Autism service in Northern Trust area

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust is highlighting a service for East Antrim residents aged 16 and over who have been diagnosed with autism.

The service is available from 1.30pm - 4.30pm each Tuesday in Braid Museum and Arts Centre, Ballymena. It will involve one-to-one advice sessions and signposting to services across a range of agencies including employment, further education and social security. It will also support individuals to develop a range of natural supports, including group support to cope with a diagnosis and self-advocacy to assist with independence and social inclusion.

Heather McCarroll, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Co-ordinator in the Northern Trust said: “Since the launch of the service this year we have worked with 22 different families across the Trust area, from Portstewart to Newtownabbey, offering them support and advice on all aspects of their everyday lives. It is important that individuals are given the necessary support to allow them to reach their full potential and play an active role in community life. I would encourage anyone living in the Northern Trust area age 16 and over who has been diagnosed with autism to drop in to the service for advice and support.”

ASD is a lifelong developmental disorder that impacts on the way an individual communicates with and relates to other people. A diagnosis of ASD can help explain the difficulties the individual experiences. As those with ASD do not have specific physical characteristics ASD has been called a hidden disability, and this can contribute to others not fully understanding the difficulties an individual with ASD may experience.

Common areas of difficulty for people with ASD involve social communication, social interaction and imagination/flexibility of thought. However, each individual with ASD may be affected differently, with the impact varying from one person to another. ASD affects both males and females but is more frequently diagnosed in males. It is generally thought this is because females are more likely to be able to mask their difficulties.