Children on the autistic spectrum will have the opportunity to fully participate in Christmas festivities on the North Coast this year.
Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council has agreed to provide a ‘quiet’ facility as part of their switch-on programme of events.
The initiative, which will be rolled out at the four main towns in the council area, came about at the behest of a family.
Welcoming the provision, Alderman Alan Robinson explained he has been lobbying the local authority in recent weeks asking for the roll out of ‘quiet areas’ or ‘quiet hours’.
He explained; “The issue came about following a meeting held with a local parent who spoke so passionately on the need for equality of opportunity for children with ASD. She told me how her child would be overwhelmed by large crowds and noise, and therefore unable to participate in the annual visit of Santa.
“As the father of a young child who has seen Santa many times I believe it is right we ensure that all children have the opportunity to fully participate in the Christmas festivities.
“I really welcome the efforts of the council team who have responded to my request at what is very short notice as their efforts will have a very positive impact for the children who will avail of the new opportunity. I owe a debt of gratitude to the mother of the little boy who raised this with me and she must credit for getting this issue highlighted.”
‘Quiet Christmas’ afternoons for children with autism will take place in Ballycastle, Ballymoney, Coleraine and Limavady.
They will allow children and their family members to meet individually with Santa Claus in a calm and quiet environment.
The Mayor, Councillor Joan Baird OBE said: “Our ‘Quiet Christmas’ events will help to ensure that our festive celebrations are accessible to all. It’s a very special time of year, especially for our young people, but it can be difficult for those with autism. With this in mind, we hope this programme will allow all children to enjoy the magical experience of meeting Santa and sharing their Christmas wishes with him.”
Each child will receive a small gift during their visit.
The first ‘Quiet Christmas’ will take place in Ballymoney Town Hall on Thursday, November 16, 3pm – 5pm, followed by Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre in Limavady on Saturday, November 18, 1pm – 3.00pm, Coleraine Town Hall on Friday, November 24, 3pm – 5pm and Sheskburn House in Ballycastle on Thursday, December 7, 3pm – 5pm.
Spaces are limited and must be pre-booked in advance by contacting Tracey Freeman, events officer on eventsColeraine@causewaycoastandglens.gov.uk or 028 7034 7221.