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Time to talk, listen and learn

Autism Support Kilkeel (ASK) raises awareness of autism and provides support and life enhancing services for people living with or awaiting Autism diagnosis and their families/carers in Newry & Mourne area. They assist members to achieve their maximum potential for  social inclusion and access to employment and other facilities.

The group partnered with Mayobridge Pharmacy for a Level 2 BCPP project working with two groups - siblings and parents of children with autism. Previously Autism Support Kilkeel had benefitted from the support of Contact, a regional charity for families with disabled children, to help them apply for and deliver a previous BCPP project. This time, the group felt confident to take the lead in delivering this project themselves, taking responsibility for recruiting participants and rolling out the project in its entirety.

The aim of this BCPP project was to improve access to information for families and build links between pharmacy and community to ensure provisions of services are being used. After completing the project, young people and their parents would have a better understanding of what the pharmacy has to offer, of coping strategies and a sense of not being alone.

Paul O’Hare, Pharmacist worked with ASK and the group members to plan the sessions, all based around topics which were relevant and would be helpful for them to know more about. Within the small group sessions, the parents and young people were able to share their fountain of knowledge with newly diagnosed families who are struggling to come to terms with everything that a diagnosis brings. Through the existing group, they already recognised the benefit of peer learning and support in the local community where families came together to support one another.

Being around other siblings helped me and let me know I am not on my own. The evenings and events Sarah organised at the ASK BCPP siblings health programme were really genuine fun and I loved being part of something so positive and supportive.’

Callum, Project Participant.

As the BCPP programme was being delivered to young people aged between 11 & 16, the sessions needed to be as interactive and engaging as possible. With each topic Paul covered, he brought supplies from the pharmacy to show the different treatments available. Paul also used videos to help explain different conditions such as asthma and diabetes.

All parents will have engagement with the Education Authority during their journey and felt that SENAC would be a major source of support so they were invited to present at one of the sessions. Contact, a charity incredibly supportive of ASK, delivered a crucial session on how they could help the families feel valued and well informed.

The session by Victoria from Regenerate: Mental Health Hub was co-facilitated with the Pharmacist and was just brilliant - everyone was given diaries with useful tips around how to look after themselves and their mental health. The young people really opened up to Victoria and after the session, the group realised that there was a need for this service for the young people. They devised a new programme inviting all siblings/children with additional needs to avail of the Mental Health Hub.

Another co-facilitated session was with the newly formed Mourne Community First Responders who delivered a mini first aid session. Some sessions were specific to mums only and others were specific for dads however where a session was relevant to both, the group offered childcare to enable both to attend. Reaching both parents, and siblings as young carers, was an important aspect of this project so that both were equipped with direct links to the community pharmacist which will assist them in achieving their full health and wellbeing potential. Improving health literacy of the participants means that they will be able to navigate the health system more easily and with confidence.

The BCPP project has helped Pharmacist Paul to better understand the issues faced by carers of disabled children and has increased his awareness of the community supports which families rely on in the area. He plans to use this knowledge to pass on to others in similar situations. As a result of the BCPP project, ASK also has more knowledge of what the community and voluntary sector can offer in the Kilkeel area, which is a benefit to the whole community and can be shared widely.

‘To be a brother or sister of a child with a disability or additional needs is something special and it is so important to remember that siblings of an additional needs child will always have more responsibility and worry on their shoulders. In delivering this programme to the siblings of Autism Support Kilkeel, we were giving these special people time to talk, time to listen, time to learn, time to have fun and, most importantly, time to make new friends and know they are not alone! I have found this program very rewarding and it has been such a pleasure to meet such wonderful children.’

Sarah O’Hare, Programme Co-ordinator

I have really enjoyed this BCPP programme with Autism Support Kilkeel. We have focused on common childhood illnesses with this group and discussed many ways the Community Pharmacy can help everyone in our community. The programme was led by the group’s ideas and it was great to see young people coming together and having fun while learning something new at the same time.’

Paul O’Hare, Pharmacist