Assistance for autism

The Autism Respite Care Centre is anxious to expand its services, but it needs some assistance to do so.

On Sunday, The Villages At Coverley will host a 5k walk to support the centre’s efforts. The walk is scheduled to begin at 6 a.m. and the fee for registration, which closes at 4 p.m. on Friday, is $20. All funds raised will go towards the Autism Association of Barbados.

At present, the centre serves four users for five days a week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Co-manager Diane Holder however told Barbados TODAY the facility wished to increase that to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Furthermore, she revealed, there was room in the programme for more autistic people.

Autism is a developmental disability that can appear in individuals from early childhood. It affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and makes sense of the world around him or her.

It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways. As a result, some autistic people are able to live relatively independent lives, while many others may have accompanying learning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support as they are unable to function properly in society.

The role of the respite centre, located at Durants in Christ Church, is to therefore assist those people who have difficulties coping with mainstream society. The facility is currently funded by the Maria Holder Trust and has no cut off age. It caters to autistic children and autistic adults over 18 years.

The establishment, Holder said, also took into consideration the parents of autistic children. She explained that often this condition as well took a toll on parents who were the caretakers and were never able to get a vacation away from their children.  With this programme persons could leave their wards for the day or the weekend to get some much needed rest. However, she emphasized it was not a place for people to leave their autistic little ones and forget about them.

“The villagers in our community have all lent a hand as we are trying to expand but . . . it will take more staff, as we want to shift to employing more professionals, and we want to expand the day service to incorporate speech therapy, occupational  therapy and agricultural endeavours. All of this takes funding. We do know everything we plan to do will take resources,” she stressed.

“Some of our users are higher-functioning, but some aren’t; but we still can work with them and they can be productive. So we want to get a stimulation sensory room, where we will get special resources to calm them or stimulate them. Some of the children are too excitable and some are the very opposite. We know how to source the resources, but we need the money.

“We want to offer mental health and physical health checks for all persons with challenges and that is a long-term vision. It is  very expensive. Because of the persons we deal with, we have to ensure that the grounds are maintained at all times and that they are fortified.

“There are very few specialists to work along with us and we need funding to pay for them. We have a programme already that is working, but we have realized it needs to be enriched,” she added.

The centre was established nearly four years ago commencing with three days a week only. Their ultimate goals was to own property to look after the long term needs of those 18 years and older who finished school and those younger whose behaviour did not allow for schools to manage them.

Autism Respite Care Centre
Autism Respite Care Centre

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