Parents, carers and those with autism are actively involved in shaping the future of autism services across Northern Ireland.
The Reference Group entitled Regional Autism Spectrum Disorder Network Reference Group (RASDN) comprising of parents, carers, users of autism services and the voluntary sector, was established in 2009 to help ensure their views were being heard and acted upon within the statutory sector.
The Group, chaired by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass, met at a workshop last week in Ballymena to consider the future development of autism services including; improving access to care, supportive arrangements for carers, waiting times and funding opportunities.
The Reference Group is part of the Regional Autism Spectrum Disorder Network that was set up last year to help improve autism services across Northern Ireland. The Network, chaired by Dr Stephen Bergin, Consultant in Public Health Medicine with the Public Health Agency, includes the Health and Social Care Trusts, Education and Library Boards, the Health and Social Care Board and the Public Health Agency.
Dr Bergin said: “This workshop is another demonstration of the Regional Autism Network’s commitment to involving carers, parents, users of services and the voluntary sector in becoming partners and shaping decisions regarding the development of future services across Northern Ireland.”
Speaking at the workshop Lord Maginnis said: “We’ve made huge strides in earlier diagnosis of children with autism. Despite financial constraints, we’ll continue to concentrate immediately on earlier diagnosis and we know we have a lot more to do.”
Attending the workshop Nuala White commented: “As a parent finally having a voice in this forum revealed that the parents in Northern Ireland know where the needs are failing to be met and know where services are flawed.”
Regina Cox, Co-Director of National Autism Society Northern Ireland (NAS NI) added: “NAS NI welcomes the opportunity to be part of the Regional Autism Spectrum Disorder Network in order to try and improve service delivery for people with autism, their families and carers across Northern Ireland.”