Dr Arlene Cassidy

Since taking up the role, the Family Support Manager has recruited three new staff members to the team –a part time Project Officer and, with funding from the Rank Foundation.

Autism NI exists to support individuals with Autism and their families and campaigns to raise awareness of Autism within the wider society. Our vision is of an equal society in Northern Ireland where barriers to those living with Autism are removed and equality of access to rights and opportunities is protected and enforced.

Since taking up the role, the Family Support Manager has recruited three new staff members to the team –a part time Project Officer and, with funding from the Rank Foundation, two part time Link/Crisis Workers. With the Manager and an existing part time Autism Resource Officer the team now consists of five individuals.

The Family Support Team now supports families with a child with Autism in all areas of Northern Ireland. Rank Foundation funding has meant that through our link/crisis service we have been able to provide support to families in areas of Northern Ireland where previously the service did not exist. We have been able to source and engage with other Autism service providers and signpost parents and families to agencies who are able to provide much needed support and respite. The link/crisis service has helped over 1,000 families across Northern Ireland since the Rank funded workers took up post in November 2013.

Rank funding has brought about an improvement in the effectiveness of the Family Support team. The role of the Project Officer is to work alongside the Family Support Manager, develop training and support interventions which are beneficial to families who have children and young people with Autism. The Family Support Manager is now able to concentrate on training and supporting families throughout Northern Ireland. We have also been able to establish more Parent Support Groups for parents and help support the parents maintain the running of the groups. The team has also created new advice sheets which provide useful information on many topics in relation to Autism including ‘Managing Challenging Behaviour’ and ‘Autism and Holidays’ for example. The Link Workers have been able to concentrate on the issues and concerns of families who contact us through e-mail, telephone, letter, referral and drop in. The Link Workers have developed a significant portfolio of what is available in regards to Autism services, activities and other relevant information in specific local areas. They are the first line of contact for parents/carers of children with Autism and having this information at hand enables them to signpost and advise parents accurately and efficiently. The Link Workers also keep Parent Support Groups up to date with any new projects or services in their respective areas.