Testing time for families with autism

Claire Shannon with some of the kids enjoying a laugh at the sea lions at Belfast Zoo during the Autism NI Fermanagh Branch Summer Scheme.

Claire Shannon with some of the kids enjoying a laugh at the sea lions at Belfast Zoo during the Autism NI Fermanagh Branch Summer Scheme.

FAMILIES living with autism can often be a testing time.

When the summer months roll in and school term finishes, the usual routine of autistic children comes to an abrupt end which can result in a stressful and disruptive few months.


Autism NI Fermanagh Branch has been working tirelessly to help cater for those families by putting on a number of events – including a week-long summer scheme –  throughout July and August.

The successful scheme saw 30 children visit a range of entertainment and educational locations throughout the north.

The summer scheme, in partnership with Autism Initiatives, involved excursions to Belfast Zoo, Waterworld, Johnny Rocko’s, Enniskillen Omniplex and Chocolate Memories/Streamvale Farm in Belfast.

As the school holidays can prove particularly difficult for children with autism when the structure of school is suddenly removed.

While some children with autism can attend a mainstream summer scheme with minimal supervision, others cannot and some families rely on the scheme as their only means to mix with other children during the summer.

The staff and volunteers an the summer scheme ensured all of the kids had a great time and were well looked after.

This was possible due to all the fantastic fundraising done for and on behalf of Autism NI Fermanagh Branch.


Catherine Boyle, the chairperson of Autism NI Fermanagh Branch, said the efforts by locals ensured autistic children were not excluded from enjoying their summer.

She said: “We did not receive any grants or funding for the summer scheme and rely heavily on fundraising and donations.

“Our largest fundraiser this year and in many previous years is Peter Walmsley from Charlie’s Bar.

“We owe a great debt of gratitude to him and to the many other people who have given donations and fundraised for our group over the years.

“A lot of people don’t know we are here. Summer time is very difficult over the holiday period as these children will be disrupted from their routine and that can be stressful on them and their parents.

“We want to make more people aware that we are here and our services are available for whomever needs them.

“There’s not much for autistic kids to do, they find it difficult to make friends and a lot can’t cope with mainstream summer schemes.

“We provide one-on-one help, which most of these children will require, and look at their needs of those who have applied to what we can do for them.

“A wide range of people apply ranging from those who suffer from severe autism to mild cases.”

John Shannon, from Enniskillen, will be running the Dublin City Marathon on October 28 and raising funds which will stay locally in Fermanagh.

John takes part in a lot of marathons to help raise money for Autism NI and its branch in Fermanagh.

The group also hold private sessions in Castle Island after closing hours as it provides a peaceful and manageable atmosphere for autism children as well as hosting basketball sessions every Thursday at the Forum.

Parents of autism children have the opportunity of meeting on a monthly basis. Parents are encouraged to attend every fourth Tuesday each month at 8pm in the Fermanagh House

For more details, contact or look us up on facebook ‘Fermanagh Autism NI’.

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