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New all-party Assembly Autism Group

15 January, 2008

Sinn Féin Mid Ulster MLA Michelle O'Neill has been appointed the deputy Chairperson of the new all-party Assembly Autism Group.

The group which includes members from all political parties is coming together with Autism NI / PAPA to, among other things, to raise awareness of the issues associated with Autism, to look at the services available for those that have autism and to examine the need for legislation.

Michelle O'Neill said:

"Autism is a social and communication disability not a learning, mental or physical disability. We as a group have a job of work to do to ensure that everyone who lives with Autism is protected and supported with legislation that is legally binding, as current legislation does not provide for 'unique access issues' for people with Autism".

"The new Assembly Autism group are part of the Celtic nations Autism partnership which was launched earlier in the year which will see representatives of Daíl Eireann, the Scottish and Welsh assemblies and representatives of the voluntary sector to come together to share information and to learn from each other.

"Since this group was formed we have travelled to Washington to examine the legislation that the American Government has introduced and we established links with the American Autism Society to share good practice and to help each other to develop the most appropriate services for those that have Autism. Anyone who has a child with Autism, is well aware of the pressures that are associated, doing normal family activities such as going to the leisure centre can be a very normal stress releasing activity, but where there are no family room facilities for example this can turn out to be a very distressing activity for a family with a child who has Autism.

"I look forward to the group making progress along with the Autism NI /PAPA group in making the necessary changes that are long overdue and much needed." ENDS

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