Foróige Clubs for young people with autism spectrum conditions

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Foróige-Notinuse September 12, 2014

Foróige is now operating clubs for young people with autism spectrum conditions in a number of counties. Claire Hutchinson, Foróige Regional Youth Officer for South Dublin says, “We have worked closely in conjunction with Aspire Ireland, the Asperger’s Association of Ireland and they have been exceptionally helpful and supportive in establishing these clubs.”

How do these Clubs come about? Let’s look at an example. The Foróige Ultra Fusion Club in Templeogue was established in January 2014. The motivation behind creating this club was to provide a, fun, social outlet, tailored to the needs of teenagers with autistic spectrum conditions such as Asperger’s Syndrome. According to (Autistic Spectrum Information Advice and Meeting Point), people on the Autistic Spectrum are often presented with difficulties in their own lives in four main areas: Social Skills, Communication Skills, Behaviour and Sensory Processing. The Spectrum is very broad and can affect people in varying degrees and ways. Equally, not every individual will experience the same or all of the common Autistic Spectrum traits. Some of the more well known traits include difficulties with social interactions, familiarisation with social cues, inability to read or react to emotions, communication ranging from non verbal, limited or highly verbal, confusion of language, tendency to speak directly about an issue or to take conversation very literally, hyperactivity and a need for routine.

There has been a notable increase in the frequency of enquiries from parents of teenagers with special intellectual needs who are concerned about the limited socialising opportunities for their children. Parents want to create spaces for their child to make friends organically, allowing them to be themselves without fear of being seen as different. These kinds of enquiries initiated work to establish the club in Templeogue specifically for teenagers with autistic spectrum tendencies. Foróige and Aspire Ireland recruited and trained a 12-strong volunteer team to develop this new club initiative.

The planning of the club involved an Information Night for Parents which allowed the team to present the club concept and seek feedback and advice. Parents in turn advised the team as to their child’s specific needs and interests such as disliking loud noises or having an interest in history or Scrabble! Some of the volunteers are parents of young people in the club. Other volunteers have a background or experience working with young people with autism specifically and/or are students of UCD's Department of Psychology. The Ultra Fusion Club opened earlier in 2014 and now has a membership of 20 young people. The volunteer team have developed a range of accessible, appropriate activities to suit the majority of the young people involved in the club organising a comic art workshop, table quizzes, snooker, Light Sabre Battles, Easter Egg treasure hunt, a Halloween Party, Nerf Wars and trips to bowling and to mini golf.

Following on from the success of the Ultra Fusion Club, a new club for young people is due to open in Goatstown this October, targeting 12-16 yr olds. There is also the possibility of setting up a Foróige Juniors Club catering to 10 to 12 years.

If you would like to set up a similar club in any part of the country, please contact your Regional Youth Officer