The National Autistic Society Northern Ireland is embarking on an exciting project to develop a state-of-the-art service near Belfast for autistic people and their families.

Northern Ireland currently has no autism-specific day provision. So our aim is to provide a world-class centre, the first ever autism-specific day service in Northern Ireland for adults with complex needs and their families to develop, learn, and be understood.

It will be a space for the autism community to feel at home.

And this month we need your help. We have made it through to the public vote stage of the OneFamily Foundation's Community Awards Scheme, and with your vote we could win £25,000 to provide an engaging, stimulating ‘Immersive Space’ at the centre that will use modern technology to help adults and children alike to learn, relax, and be themselves. It only takes a minute or two to sign up so please vote for us now – voting closes at midday on Wednesday 6 September.

Vote now

We are currently waiting for planning approval, and we will continue to share progress as developments are made. We are exploring various options to ensure we can fully achieve our vision for this pioneering centre, including a wide range of fundraising activities.

Artist's impression of new NI Centre for Autism

A key element of our vision for the new service is the outdoor space – the health and wellbeing of autistic people is paramount, and we hope to be able to offer autistic people of all ages in the area a place to escape, relax, exercise, learn and engage their senses.

We want an environment where the boys can continue to learn and develop, where they will be stimulated and their sensory needs will be addressed. This is why we wholeheartedly support the autism centre that the National Autistic Society is proposing.

Kathy, mother of autistic twins

The proposed centre will open towards the end of 2017. Our vision is to create a space, furnished with state-of-the-art equipment and specialist rooms, such as sensory rooms and a bespoke outdoor garden, for autistic people and their families to spend time together and access peer support, engaging activities or expert learning opportunities. At its core, it will be a specialist daytime centre for autistic adults and children in the areas of the Belfast and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trusts.

Autistic woman in sensory room

Some of the opportunities we expect to provide include:

  • state of the art technology to enhance communication and learning
  • a wellbeing and exercise area
  • a life skills area and training kitchen to build independence
  • an environment for autistic people to continue to learn and develop throughout their lives
  • a space for our branches and the autism community to meet and share ideas.

We are not currently at a stage to be taking referrals, as we are still finalising planning approval. We will be updating our website as major developments happen.