Cookstown’s Team Aspie aim to lift stigma around autism with gala concert

Three original members, Jane, Ben and Richard, centre, of Team Aspie
Three original members, Jane, Ben and Richard, centre, of Team Aspie

Not even two years on from its inception, Cookstown’s Team Aspie (short for Asperger’s) now boasts over 50 members, attracting youngsters from all across the North.

And just in time for autism awareness month (April) its young members and their parents are putting on their first ever gala concert in the town in an effort to ‘lift the stigma’ surrounding autistic spectrum disorders (ASD).

Team Aspie members and committee receiving their award from Lidl with Carol Doey

Team Aspie members and committee receiving their award from Lidl with Carol Doey

The spectacular display, for which practice is in full swing, will see youngsters who are diagnosed with ASD take to the stage, work behind the scenes and even learn some new skills for the show on Saturday, April 9.

“It’s really to raise awareness for Asperger’s,” said Tracy Collins, mother of Team Aspie founder Richard.

“April is autism awareness month and as Asperger’s Syndrome is part of autism we want to... lift the stigma and lift the myth that surrounds autism to let everybody see these kids are really quite awesome.

“Everybody within Team Aspie is involved,” she went on. “We run from the ages of 11-18 and then they come with a parent as well.”

April is autism awareness month and as Asperger’s Syndrome is part of autism we want to... lift the stigma and lift the myth that surrounds autism to let everybody see these kids are really quite awesome.

Tracy Collins

The group, which meets every other Tuesday in the Hub, also offers support to the parents - and they too will be involved in the gala concert, which will be compered by singer Malachi Cush.

“Some are back stage, quite a few are on stage - that includes the parents,” Tracy added.

“Some are getting involved with the technical side, photography, lighting, all that. Some are helping out with costumes and with make-up.

“It’s a variety performance, so we have music and song and sketches.”

Parents whotook part in a relay race last year for Team Aspie with marathon man Philip Anderson

Parents whotook part in a relay race last year for Team Aspie with marathon man Philip Anderson

As for what founder, Richard, is doing on the night, he said: “I am singing and helping out on a few other sets.”

Now 15, Richard was diagnosed with Asperger’s when he was seven, but after searching for groups for young people like him, found there was none.

Team Aspie was founded in June 2014. Starting with just three members, but now they are “going from strength-to-strength” welcoming new members at every meeting.

Their gala concert, titled ASD - A Spectacular Display, is on Saturday, April 9 at 7.30pm.

The “real good family night’s entertainment” will be opened by Mid Ulster District Council chair Linda Dillon.

Tickets, which cost £10, are available from the Burnavon.