Local mother sets up new Autism group

Edel Canning who has formed Parents of Older Children with Autism.  (2704JB14)
Edel Canning who has formed Parents of Older Children with Autism. (2704JB14)

Frustrated with the lack of activities for her son to do, a local mother has set up a special group for parents of older children with autism.

Edelle Canning, whose 12-year-old son Eoin was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome two years ago, has struggled to find ways for him to socialise with children of the same age with autism spectrum disorders.

The group is set to meet for the first time at a coffee morning next month and the Galliagh woman says she has been overwhelmed by the interest in her group so far.

“After Eoin was diagnosed I was offered lots of support. We had waited a long time for the diagnosis and when it came Eoin got the chance to go on workshops and summer schemes, which allowed him to mix with other children with Aspergers or Autism.”

These opportunities provided Edelle with a sense if relief and she admits when he was involved in these schemes it was the first time she was not anxiously checking her phone every two minutes. However, as Eoin has got older and is on the cusp of his teenage years, such opportunities seem to have disappeared.

“While the educational side of things have been fantastic, there is nothing for him to do outside school. I do worry about him making friends and socialising with children who understand what he is going through.”

“Eoin doesn’t socialise the way that other children might. He is great around adults, but with children his own age it is different. The schemes he went on after the diagnosis were brilliant for him because they helped to bring him out of his shell and try things he had never tried before.”

Edelle then sought help from the local organisation Circle of Support and made great efforts to fundraise for them in the past.

“They are an absolutely fantastic group, but most of their activities are for younger children and Eoin is at an age where he wasn’t interested in going along. I have taken him to so many places myself because there is nothing organised locally for older children.”

Frustrated, Edelle decided to post her idea of creating a group for parents in a similar position on a social networking site and it has “snowballed from there”.

“I thought that maybe three or four people might be interested, but so far over 100 people have joined the group I have set up. I had an idea I wasn’t the only one experiencing these problems and it was nice to know I wasn’t alone.”

Edelle, who is currently studying for a degree in sociology and community development, admits that the past two years have been somewhat lonely for her, as she didn’t know any other parents of children with Aspergers.

After spending the majority of the last week networking with other parents, she has learnt a huge amount about the condition and the traits that children may show as they turn into teens.

The next step for Edelle and Parents of Older Children with Autism is to meet and generate ideas to address the gap in activites for older children.

She will hold the coffee morning next month and is organising speakers who have first hand experience of the conditions to address it.

“It will be a great opportunity for parents to get together, generate ideas about activites our children would be interested in and then turn our mind to fundraising. The past week has been a learning curve for me and a journey for me and anyone is welcome to come along. Maybe together we can get something done and set our children up for their teenage years, which can be difficult for the majority of us.”

The coffee morning will be held in Pilots Row on Tuesday, May 8 between 10am and 12pm and everyone is welcome. To find out more information email p.o.c.a.1@hotmail.co.uk or find the group on Facebook.