Belfast girl says autism is her 'wee superpower' as charity calls for NI strategy to be funded

Stormont is under pressure to fund a now two-year-old autism strategy, which would see early intervention services, support for adults and a training programme for Northern Ireland.

The Autism Amendment Act 2022 also sets out the need for measurable targets and an independent scrutiny body, which is yet to be recruited for.

The political impasse stalled progress but as families mark Autism Awareness Week, calls have resurfaced to properly fund the strategy.

Chief Executive of Autism NI, Kerry Boyd, told UTV: "Autistic children and adults can't wait any longer. We had an Act back in 2011... then we amended that in 2022 to strengthen that and now this strategy has been developed from that.

"There is a role for an autism reviewer, which still at the minute hasn't been recruited for, but once that happens they will be overseeing the new strategy and we hope that whoever that is ensures that this strategy is rolled out as it should be."

Isla McManus, who's 10 years old, is diagnosed with autism and says it's her "wee superpower".

The Belfast girl's family are marking Autism Awareness Week this year by sharing that no two children with autism are the same and that society needs to work on acceptance of others and their needs.

In response to Autism NI, a spokesperson from the Department of Health said: "The Department published the cross-departmental Autism Strategy 2023-2028 in December 2023. The Strategy sets out the key commitments and actions needed to enhance and improve support for autistic people and their families.

"The Department has also published an initial two-year Delivery Plan which sets out timescales for implementation of the actions contained within the Strategy, many of which are underway, in a managed and sustainable way, taking account of the challenging financial context.

"The actions have been informed through extensive stakeholder engagement and progress will be monitored and reviewed on an annual basis."

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