A MOTHER of an 11 year old girl with autism from Kinawley has spoken of feeling “lonely and unsupported” due to the lack of services in the area.
Edel McGuinness’ daughter Ciara “who tends to melt hearts wherever she goes” was diagnosed with autism and global developmental delay when she was three years old. 
“This was a very scary time for all of the family as many of us had little experience of the world of autism,” said Mrs. McGuinness, who is married to Liam.
“There are many times where we as parents have felt lonely and unsupported. Ciara had a number of services provided to her at the beginning yet we had very little hope of her future,” she told The Impartial Reporter.
“We have felt very frustrated at the lack of services for children like Ciara. It is particularly frustrating when we meet so many professionals good at their jobs, but unable to provide consistent and long term support for Ciara due to the restraints on services,” she said.
However, Mrs. McGuinness believes had she not engaged with PEAT - Parents’ Education as Autism Therapists - Ciara would not have made the progress she has made. PEAT provide practical behaviour support and training to parents of children with autism and employ behaviour analysts to help deliver one to one intervention for individuals with autism, through the ABA approach. 
“Engaging with PEAT has undoubtedly been one of the best decisions we’ve made for Ciara. We finally had hope and Ciara was renewing an approach that was bringing about positive outcomes, helping her with her struggles in a supportive, non threatening way. 
“Many of the things we take for granted, Ciara has had to be taught. The home ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis) programme that we as parents have been trained to deliver through employing therapists has been a vital tool for Ciara’s progress over the years. It has been further rolled out to Ciara’s school who thankfully have embraced the ABA approach and work very hard to implement it.
“For any family feeling overwhelmed and helpless, I would urge you to make contact with PEAT,” she said.
This Saturday (March 3) Mrs. McGuinness and other parents are holding a 5K walk/fun run in Bellanaleck from 11am to raise much needed funds for PEAT.
“I would urge people to come along and support this very worthy cause, as unlike some other autism charities, PEAT have never and still do not receive any government funding. We hope the funds raised by the 5K walk/run will be help PEAT continue to provide their excellent service to families living with autism across all of Northern Ireland,” she said.