Launch of the "Hidden Community"

John McCallister MLA who opened the event said “I hear regularly from parents on the ground who tirelessly care for children and individuals with Autism and from within my role with the All Party Assembly Group on Autism (APAGA) of the growing need for family support throughout the life transitions, and in particular just after diagnosis.”

Mr McCallister continued “The family support service outlined in this study is unique in that it has been created from evidence of need in Northern Ireland from both parents and professionals and it is founded on the principal of working in partnership with Health and Social Care Trust teams. The service provides a continuity of care for families from the point of diagnosis which is essential.”

Also speaking at the event, North Down Support Group Parent Nigel Orr-McAuley recalled “When we found out that our son Grant was diagnosed with Autism we were shocked and felt so many emotions.  At that time there were a lot of tears and we felt very confused and uncertain about the future.  None of our friends or our families children had this condition and we felt a bit alone.” 

Nigel continued “To have someone work alongside us who was also a parent and knew exactly what we were going through was such a godsend.” 

Another keynote speaker was Sarah Calvert, a Speech and Language Therapist from the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust.  Sarah enthused “Trusts are under pressure in relation to PFA targets, limited resources and cutbacks and the increasing numbers of referrals which can lead to frustration for both professionals and families.  The Family Support Team is a key service to work alongside the Trust in meeting these needs.”

Following the launch the MLA’s and parents gathered at the ‘Wall of Faces’ display that had been up throughout Autism Awareness Month in April.