Smile & Bridge the Gap

Ailis Conacur is 20 years old and has Autism and a Visual Impairment. She completed her Applied Leaving Certificate last year and is now concentrating on developing her independent living skills.

A key aspect of this is developing the skills and confidence to interact with people in her community. While she enjoys company and meeting people she is unable to initiate the first contact – no matter how well she knows the person. This leads to huge levels of stress and anxiety for Ailis when she has to try and carry out the simplest of tasks in her community.

Ailis has identified 4 elements that she feels would help her overcome her fears and assist her in her attempts to develop a normal life for herself in the community. We have called this campaign “Smile & Bridge the Gap”.

The 4 elements that Ailis would like the people in the community to embrace and action when they meet Ailis are:

  • Smile
  • Say Hello
  • Introduce yourself by name
  • Ask Ailis if she is OK

These individual elements are simple forms of communication for people in general but they are hugely important for Ailis for the following reasons:

  • Smile – This immediately reduces her levels of anxiety as Ailis reads a “neutral” face as being cross;
  • By saying “Hello Ailis” using her name, then Ailis knows that you are speaking to her as she cannot read eye contact and body language in the way people generally do;
  • By introducing yourself by name you have now giving the tools to Ailis to try and respond and communicate with you;
  • By asking Ailis if she is OK she can, if necessary, ask for assistance to find something in the shop or her place in the queue or some other simple task we take for granted but Ailis can find hugely stressful. Remember Ailis will not initiate the request, so she needs your prompting.

Ailis has also designed a Badge that she will wear in her community which she hopes will act as a reminder to people of her needs when they meet her.

We have Badges available for other members of the community with Special Needs who would like to participate. Just email us on and we will get a Badge to you.

There are also Car Stickers available and please contact us on if you would like a sticker. 



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