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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Council another step closer to making Mid and East Antrim an Autism Friendly Borough

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council is delighted to share news of its ongoing work to achieve Autism Friendly status as World Autism Acceptance Week 2022 gets underway.

Council’s team of Autism Champions have been successful in making its leisure centres, visitor attractions and public spaces more inclusive to the additional needs of autistic children and adults.

From a day out at the park, to arranging a swim, theatre visit or guided tour, Mid and East Antrim have been working closely with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust (NHSCT) and Autism NI on pre-visit information which will help families with an autistic loved one to plan ahead.

Specialised training continues for council staff with several staff across various council departments having taken part in Autism Impact Award training in conjunction with Autism NI. To date 41 staff members received Autism NI IMPACT training and 16 received accreditation becoming dedicated autism champions.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council have also made a commitment to becoming a JAM (Just A Minute) card friendly organisation. The JAM card was originally developed for those with learning disabilities and difficulties. However, it can be used by anyone with a communication barrier including individuals with autism.

It can also be used by those who have a brain injury, dementia and people who may feel self-conscious about their ability to effectively communicate when engaging with others. To date, 202 staff members having already completed JAM Card training.

A Council spokesperson said:

“Council were delighted to work in partnership with NHSCT to fund and support the installation of a sensory garden at its Ecos Centre.

“The garden itself has transformed a disused space and created a community garden for people with a wide range of needs to enjoy. As well as a communal growing space, it contains specific areas to meet a range of needs - quiet, sensory, active - and wild areas to enhance biodiversity.

“The garden includes a storytelling area, wooden fort, willow tunnel and hedge, raised beds for food growing, fruit trees, and a range of sensory planting. It was originally designed by The Northern Area Autism Reference Group to ensure it was representative of a range of needs, and then built by The Conservation Volunteers and the Friends of Ecos volunteers.

“As a society, we need to be more inclusive and accepting of neurodiversity and Council is fully committed to doing everything we can do encourage this is across Mid and East Antrim.”

Jayne Colville, ASD Service Improvement Coordinator, NHSCT said:

“It has been a pleasure working alongside Mid and East Antrim Borough Council in working towards making their borough autism friendly. Making public services accessible and autism friendly is vital in order to provide a welcoming and understanding atmosphere for our autistic community.

“We look forward to continuing to work alongside the Council and commend them for their achievements to date.”

The Council has published a series of useful guides to help visitors get ready for their trip to these venues.

They can be viewed by visiting:


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