A unique youth café for children with autism is set to begin in Galway City next month.
Local charity Galway Autism Partnership (GAP) is facilitating a pilot programme for young people aged between 11 and 18 with high functioning autism or Asperger’s syndrome who may be at risk of social isolation or bullying.
The youth café will meet weekly between September and Christmas and will be run by a facilitator and GAP committee member Jessica Doyle, who will be involved in the programme’s design and assisting with its delivery.
Speaking to the Galway Independent, GMIT student Jessica, who has Asperger’s syndrome, said the group aims to provide support for young people at an age that is difficult “whether you’re on the [autism] spectrum or you’re not on the spectrum”.
Many children with autism have a strong interest in a particular topic or area and 22-year-old Jessica explained that the youth group would be concentrating on developing the social side of children’s special interests.
“Each session we would concentrate on one of the kids’ special interest, we would have a speaker in about that special interest and then the next session we would do a practical on that special interest, as well as support sessions for whatever problems the kids need support with.
“By the end, we would hope to connect all their special interests all together so they would be connecting and making friends through what they love,” she said. “Autistic individuals can find it hard to connect with others because of social skills problems but also sometimes because they get so distracted by their special interest they forget the world outside exists.”
The local community has proven “very supportive” of the planned pilot programme, according to Jessica, and Youth Work Ireland is to provide its premises on Prospect Hill free of charge to allow the youth club to meet each week.
GAP has also received funding from the National Lottery for the programme, which will permit the recruitment of a facilitator for the youth café.
There are a limited number of places available at the youth café for young people with high functioning autism or Asperger’s syndrome – for more details, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on GAP, find the group on Facebook or Twitter, or phone 083-1222302.