The facility at Lilac Villa, which is located in the grounds of Gransha Park Hospital in the city, will operate as the new home for both services and will provide the additional clinical space and accommodation that is required due to the growth of the ASD Service in recent years.
The aim of the refurbishment was to create a bright, welcoming and child-centred environment to allow service users to feel comfortable and at ease when using the facility.
This was achieved by using a local artist to add colourful paint work to the walls, while young people and staff were asked to provide inspirational quotes that they liked so they could also be displayed.
Commenting at the official opening, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People Koulla Yiasouma, said: “There should never be a wrong door for a child and family seeking to access services. Lilac Villa a very promising step forward in fulfilling that promise.
“Children and young people with disabilities will be able to access the service they need in a calm and friendly environment and I congratulate everyone involved for responding so positively to the young people and it was an absolute honour to officially open the centre.”
Assistant Director of Community & Public Health, Women and Children’s Services, Kevin Duffy, said: “We are extremely pleased to welcome the Children and Young Person’s Commissioner to Lilac Villa today and we are honoured that she is able to officially open our new look centre.
“We have tried to make sure that the new centre is not just bigger and better equipped, but that it is brighter, more comfortable and more accessible to children with Autism, Disability and other complex needs.
“The centre will provide extra room and better facilities for all those young people who use the services as well as provide a better level of comfort and accommodation for family members, particularly in light of concerns raised as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The Western Trust’s Disciplinary Autism Team provides support to children with Autism and to their families, however during the initial stages of the Covid-19 pandemic autism assessments had to be suspended.
As these assessments required close interaction and observation of social skills and communication, best practice and international guidance advised that valid assessments could not be completed successfully whilst wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Further explaining, Kevin said: “Due to Covid, the ASD Service was required to rapidly develop new socially distanced assessment methods for younger children, allowing the team to quickly restart assessment clinics. However, these new assessments required larger spaces to be able to facilitate and maintain compliance with infection control and social distancing requirements.
“The Western Trust has implemented a number of changes to how some buildings and services operated and this provided a great opportunity to relocate the ASD Service to expanded space on the Gransha site alongside Children’s Disability and RISE services.
“The space has been repurposed and refurbished to facilitate larger assessment and intervention rooms which more easily accommodate the service’s current needs, and we are honoured that the Koulla could be here today to officially unveil the centre.”
As the Children’s Disability Team and RISE NI are also based in Lilac Villa it is envisaged that the premises would become a centralised Children’s Hub with co-located children’s services promoting continued collaborative work through the site.
The Children’s ASD Service is a trust-wide multi-disciplinary service providing diagnostic Autism assessments and intervention. The services consists of a diagnostic assessment team, a psychology and family support team and a social work team, who are all supported by administration staff.
The Children’s Disability Service works with children who have mild, moderate and severe learning disabilities and with children who have physical disabilities such as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy and other complex and life limiting conditions.
The Service also includes Social work and Family support staff as well as Residential, Nursing, Psychology and Behaviour support staff.
The RISE team is a regional early intervention service which supports children in pre-school educational and mainstream primary school settings by working closely with parents and education staff in a transdisciplinary way to help children develop the foundation skills for learning i.e. speech, language, communication, sensory-motor, visual perception, social, emotional and behaviour skills.
The Autism service is led by a Consultant Clinical Lead Psychologist, HOS supported by the ASD Co-ordinator. Clinical staff within the service include a Speech and Language Therapist, Occupational Therapists, Social Workers, Health Visitors, Paediatricians, Autism Practitioners and Intervention Therapists, and an Early Intervention Team.