Breakaway 'grassroots' autism group expands to open new office
A breakaway group for parents with autistic children in the Mid Ulster area has taken a major step forward with the opening of a new drop-in centre in Magherafelt.
Families with Autism Coming Together for Support (FACTS) hope the new facility will help ease the burden of families struggling with an autistic child.The new office, understood to be the first of its kind in the district - is located at office space in The Hive, Broad Street in the south Derry town.Attending the event were Mid Ulster District Council Chair Councillor Martin Kearney and Depty Chair Councillor Clement Cuthbertson. FACTS, which has about 200 registered families, came into existence just over two years ago following a split between Autism NI and its local committee in the distrit.Autism NI decided to ‘terminate’ the local support group because of what it claimed was a “complete breakdown of trust and confidence.”A number of public meetings took place and from these FACTS eventually emerged, pledging itself to work for the local community.The opening of the new office in a town centre location close to the main parking facilities, is undoubtedly a fillip to the group who have enjoyed “generous support” in the district since its formation.A parent closely associated with the charity said the facility was “definitely needed”, and would be welcomed by parents. “Autism is a growing problem covering all age groups and the support we can provide parents of youngsters or young adults is much appreciated,” she said.Families come for help from all over the council area.Tommy Doherty, Chairman of F.A.C.T.S, said: “Our first year has been a roaring success our membership has grown. "These are all families who have a child and in some cases children with Autism. The continuing need for local grassroots, peer to peer parent support, autism specific group is evidenced by the increasing membership. The membership has doubled in the last year and the more services we provide at a local level the more we will develop and strengthen our support we can provide. The children will learn the essential social skills to help navigate the world they live in. Projects like this will enable us to continue our support for parents and their families.”