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Belfast Live
Belfast Live
Nadia Breen

NI mum on undertaking skydive for Autism NI and advocating for more support and services

A Co Tyrone mum is set to undertake a skydive to raise funds for Autism NI and is advocating for more support and services.

Omagh woman Kellie McGaughey's five-year-old daughter Sadie is non-verbal and was diagnosed with ASD in May 2022.

Kellie is set to undertake the skydive in September with her cousin Aimee, who has been "one of Sadie's support networks from the beginning".

Read more: Photos: Co Antrim park's new sensory experience opens as further plans in motion

Kellie said: "With a diagnosis of autism comes a lot of paths to navigate, and a lot of support required. However, it also means giving back, helping others and increasing the acceptance and understanding of those who have autism."

The mum-of-two told Belfast Live: "Sadie is non-verbal, well she's classed as non-verbal but she does have words but only when she wants to use them. It is lovely to hear her voice every so often, but it's very much noises and sounds."

Sadie attends Arvalee School in Omagh, but Kellie explained that it was a "hard period" in the years before.

The mum-of-two told Belfast Live: "My daughter was diagnosed as autistic last year, we've obviously known for a few years before that, but unfortunately for us, her issues all seemed to arrive around Covid.

"I had never experienced autism in any respect before, apart from I worked as a classroom assistant, I had a slight idea but I never knew the impact it could have.

"When we went looking for help, there was nothing. Everybody was just passing you from pillar to post all the time, so you had to start looking for anybody and anything.

"It was groups like Autism NI and the National Autistic Society that were our only lifeline.

"What people don't seem to realise, and it seems to be the conversation that I'm having over and over again at the minute, when they get to school, they have their support system, when they are in a special needs school, and I know the fight at the minute is horrendous to get them in, but the parents are so lost in the process of statementing and where to turn to for any kind of help. And that's were Autism NI comes in.

"You don't have a support network, it's about raising awareness for that hard period."

The Co Tyrone woman added: "I wanted to highlight the need for things like Autism NI and the need for more acceptance around autism, especially around the end of the spectrum where Sadie is."

Kellie has a fear of heights, but says she is "doing something that is out her comfort zone" to raise awareness.

The mum-of-two says that Sadie is "thriving" within school.

Five-year-old Sadie (Gabrielle McFarland Photography)

"She's very sensory, so it's always jumping, swinging and on the move, but a very happy child and is thriving within Arvalee. We are very, very lucky.

"The teachers and the classroom assistants are amazing, and she gets her speech and language therapy and all within the school so she never feels uncomfortable," she explained.

The Co Tyrone woman says "there is nothing" in Omagh geared towards autistic children.

Kellie told Belfast Live: "There's nothing in Omagh, the likes of Autism NI and all, yes they run in Belfast and they do an awful lot online and they are a great support, but Omagh itself has nothing and it really needs to be supported.

"They have the National Autistic Society and that runs one day a month on a Saturday, but say the likes of soft play areas and the leisure centre, there's no quiet sessions, there's nothing there for the people of Omagh.

"If we ever want to do anything, you have to go to Enniskillen, Derry, Belfast."

Kellie and Aimee plan to undertake their skydive on Sunday, September 17 at Skydive Ireland in Garvagh.

"I go two steps up a ladder and I feel unwell so the thought of doing it makes my head spin, I've to think about the fundraising.

"It's just to raise awareness and let parents know not to hide, the more they speak out the more they'll find their people," Kellie said.

To donate to their fundraiser, CLICK HERE.

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