The parent-led F.A.C.T.S (Families with Autism Coming Together for Support) say they are overwhelmed by the generosity of people in Mid Ulster.
They recently received a cheque for £20,660 from Desertmartin Pony Drive in conjunction with the Lough Shore Driving Club for their work following a pony drive.
F.A.C.T.S is a grassroots Autism group, offering peer to peer support in the Mid Ulster community.
Born out of a need to provide services at a local level after feeling let down by Regional/National charities in the past, parents decided to set-up F.A.C.T.S due to the limited services for families living with ASC by offering peer to peer support. Currently, F.A.C.T.S has over 100 members (families) and membership is growing steadily.
A spokesperson said: “Monthly information and support meetings are well attended by parents. Throughout the year a number of events/ activities are organised for children and young people. The group is totally self-sustaining, and members have been fundraising to enable us to carry out the support we offer.
“There is a high prevalence rate of Autism and limited service provision in Mid Ulster. Since 2008/09 there has been over 12,500 children diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Condition living in Mid Ulster/ Northern Health and Social Care Trust. In 2017/18 there were over 2,000 school-aged children diagnosed, most of their families have more than one child with a diagnosis. In the Northern Health and Social Care Trust the prevalence rate has increased to approximately 2.5% of the population.
“F.A.C.T.S’ story is about DIY parents who are worn-down by the state and lack of available autism-specific services for children, young people and adults in the local Mid Ulster area. In the absence of government and no decisions being made, back in 2017 a group of dedicated passionate parents with a lived experience decided to come together and take action.
“We had realised that our fundraising efforts were being centralised in Belfast.
“We felt we had no other choice but to organise at a grassroots level to fill a gap in service provision for the local community in Mid Ulster.
“Our group goes beyond all sectarian and religious divides because, when you have a child with Autism it puts life into perspective. We provide peer to peer support, advocacy and Autism specific services.”
F.A.C.T.S is a self-funded group and recently received charitable status.