zappone TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, who delivered the ‘Widdess Address' at the meeting said "The evidence is overwhelming that discrimination against children with disabilities is rampant in all societal settings and that children with disabilities are consistently excluded from opportunities with economic, social, cultural and inter-personal consequence. That can't and won't continue. Caring relationships are fundamental to our humanity and distinctly human, and thereby the basis of a distinctly human dignity.
"It was Franklin Delano Roosevelt who defined the aspiration to inclusivity. "Let us build a society where nobody feels left out," was the way he put it. I buy that. Let us build a society in Ireland where nobody feels left out." concluded Minister Zappone.
Speaking before the event Susan Dennehy, who is an award winning radio producer and reporter, said: "As a mother to a child with a disability and as a radio producer and reporter, I have been uniquely placed to witness the day-to-day experience of children who live with disability in an Irish context. This evening I will give an honest account of my personal experience and share some of the insights I have gained from the people who have featured in my documentaries and reports."
Professor O'Neill is a graduate of RCSI (Medicine, Class of 2001) and has a long association with the Society, having attended his first BioSoc meeting as a student in the late 1990s.
A number of College medals were presented to students and recent graduates at the meeting including the RCSI Council Medal, the Denis Gill Medal for Paediatrics, the Alan Browne Medal for Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the Psychiatry Case Competition Winner, the Dr Arthur Stephen ffrench-O'Carroll Medal, the Harold Browne Anatomy Medal, the Mary Leader Medal in Pathology and the Tom Farrell Neuroscience Award
RCSI is ranked in the top 250 institutions worldwide and joint 1st place in the Republic of Ireland in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2016-2017). It is an international not-for-profit health sciences institution, with its headquarters in Dublin, focused on education and research to drive improvements in human health worldwide.