Aim to make borough ‘Autism Friendly’

The local council has moved another step closer to making the area an autism friendly borough and achieving ‘Autism Friendly’ status.

Wednesday, 14th April 2021, 8:15 am

Mid and East Antrim Council’s team of Autism Champions have been drawing up plans to make leisure centres, visitor attractions and public cpaces in Ballymena and the wider borough more inclusive to the additional needs of autistic children and adults.

From a day out at the park, to arranging a swim, theatre visit or guided tour, the local authority has been working closely with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust and Autism NI on pre-visit information which will help families with an autistic loved one to plan ahead.

In addition to this work behind the scenes while visitor attractions and leisure facilities remain closed under coronavirus regulations, several staff across various council departments have also taken part in Autism Impact Award training in conjunction with Autism NI.

Caleb Armstrong tries out one of the new swings at the refurbished People's Park play area in Ballymena. Also pictured are his dad, Cllr Matthew Armstrong (who sits on Council's Autism Steering Group), mum Nicola, brother Ollie and sister Macie.

Councillor Matthew Armstrong, whose son, Caleb, has autism, sits on the council’s Autism Steering Group. He has welcomed the work being undertaken to help families and individuals with additional needs across the borough.

“There are a great many boys, girls, men and women within our local areas with autism and it is an honour for me to assist in any way that I can in helping Mid and East Antrim achieve status as an Autism Friendly Borough”, said Cllr Armstrong.

“The steering group, in conjunction with other agencies, continues to strive for delivery - that our public buildings, spaces and parks are accessible and welcoming to all.

“As a parent, I know the stress and planning that can go into a simple day out and it is my aim through all of our efforts to help make our facilities as worry free as possible.”

Jayne Colville, ASD Service Improvement Coordinator, NHSCT said: “We look forward to continuing to work alongside the Council and commend them for their persistence and dedication over the last year.”