New Support Package Carers Of Children With Autism

The first ever multi-media support package for parents and carers of children with autism in Northern Ireland has been launched with the aim of ” answering all the questions that need answered”. Peat (Parents Education As Autism Therapists) has launched Simple Steps, a CD-Rom training and support package.

The initiative will provide training and guidance to parents who have a child with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and has been designed and produced by parents and professionals to provide information about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). Around 10,000 children in Northern Ireland suffer from ASD and the figure is rising.

Autism, which has a detrimental affect on a child’s social interaction, communication and play skills, can also lead to challenging and inappropriate behaviour. Simple Steps aims to give parents the skills to deal with challenging behaviour, such as tantrums, and to teach their children new skills.

ABA also empowers children with skills to make choices for themselves, giving them more independence and a better quality of life. The package was funded with a grant of £236,529 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Voluntary and Community Sector Programme.

Dr Tony Byrne, Peat chairman, has two children with autism. He said that parents have “initial feelings of devastation and disbelief when their children are diagnosed with Autism”. “We then embark on a lonely search for help.

“Most of us rang every charity we could find, spoke to countless professionals, read books on autism and searched many websites,” he said. “Wouldn’t it have been great if someone had given you a complete comprehensive support package that answered the questions you needed answered.”

Peat, a parent-led charity, worked along with Dr Stephen Gallagher and Dr Mickey Keenan from the University of Ulster’s school of psychology in Coleraine, Dr Karola Dillenburger from Queen’s University Belfast and a local company, Manley’s Ltd., to produce Simple Steps. Crossroads Primary School and Stars pre-school in Kilrea also played key roles in the project.

Dr Mickey Keenan said the launch was “another step closer to addressing the acute shortage of skills in a science of behaviour for guiding parents of children with autism”.