Keith Stands up for Autism
The rally began at 12.30pm and parents and family had the opportunity to pin photos of loved ones on the ‘Northern Ireland Faces of Autism’ exhibition within Parliament Buildings. MLAs also signed the UN Resolution designating World Autism Awareness Day and debated the topic of Autism within the Assembly Chamber, where supporters had the opportunity to watch the proceedings from the public gallery.
The Northern Ireland ‘Stand Up for Autism’ Rally coincided with numerous activities organised across the UK by various Autism charities which came together to support World Autism Awareness Day (2nd April). Celebrities including, Eamonn Holmes, Jane Asher, Ruth Langsford, Michelle Collins, DJ Judge Jules and Brit award-winning band Elbow, are amongst those who pledged their support for the Day, which can be viewed on You Tube, Facebook and Twitter.
Stand up for Autism was a theme chosen to highlight how many people are personally affected by Autism and how important it is that we stand up and speak out in order to gain the right level of help, support and understanding. All too often Autism is not properly understood as a distinct condition and the needs of people affected by Autism are not recognised. In the UK, charities and people affected by Autism are urging the Government to recognise Autism Spectrum Disorders as distinct from other conditions, deserving urgent strategic planning, policy development and dedicated resource allocation. Research suggests that Autism is costing the UK £27.5 billion pounds a year - a cost which could be vastly reduced if the right support was put in place. A significant proportion of this is the result of lost earnings by adults with Autism, so it is not just an issue of cost but of missed opportunity.
Arlene Cassidy, our Chief Executive commented “One in a hundred people in the UK have Autism, yet the services and support available to them and their carers are woefully inadequate. While some people with Autism may need a lifetime of specialist support, others, given the opportunity, would be able to live relatively independent lives. Therefore it is vital that we all stand up for Autism and show our government group, a supportive environment for exploration and discussion.”