World Autism Day in Derry

Group pictured at the unveiling of a mural at Free Derry Corner on Friday afternoon as part of World Autism Awareness Day. The mural was designed by 'Turning The Curve' Autism Project, young people with Aspergers, and funded by the EU. 0104JM01
Group pictured at the unveiling of a mural at Free Derry Corner on Friday afternoon as part of World Autism Awareness Day. The mural was designed by 'Turning The Curve' Autism Project, young people with Aspergers, and funded by the EU. 0104JM01

There was great excitement in the offices of the Western Trust’s Autistic Spectrum Disorder Service on Thursday.

A day ahead of the unveiling of a mural designed by young people with Aspergers at Free Derry Corner, a package containing photographs taken by the same young people had just been delivered to the Aberfoyle Terrace centre.

Conal Harkin poses for a photograph as part of the work to mark World Autism Day.

Conal Harkin poses for a photograph as part of the work to mark World Autism Day.

All the creativity on display has been designed to coincide with World Autism Day on April 2.

The utterly captivating photographs are a fine example of exactly what goes on at the ASD base in Derry. As the head of the service, Consultant, Dr. Mary McDaid, says everyone there is focused on tapping into the often unrealised potential of children and young people diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorders.

“Young people with autism face many challenges and struggles but they also have huge strengths and talents. The beauty of this project is that it’s the same as the ethos of the service, these children and young people should have the opportunities to fulfil their potential but sometimes they need that little bit of support to help them get there.”

In the run up to World Autism Day young people from the entire Western Trust area got involved in a number of practical projects to mark the special one day event. The activities included flower arranging, photography, art competitions, and pottery, as well as designing the innovative mural.

Stuart McCullagh, one of the young people involved in the ASD Service's World Autism Day events, captured on camera by a fellow service user.

Stuart McCullagh, one of the young people involved in the ASD Service's World Autism Day events, captured on camera by a fellow service user.

Janet Moran, Transition Officer, manages the Co-operation and Working Together (CAWT) project within the ASD service.

Her work is focused on young people between the ages of 14 and 19.

“I work with young people who are leaving school and going into further education or employment so I work with a lot of other organisations as well including the Western Education and Library Board as well as the Department of Employment and Learning and a number of community based organisations. For this project, we brought the young people together and asked them what they were interested in and we put together a programme that we could realistically achieve,” says Janet.

Having worked closely with the young people, Janet says she’s been amazed by the turnaround in some of the service users.

“It’s unbelievable how much the programmes help the young people involved,” she says.

“One of the young people wouldn’t even speak when I first met him but through a process of slowly chipping away he’s really come out of his shell and was so enthusiastic about the projects we did this week. It shows how a little bit of support can make a massive difference to an individual.

“The CAWT programme means that the young people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders are meeting other people with similar needs and that really develops their confidence.”

ASD head Dr. Mary McDaid says that although the multidisciplinary service with offices in Derry and Omagh is achieving tangible results there are also challenges to be faced.

“The Western Trust is very committed to the development of the Autism Service but there are always challenges in terms of reducing waiting lists and the number of people that we have to see. Having said that we have a fantastic team here and in Omagh and there’s a real family atmosphere.

“We’re all determined to deliver the best possible service and make a big difference to the lives of the young people we see and their families.”

On Monday, at their offices in Omagh, the young people from the ASD service will have their work on display and a special prizegiving ceremony will take place.

The Autistic Specturm Disorder (ASD) Service is a western area multi-disciplinary team providing assessment and diagnostic intervention for children with ASD . Professionals involved in assessment are Psychology, Paediatricians, Social Workers, Speech & Language Therapists, Early Intervention Therapists, Occupational Therapist and Specialist mental health nurses.

It is the aim of the ASD Team to provide support and advice throughout your contact with them.

For more information on the service don’t hesitate to contact the team directly on 02882 835983.