Autism action high on the agenda for council

Dessie Blackadder

Reporter:

Dessie Blackadder

As World Autism Awareness Week gets underway, Mid & East Antrim Council have revealed that their team of Autism Champions have been drawing up plans to make local leisure centres, visitor attractions and public spaces more inclusive to the additional needs of autistic children and adults.

From a day out at the park, to arranging a swim, theatre visit or guided tour, Council has been working closely with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust and Autism NI on pre-visit information which will help families with an autistic loved one to plan ahead.

In addition to this work behind the scenes while visitor attractions and leisure facilities remain closed under Coronavirus Regulations, several staff across various Council departments have also taken part in Autism Impact Award training in conjunction with Autism NI.

Councillor Matthew Armstrong, whose son, Caleb, has autism, sits on Council’s Autism Steering Group.

He has welcomed the work being undertaken to help families and individuals with additional needs across the Borough.

“There are a great many boys, girls, men and women within our local areas with autism and it is an honour for me to assist in any way that I can in helping Mid and East Antrim achieve status as an Autism Friendly Borough”, said Cllr Armstrong.

“The steering group, in conjunction with other agencies, continues to strive for delivery - that our public buildings, spaces and parks are accessible and welcoming to all.

“As a parent, I know the stress and planning that can go into a simple day out and it is my aim through all of our efforts to help make our facilities as worry free as possible.”

Jayne Colville, ASD Service Improvement Coordinator, NHSCT said:“I am delighted to work alongside Mid and East Antrim Borough Council in working towards making their borough autism friendly. Making public services accessible and autism friendly is vital in order to provide a welcoming and understanding atmosphere for our autistic community.

“We look forward to continuing to work alongside the Council and commend them for their persistence and dedication over the last year.”

The initiative has also been praised by Christine Kearney, Director of Development with Autism NI, who said:“Autism NI is delighted to be working with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council through our Impact Award initiative.

“This training and support programme supports staff across various venues to understand more about autism and provide adaptations to ensure a high quality service to autistic individuals and their families. We look forward to continuing and expanding the work across council facilities.”

Full details on the Autism Friendly Pre-Visit Information will be made available over coming weeks via our website www.midandeastantrim.gov.ukand social media channels, and can be facilitated in hard copy if requested.

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