Falkirk’S autistic youngsters are benefiting from a new charity which aims to give them a place where they can be themselves.
Falkirk Autistic Bairns (FAB) was set up around two years ago, and achieved charity status last summer.
Cameron McCrossan, secretary at the charity, said: “FAB was really started due to the difficulties some parents had accessing social and recreational activities for children with autism and autistic spectrum disorders.
“There are very few statutory services offered.
“When children are diagnosed, parents are given information and leaflets but don’t really know where to go.
“It’s quite a traumatic time for people – they might have had a suspicion that something was wrong but having it confirmed is still a shock.
“You find people go through a kind of grieving process – for the loss of potential for their child and the realisation that this isn’t something which is going to go away – it’s a lifelong condition which will follow them into adulthood.”
FAB runs a weekly youth club at Tryst Community Centre on Saturday from 2.30 to 4.30 p.m.
Children can try out new crafts, baking and games and are also taken on outings – last summer they visited Briarlands Farm and they went to the macrobert’s panto at Christmas.
Cameron said: “Each child’s difficulties are unique to them.
“But this gives people the opportunity to meet up with other people who have gone through what they are going through
“There is a wealth of knowledge and experience amongst our members which new people who come along to the club can tap into.
“We are more aware of the services that are out there and can give people advice regarding benefits they are entitled to.
“Children with autism don’t have a lot of chances to socialise with other children because their behaviour can be challenging.
“There are lots of times where parents are reluctant to take them to normal social gatherings.
“At the youth club parents don’t feel that they get the disapproving looks that they would get at a mixed group.”
Six-year-old Jack Sutherland is one of those who is benefiting from the new club.
Jack lives in Stenhousemuir with parents Carol and Niall and big sister Amy (17).
Carol (45) first noticed Jack might have a problem when he was around 18 months old.
She said: “Health visitors no longer carry out checks at that age but I felt that he wasn’t reaching the milestones that he should have been so I asked for him to be checked.
“He was very routine driven, and would open and shut cupboard doors and spin the pedals on his bike all the time.
“They agreed that there was a problem and we were referred to the paediatrician.”
However, it was around another 18 months before the family finally got the diagnosis – and they were told that Jack was autistic.
Carol said: “They are keen not to label children too early but I wanted a diagnosis because he needed speech therapy and I needed help.”
Jack attended mainstream nursery at Ladeside Primary before he gained a place in the school’s autistic base.
Carol said: “We had gone round and looked at a number of different schools but keeping him
at Ladeside meant there wasn’t so much of a transition.”
The family found out about the FAB Youth Club via the social networking site Facebook and took Jack along.
Niall (43) said: “It’s really good for the kids, but it’s strange to see them all playing beside each other, but not together.”
Carol added: “It’s great for the parents too.
“Being a parent of an autistic child can feel very lonely.
“It’s not that there’s not a lot of help out there, it’s that you don’t know where to find it.
“It’s a great place to pick up tips.
We’re just starting to do some fundraising at the moment so we can hopefully keep going.”
If you want more information about FAB, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.facebook.com/falkirkautisticbairns.