Galway Autism Partnership GAP is a registered charity for Autism Spectrum Disorders in Galway city and County.
Galway Autism Partnership was formed to support, assist and identify requirements of families living and support a person with autism. Our current aim is not to re-create a system but identify the 'gap'.
GAP was formed in 2011 by parents struggling with the lack of information and support while raising children with autism IN THE WEST, through a facebook page. Our patron is President Michael D. Higgins. We are currently based at Tigh Ronain, Laurel Park Newcastle from 9.30-1.30pm four days a week, provide telephone support seven days a week and facilitate a facebook page and website. We have one part time office manager.
Our current membership is just peaking at over 400 families. Our families are based in Galway City and County, however we do have families from surrounding counties in the region who liaise with us and we have established fantastic links with other autism groups in the country. An average of 3 families join GAP a week.
What does GAP do?
As stated above we aim to bridge the gap in current support systems for families living with the challenges of autism. We liaise with our members on an ongoing basis and take our direction from them. Based on that we have established -
1. A junior youth group - in conjunction with foroige this group facilitates children with autism aged between 11-14 years with the aim of easing the transitions to teenage years and secondary school. This has been identified by parents as a hugely problematic area with some serious consequences for these kids. This group facilitates 12 children and has been established since September 2012.
2. A senior youth group - this group again delivered in conjunction with Foroige continues to support individuals aged 15-18 years with mainstream challenges and liviing with autism. Our facilitators encourage the group to work on social interaction with an aim to problem solving and being able to advocate for themselves. This group facilitates 12 individuals.
3. 3 afterschool groups - we currently provide three afterschool groups for children aged 4-7 years in Tuam, Knocknacarra and Doughiska. The groups are facilitated by primary schools presently. The groups provide a fun environment for children with autism to work on social skills through play and necessary respite support for parents/caregivers on that given afternoon.
4. 1 Saturday kids club - we are launching our first Saturday kids club next week for children with autism and complex sensory needs. The children in this group have a complex level of autism and do not partake in mainstream activities. The group will be based at Tigh Ronain with an emphasis on outings in the community. The group provides essential respite support to these families to concentrate on other family requirements of siblings. It would be our vision to have a 2nd Saturday kids group in 2014 as demand for weekend activities is evident.
5. Summer camps - In 2013 GAP undertook their first summer camps for children with autism TO INCLUDE their siblings. When schools close for Summer the majority of families with children with autism struggle. We identified this and facilitated 40 children over 4 weeks in August. We offered a range of activities from swimming, yoga, music therapy, circus skills, computers, cooking and outings in the community.
6. Social Care Respite Program - In March 2013 GAP did a pilot study with students of the Social Care Degree program at NUI Galway. These students are required to avail of 200hours practical placement during each academic year. GAP identified this opportunity and through talks and alot of work we will have 30 families availing of student placement to assist their families one day a week for 3 hours. This service will provide an essential support system for families.
7. Assisted support - GAP has launched a major recruitment, interview and assessment campaign for volunteers in 2013. Galway is academically rich due to our 2 fantastic third level institutions and we identified the need for the students studying relevant childcare/education courses for practical experience. Based on this recruitment GAP has a wonderful network of volunteers to assist all of our programs and also assist any child with autism on a 1:1 capacity should they wish to participate at a mainstream activity i.e. Art classes at Galway Arts Centre.
8. GAP holds monthly support meetings at our base in Tigh Ronain and quarterly family days out in a variety of locations i.e. Loughwell farm, Kilcornan walled garden and Busy Bees.
Based on the above information alone 80 families in Galway City and County will be availing of direct practical support and a service this September.
At GAP we are totally aware of our limitations on services we can provide. However to maximise our service provision we buit valued partnerships in the community. Some of those partnerships include
School awareness packs - In March 2013 GAP produced a school awareness pack for 50 primary schools in Galway city and county. This information pack and 10 minute CD presentation was very well received with schools from all over Ireland requesting copies of same.
Brothers of charity services and use of their facilities at Kilcornan, Clarinbridge
Forogie - use of their facilities at Foster Street Galway for Youth groups
Health and Leisure clubs - facilitated swim sessions for members at Salthill hotel & Maldron hotel Galway.
City Taxis- this taxi company kindly facilitated our summer camps this summer.
Rosedale school - Through a very generous offer of practical support from Celestrica Galway, GAP identified the need for support for Rosedale school and its children. Rosedale school facilitates 68 children with severe to profound intellectual disability and severe autism. The condition of this school is an absolute disgrace in modern society and GAP has endeavoured to to built on community spirit and generosity to engage with these wonderful schools and facilities who work tirelessly with autistic children. Through much work and meetings Celestica has committed financial support and personnel to improving this school.
GAP was recognised for their contribution to the community and its valuable resource to its members with an invite to speak at the World Autism Conference at NUI in April 2013. Many worldwide professionals attended and presented at this event. We continue to liaise with ICAN (Irish Centre for Autism and Neurological Disorders) at NUI Galway on projects, including managing challenging behaviour and oral hygiene.
We also won the Volunteer Organisation Section of the 2013 national Better Together Awards and were recogised by Galway City Council in 2013 for our contribution to social inclusion
Short Term goals
GAP has began the process of identifying the individuals with severe to profound intellectual and autism who are now 18 and have left the education system. This group have profound needs and to date are being returned home to their families with no structured placements for many and no respite system in place for families. GAP are working on identifying the current plans in place and bridging these gaps.
GAP will be producing 50 more school awareness packs November 2013
A strategic plan to engage more multinational companies in Galway to pursue practical projects for much neglected special needs facilitates in Galway city and county
A planned conference to liaise with all teachers of children with autism in Galway to also include social workers and early intervention teams, Iin November 2013.
Planned week long event to celebrate World Autism Week to encompass World Autism Day April 2nd 2014 and our very successful Light It Up Blue Campaign, see Galway Cathedral Light It Up Blue 2013.
Long Term goals
A sustained service delivery model with core government funding.
A GAP transport system!!
A permanent well functioning base!!
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