DOWN District Council celebrated World Autism Awareness Month tonight (Monday 8 April) by participating in Autism NI’s ‘Light It Up Blue’ campaign.
The Downshire Civic Centre which was ‘lit up’ in blue lights joins iconic landmarks throughout the UK and the rest of the world, including Trafalgar Square, Sydney Opera House, the Empire State Building, the Pyramids and the Tokyo Tower in Japan to raise awareness for Autism.
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them. It is a spectrum condition, which means that while all people with Autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways. There are currently over 20,000 people diagnosed with Autism within Northern Ireland, which outstrips the total number of those affected by Down’s Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease.
World Autism Awareness Day therefore shines a bright light on Autism as a growing global health concern. Each year Autism NI raises awareness for the disability through a coordinated Awareness campaign during the month of April, including the Stormont 5k Walk on Saturday 27 April.
Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Mickey Coogan said: “I am delighted to show our support for the work being done to promote autism awareness. By lighting up the Council’s Civic Offices we are sending out a clear message that we are supportive of the work being done on the ground to offer help and support to families in the district and across the region dealing with this disability. We hope that this gesture will create better awareness and understanding of the issue and raise much needed funds for the charity.”
Autism NI’s Chief Executive, Arlene Cassidy added: “We are very grateful that Down District Council has chosen to support World Autism Awareness Day. It is vital that awareness is raised throughout Northern Ireland in relation to Autism, especially within the local community as there is still a lot of misunderstanding and ignorance in relation to Autism Spectrum Disorder. By holding an event such as this, Down District Council has helped to highlight this ‘hidden disability’ and give those affected the recognition they deserve.”
Down District Councillors and South Down MP Margaret Ritchie attended the lighting up of the Civic Centre to show their support for the charity.
Autism NI is Northern Ireland’s Autism charity and works to provide life changing services for the 20,000 people affected by Autism throughout Northern Ireland. Formed in 1990 by a group of concerned parents and professionals, the charity seeks to ensure that people with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their carers have access to appropriate services, enabling people with Autism to become valued members of the community. The charity supports a network of 23 branches and local support groups across Northern Ireland and provides support, information and training for individuals with Autism and their families. For further news and information please visit www.autismni.org.