An innovative service in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust is making a difference to the lives of people who have been diagnosed with autism.
With an estimated 20,000 people diagnosed with autism in NI, the service is designed to provide clients with better information and help in accessing support.
There is a multi-agency team on hand to provide advice and support on key aspects of daily life. Each session will be attended by staff in the Northern Trust, the National Autistic Society, a member of staff from the Department for Employment and Learning and a representative from careers advice or student finance at the Northern Regional Colleges. An outreach Officer from the Social Security Agency and a volunteer from the Citizens Advice Service will also attend one afternoon a month to assist anyone in relation to benefits available to them.
For one client in particular, the Northern Adult Autism Advice Service has made a real difference. He has attended one to one advice sessions and was signposted to the range of agencies involved. Speaking about the help received, he said: “Before attending I found it difficult managing my emotions and coming to terms with my diagnosis of autism. The first time I went to the group I felt apprehensive as I had just received a diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Disorder and was unsure of what to expect. I found the staff very helpful and thought it was good that there were different agencies under one roof.
“I visited the Northern Adult Autism Advice Service on different occasions. I was provided with advice on benefit entitlement from the Social Security Agency. After receiving this advice I applied and now receive Disability Living Allowance. The Northern Regional College provided me with information on courses and enrolment details and I am hoping to enrol in a course in September to further my education.
“I attended the post diagnostic group held by Northern Trust staff which was great to learn more about the disorder. I met other people at the group sessions with similar characteristics to me which was reassuring and it made me realise that some of my quirks are part of the disorder, it put the diagnosis into perspective for me. I gained insight into myself and realised there was a reason why I did certain things. As I gained a better understanding of autism I was able to explain the disorder to my friends and family and as a result of this my relationship with my wife is much stronger and I now feel more in control of my emotions. I would recommend the Northern Adult Autism Advice Service to other people like me who have been diagnosed with autism”.
The service is available from 1.30–4.30pm each Tuesday in the Braid Museum and Arts Centre, Bridge Street in Ballymena. It is available for people living across the Northern Trust area who have been diagnosed with autism and are aged 16 and over. It involves one to one advice sessions and signposting to services across a range of agencies. The service will also support individuals to develop a range of natural supports, including group support to help them cope with a diagnosis and self-advocacy to assist them towards independence and social inclusion.
Autism is a lifelong developmental disorder that impacts on the way an individual communicates with and relates to other people. A diagnosis of autism can help explain the difficulties the individual experiences. As those with autism do not have specific physical characteristics autism has been called a hidden disability, and this can contribute to others not fully understanding the difficulties an individual with autism may experience.
For more information on the Northern Adult Autism Advice Service and how it can help you or a family member please phone 028 2766 1335 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org