£0.7m funding for autism support programme

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A project supporting families in Carrick and Newtownabbey who have children with autism is to share in a cash boost of almost £0.7m from the Big Lottery Fund.

Autism NI is one of three projects to receive grants totalling over £2 million from the BLF’s Reaching Out: Supporting Families programme.

The group has been awarded £699,810 for the Reaching Autism Families Together project, which will support families in the areas who have a child with autism.

The project will also support families who are waiting for a diagnosis.

The project is being delivered in partnership with a range of local groups including Women’s Aid Ballymena, Action for Children Antrim and HomestartCarrickfergus as well as Northern Health and Social Care Trust.

It will offer advice and support to families and bring them together for mutual support and to plan shared social activities as well as to learn about autism and strategies that will help their children.

Dr Arlene Cassidy, chief executive of Autism NI, said the project will transform the lives of many families facing a diagnosis of autism. She added: “We are delightedto receive the funding – it has come just at the right time for us as it will allow us tointroduce this important early intervention programme to families who need it most.

“When a child is being assessed for autism, it can be a make or break time for a family and the right support can be crucial for the young person as well.

“The project will be a lifeline for families going through a period of extreme crisis.”

Dr Cassidy said the project, which is due to start early next year, would provide vital practical and emotional support to families when they need it most.

“Parents are bombarded with information at a time when they are at their most vulnerable.

“This project is about getting parents to realise at a very early stage that the situation is not beyond their control and there is a lot they can do to the help their children.”