Moves to form breakaway autism group in Mid Ulster

Magherafelt's Bridewell where the meeting is expected to take place
Magherafelt's Bridewell where the meeting is expected to take place

Moves are afoot to set up a breakaway group for parents with autistic children in the Mid Ulster area after a row between Autism NI and its local committee.

A public meeting is due to take place tonight in The Bridewell, Magherafelt.

It follows a row between the local Autism Support Group Committee and Autism NI which came to a head last month.

Autism NI decided to ‘terminate’ the local support group because of a “complete breakdown of trust and confidence.”

It is understood relations broke down after the support group volunteers disagreed with new rules they claim were introduced without consultation.

A parent planning to attend tonight’s meeting in Magherafelt claimed that they had no one to turn to for advice after the committee was stood down.

“There is a great deal of uncertainty amongst parents in Mid Ulster,” she said. “We are hoping that a new group can come out of this meeting.

“We need help and support on the ground and that has been sorely lacking since the local support committee ceased.”

No talks have taken place between Autism NI and the local support committee to resolve their differences since the committee was stood down

The parent, who asked not to be named, expressed the hope that there would be a good turnout at the meeting to enable them to find a satisfactory way forward.

When contacted by the Mail for a response to the public meeting, Autism NI said, “Autism NI would like to assure the local people within the Mid-Ulster area that the support group will be continuing. The next support group event will be on September 2, and the focus is Balanceability.”

DUP MLA Keith Buchanan said he supported local parents on their plans towards establishing a new group.

“I’m disappointed at the stance taken by Autism NI,” he said.

“It is vital for all concerned that good services for people living with autism and their supporters are available within Mid Ulster.”

The meeting in The Bridewell gets underway at 7pm.