Autism support group set for Larne

A NEW autism support group is to launched in Larne to provide parents and carers with some much-needed guidance and an opportunity to discuss their situation in a friendly environment.

Autism Parent Support Larne is being pioneered by local woman Mandi Ferguson, who is the grandmother and carer of a child who suffers from Aspergers Syndrome.

When her grandson was diagnosed, Mandi did not know where to turn for advice and was left feeling isolated and confused.

She told the Times: “I had no idea about this hidden disability, and as I searched the internet for information and attended occupational therapy, I still felt bewildered as to what to do next.”

Mandi then found out about a youth club operating in Carrickfergus, which she and her grandson attended. Watching the children enjoying themselves and the parents relaxing, Mandi realised that this sort of facility was sorely missing from the Larne area and took it upon herself to set one up.

“I discussed this with Paula Manratty of Autism NI, and she agreed to help me with this venture. My family, friends and other families heard about my idea, and with their support we decided to put our plan into action,” she added.

The group will be holding an informal evening in the Linn Community Centre on Tuesday from 8pm-9pm, and a few guest speakers will be making presentations.

Questionnaires will also be handed out to allow families to provide their ideas for the support group.

Mandi added: “What we are offering is a chance for families to meet others in the same situation as themselves, make new friends, receive some useful training, and just generally chat and relax in a comfortable environment.

“It will be run by parents and carers, for parents and carers, who will all support one another.

“Anyone is welcome, not just from Larne but from anywhere, as long as they feel they could use this proposed facility.”