Health Minister officially opens The Acorns on World Autism Day
03/04/2014Health Minister, Edwin Poots, has visited ‘The Acorns’ autism centre in Armagh.
‘The Acorns’, based within the grounds of St Luke’s Hospital, is a dedicated centre for autism assessment, diagnosis and intervention and is based around the concept of a fully integrated, multi-disciplinary, trans-generational services, meaning that a range of support is available to support those with autism, from children, through to young people and adults.
Speaking during his visit, which took place on World Autism Awareness Day (Wednesday 2 April), the Minister said: “This Centre is a superb facility, which provides a comfortable and safe environment for people with autism, as well as their families and carers. Here, they can access a holistic, comprehensive range of high quality services, including autism therapy, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, social work, psychology and autism support, all of which are based at the Centre.
“The Centre is a model that is unique to Northern Ireland and provides a firm foundation for the development of high-quality specialist services to meet the needs of all those living with autism spectrum conditions in the Southern Trust area. This is very much in line with the ethos of the new cross-departmental Autism Strategy and Action Plan, which I launched in January.”
The Southern HSC Trust’s vision is that The Acorns will be a hub for the service, its activities, and the children, adults, families and carers who use it.
Roberta Brownlee, Chair of the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, said: “The Acorns will be a hub for our children and adults’ autism services. All children referred for assessment and diagnosis are seen within 13 weeks by staff from Autism Services and from that point their assessment gets underway.”
The Trust’s Director of Children and Young People’s Services Paul Morgan adds: “The Acorns is a flagship facility in the Southern Trust providing care, intervention and support to children, young people and adults with autism and their carers. It makes life easier to have all our assessment and therapeutic intervention ‘under the one roof’ complemented by our local outreach clinics still run for families who prefer this, and home-based support which continues to be available, as appropriate. We are focused on engaging with our users, service enhancers and carers to provide facilities to meet their needs.
• Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person understands the world and communicates with others.
• The Acorns Autism Centre for autism assessment, diagnosis and intervention is based around the concept of a fully integrated, multi-disciplinary, trans-generational service. The delivery of this was enhanced when the two existing autism teams in the Southern Health and Social Care Trust (SHSCT) merged to become a single central base in ‘The Acorns’ in Armagh on 3 June 2013.
• Resulting from the Autism Act (NI) 2011, the Department of Health and Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) led on the development and publication of the cross-departmental Autism Strategy (2013 – 2020) and Action Plan (2013 – 2016).
• The Strategy sets out the strategic direction for the further development of services and support for people with autism, their families and carers and the Action Plan contains the key actions with associated timescales for the delivery of these services and support over the period 2013 - 2016.
• The documents acknowledge and recognise the need for cross –departmental working.
• The NI Executive approved the publication of the Autism Strategy and Action Plan on 28 November 2013.
• Wednesday, 2 April 2014, was World Autism Awareness Day, which highlights the need to help and improve service and support for children and adults with autism so that they can lead more full and meaningful lives.