It's All About Them! Local ASD support group gets funding boost

A NUMBER of projects in the Antrim area have benefited from a share in over £975,000 in funding from the Public Health Agency (PHA), including a support group for young people living with autistic spectrum disorders.

The investment in 334 initiatives across Northern Ireland has been the result of a short-term funding programme to support the mental and emotional wellbeing of communities, with thousands of participants of all ages reaping the rewards.

Within the Northern area 138 projects received funding, one of them was All About Us ASD teens and it’s ‘Linking Lives by Talking Out Loud’ project.

The project provided fun activities as well as opportunities to attend courses to learn new skills, these courses are aimed at young people aged between 8 -18, both with a diagnosis of autism and/or associated conditions and those going through the diagnosis process, their siblings and their families.

Classes included Heat MMA and fitness club, zumba, teens wellness and support boxes, emotional wellbeing and self-harm awareness workshops, some of the training facilitated by Circles Wellbeing Hub.

Christina O’Neill from All About Us ASD Teens said: “Our project ‘Linking lives by Talking Out Loud’ was built around the needs and wants reported from our families and our young people’s experiences and issues over the last year.

“The project aimed to empower our families and those who may join us in the community by helping them learn new skills, feel valued and important.

“We aimed to have a positive impact on our community by reducing social isolation, improving personal self-worth and introducing new ways to manage emotional stability.

Christina added: “Our groups usual activities include weekly meet- ups that provide support, help families to make friends with those who are facing similar challenges.

“Our families attend from Antrim, Ballymena, Crumlin, Larne, Ballyclare and Toome although our target area was based around our local community, Farranshane, Steeple and Rathenraw due to the restrictions with travelling being in place and changing frequently.

“The COVID-19 restrictions that had been placed on the community had increased the needs for our young people and families and we felt that by having the opportunity to take part and make friends in various activities it would encourage people to speak out and engage with each other thus increasing their support networks.”

Feedback received from families involved in the project included:

“My children and I have benefited from the support given by All About Us ASD Teens.

“When lock down started they were finding it difficult missing the group but receiving a pack from the project gave them a lift and they were filled with excitement.

“The activities we have attended have kept them busy and also taught them good coping skills to deal with the stresses of being at home they have also helped us to get together as a family”

Another parent added: “The wellness pack that we received really helped with the anxiety and helped my children understand about how to manage their anxiety and mental health, it was also tailored to my children’s sensory needs.

“I am in regular contact with them and it has helped to stop me feeling isolated and felt that I have had support.”

Fiona Teague, Mental and Emotional Wellbeing lead at PHA, said: “Given the challenging environment that we have been experiencing with the impact of COVID-19, we wanted to respond quickly to help ensure wellbeing in our communities.

“The Public Health Agency was keen to fund programmes the communities that had a particular focus on those using one or more of the ‘Take 5’ Steps to Wellbeing’.

“These are five simple steps that we can build into our daily lives to maintain and improve wellbeing – Connect, Be active, Keep learning, Give and Take Notice.

“The breadth, creativity and ingenuity of the projects is truly inspiring, and the groups’ commitment to creating then executing their ideas in these challenging times makes this even more impressive.”

The short-term funding programme has awarded grants of between £1,000 and £5,000 and have enabled community and voluntary sector groups to implement small-scale programmes within communities.

The All About Us ASD Teens project demonstrates how the PHA’s short-term funding programme has provided the opportunity for community and voluntary groups to build mental and physical resilience and to help people cope better during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Further information on future short-term funding programmes will be available directly from the PHA website.

To find out more about the Take 5 Steps to Wellbeing visit www.mindingyourhead.info

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