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Sinn Féin backs demand for Autism Bill

25 March, 2009 - by Michelle O'Neill

Sinn Féin Mid Ulster MLA Michelle O'Neill has added Sinn Fein's support for an Autism Bill today at Stormont. The bill would see the bringing forwards of draft legislation to provide for the rights and entitlements of people with autism and their families.

Speaking today Ms O'Neill said:

"Autism is a social and communication disability not a learning, mental or physical disability. We as a Party of government 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 protect the rights and entitlements for those with Autism.

"For example 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. Currently, individuals with Asperger Syndrome (a form of Autism) fall outside services with no policy or coordination or provision for adults.

"It is not enough to just raise awareness of the issues associated with Autism alone. We must strive to deliver for those who have Autism, the families and those who would care for children with Autism.

"Sinn Féin have been involved centrally in a number of bodies including the All Party Assembly Group on Autism and the Celtic Nations Autism Partnership alongside both Martin McGuinness and Caitriona Ruane, as Education Minister's providing autism support units within schools and taking forward the all Ireland project of the Middletown Centre for Autism.

"We have also examined the need for legislation and Sinn Féin believes that there is a strong demand and urgent need for this legislation. Today we have signed up to a promise to initiate an Autism Bill that will inevitably lead to more equitable services and entitlements for all those affected by Autism.”

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