MAC NI Win an Awards for All grant.

Children with autism are among those in the Newry area gaining support thanks to grants from the Big Lottery Fund.

MAC NI are among four groups in the Newry area sharing in grants totalling £37,213 from Awards for All. It is part of a Big Lottery Fund grants windfall of £769,369 to 91 groups across Northern Ireland (see full list of awards).

MAC – Making a Change (NI) in Rostrevor is a social enterprise that works with young people with autism and their families offering various training courses and support programmes. MAC aims to help these young people reach their personal goals throughout their lives, building their confidence, motivation, self esteem, and supporting development of skills and training.

They are using the £9,962 to deliver therapies for children and young people. These therapies include a programme to teach cycling, first aid training, music therapy and film making, culminating in a showcase of their short film.

Their Balanceability indoor sessions, a major part of the Awards for All project, taught children with autism how to ride balance bikes. The families and project staff met with delivery coaches Autism Initiatives in Kilbroney Forest Park in Rostrevor on a Saturday morning recently.

“It’s fantastic to see the kids, even the little four and five year olds on the balance bikes,” said Jennifer Cumming, director of MAC NI. “They worked really hard on our indoor balanceability sessions and you could see the excitement on their faces when they were finally ready to give it a good go outdoors.

“To watch the children use the wide open space and not be afraid was simply amazing. They have achieved so much considering for many it was their first time using a bike outdoors.

“I think the best part of all was seeing how proud their parents were of their achievements and watching all their anxieties disappear as the kids whizzed by, something they never thought their child could do.”

“A parents of one child involved said: ‘I read a quote somewhere that said: You know you’re an ‘autism parent’ when you go for a family day out, it goes really well, and you feel like you’ve won the lottery!’ I felt like a lottery winner on Saturday after witnessing my son Shane take part enthusiastically, and engaging really well with the staff.’”

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