Top clinical psychologist and Head of Autism Services in the Londonderry area, Dr Mary McDaid, says additional support is needed for children on the spectrum and their families right across Northern Ireland.
The Western Trust child services boss, Kieran Downey, agrees, saying its autism services have come a long way but the health authorities must continue to learn and grow.
The Trust recently hosted an event to celebrate World Autism Day, which brought together children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), their parents and professionals from voluntary organisations and the Education sector. The event was held at the Silverbirch Hotel in Omagh.
Dr McDaid said: “Additional services are required for children with ASD and their families throughout Northern Ireland and the Western Trust is proactively seeking to enhance service provision to secure additional investment.
“We work in partnership with the Education Authority and voluntary organisations, parents, adults and children to further improve Autism Services.
“We sincerely thank all Autism organisations working together in the Western Trust area to improve the lives of children with ASD and their families.”
Mr Downey said: “This day is an opportunity to recognise the invaluable social activities available through voluntary organisations and parent led groups and to hear from young people about their experiences in relation to this.
“Autism services have come a long way but we still have far to go.
“It is through organisations collaborating together and working in partnership with the Western Trust that we can continue the innovative work carried out in the West.”
The event brought together young people with ASD, families, local autism organisations, support workers and staff from Western Trust autism services.
Young people were able to share their own experiences and display their stories and testimonials around the room about how autism services in the West have worked for them.
Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disability that affects how a person understands the world and communicates with others.
Individuals on the spectrum have a wide range of abilities and needs, and include those with Asperger’s Syndrome. The Western Trust has a range of Autism Support Services in place.
These fall broadly into two main categories: children’s service and adult services.
Every child is different and equally every child with Autism is different. When a child is diagnosed with Autism the help and support that will be provided will depend on that child’s individually assessed needs. Clear guidance has recently been published about how children in Northern Ireland are assessed, diagnosed and subsequently supported. This guidance is called the “Six Steps of Autism Care” and it explains what happens when a child is put forward for assessment.
To learn more visit: www.westerntrust.hscni.net/services/AutisticSpectrumDisorder.htm