• 24-03-2017

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Over the past 27 years Autism NI has had one single aim – to drive forward an equality and rights agenda by improving the interest in and access to knowledge on ASD for professionals, decision and policy makers and to secure quality informed support for families.

Dr Arlene Cassidy’s decision to retire in March 2017 has been part of a two year long planned transition with key staff and Trustees to build a new future for the Charity founded upon the expertise, values and achievements of the past. From this has emerged an organisation equipped to impact further social change for Autism in Northern Ireland. Therefore Arlene has been invited to take on a Special Advisor role, working alongside and eventually handing over to existing staff within Autism NI’s Family Support & Advocacy Service and Training & Research Service.

As a charity Autism NI understands the importance of continuing its advocacy role to influence public policies in order to shape better Autism services for the future, as well as supporting evidence based research which will develop and underpin the need for such services. As Autism NI continues to grow in size it is critical that its role in both policy and research is developed and progressed in order to ensure that the voices of the Autism families is understood and heard, so that the Charity can support a better future for the community in Northern Ireland.

The All Party Group on Autism (APGA), the Broken Promises report, the developing partnership with The National Autistic Society NI, the ASD Research Hub at Ulster University and the NI Autism Strategy Research Advisory Committee (NIASRAC) are all vehicles to ensure the voice of Autism is heard and uncompromised at the highest levels of government.

Dr Arlene Cassidy MBE said: “During ‘The Troubles’ in Belfast, as a young Social Worker, learned the importance of patience and persistence as powerful tool in dealing with public bodies on behalf of families facing threats intimidation and needing effective relocation.

“That lesson is just as relevant today as we steadily and strongly drive forward the call to address the legacy of underfunding of ASD services in the face of an unprecedented increase in the numbers of individuals being identifies with Autism.

 “And so it is - that my retirement in 2017 includes my next challenge for Autism NI (PAPA) as a Special Advisor with a focus on the lobby and research. So the lyrics of the Eagle’s song ‘Hotel California’ echo in my mind right now ‘You can check-out at any time you like, but you can never leave.’”

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