We absolutely welcome the Autism bill passing its final stage in the assembly this week and offer absolute credit to those individuals and organisations who have worked tirelessly to make this happen.
In March 2021, as part of Bolster Community’s “Being Awesome” conference in association with the Southern Health and Social Care trust, 96% of conference attendees agreed that access to services and support for Adults with Autism required significant investment and improvement.
Across a year of outreach, young adults with autism, families, carers, educators, healthcare and consultants pooled their collective knowledge. Our consultation showed deep frustration with under- resourcing and the lack of prioritising for adult autism services. Some adults had been waiting over 6 years to attend an autism diagnostic clinic whilst others spoke to growing frustration and despair, impacting significantly on their quality of life due to inaction on diagnosis.
What became clear was that most Autism services are designed for people who have autism and also a learning disability or mental health diagnosis, but few services are suitable for people with autism but without a learning disability or mental health diagnosis.
The data and direction coming from the consultation and conference were stark-Investment in community support and diagnosis is required to better support adults with Autism in Northern Ireland. Prevalence figures for adults are often outdated and inaccurate; many individuals only receive a diagnosis of autism in their adult life as awareness of the spectrum increases.
“Direct, positive, person-centred change.
By strengthening the support services for young people and adults with autism in Northern Ireland, the passing of this Bill will provide direct, positive, person-centred change to the young people we support. Not only for themselves, the passing of this Bill marks the beginning of a brighter future for those living with autism in Northern Ireland. The waiting lists for autism diagnosis are too long!
“Change for the better!”
Some of the changes that the Bill will introduce will be the creation of an autism information service and a cross departmental autism training strategy. There will also be a requirement for the Department of Health to make provision for a regionally consistent adult autism service and early intervention service throughout Northern Ireland. This is a very much needed and welcome development and one that has been a long time in the making.
We are particularly delighted to introduce a new Adult Autism Service on 16th March and know that this will go some way to providing support to the amazing people we know and love who are living with autism.
Everyone at Bolster Community would like to take this opportunity to applaud those who campaigned for change which will have a positive impact to the lives of people, like our own candlemakers, who are not only living, but thriving with autism in Northern Ireland. Thank you to all those families, parents, supporters and individuals who made history this week.
A special thanks to Pam Cameron MLA and Kerry Boyd (Autism NI CEO) and all of the other MLA`s parents and advocates who fought so hard for this transformational framework!
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