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New autism-friendly walled garden and play area opens at Longstone Hospital

The garden includes a secure play area with climbing frame, slide and a basket swing, along with picnic tables and a shaded canopy space for families of children and young people with autism to enjoy.

Members of the Acorns for Autism parent/carer group and Southern Trust staff are pictured at the opening of the walled garden at Longstone Hospital including: Julie McConville, Claire Bailey, Shirley Dennison, Judith Nellins, Dr Anna McGovern, Denise Carroll, Malcom Dawson (Armagh Lions Club), Joanne Maguire, Barbara McCrea, Heather Trouton, Deputy Lord Mayor Councillor Tim McClelland and Gerard Maguire
Members of the Acorns for Autism parent/carer group and Southern Trust staff are pictured at the opening of the walled garden at Longstone Hospital including: Julie McConville, Claire Bailey, Shirley Dennison, Judith Nellins, Dr Anna McGovern, Denise Carroll, Malcom Dawson (Armagh Lions Club), Joanne Maguire, Barbara McCrea, Heather Trouton, Deputy Lord Mayor Councillor Tim McClelland and Gerard Maguire.

A Walled Garden developed in partnership with the Southern Trust and the Parent/Carer group Acorns for Autism has opened in Armagh.

Based at The Oaks on the Longstone Hospital site, the garden includes a secure play area with climbing frame, slide and a basket swing, along with picnic tables and a shaded canopy space for families of children and young people with autism to enjoy.

Acorns for Autism were integral to the success of the garden, fundraising for the venture over a number of years.

A representative for the group explained. “We are a small group of parents who started a charity a number of years ago to raise funds to develop a safe place for people living with autism to play at the Autism Services building”

“Although it is a work in progress, we are delighted it can now be used by service users and groups attending the centre”

“We are very grateful for all the donations we have received over the years including Armagh Lions Club, the Lord Mayor’s Office, Rodney Leiper, Ciaran Hughes and Portadown NI Supporters Club”

“Our work will continue to complete the garden and develop more of the grounds so our young people and adults and their families have a safe place to play, learn and socialise with each other”

Denise Carroll, Head of Service, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) and Autism was involved in the project from the beginning and was thrilled to welcome the opening of the garden.

“We wanted to create a safe and inclusive place so parents can enjoy the garden and peace of mind while their children have fun in the play area”

“Children learn through play and it helps develop skills that are important for learning and development, so it was important to choose playground equipment and a design that catered for children with Autism”

“We are so excited that after all the research, planning and works, we now have a wonderful space for the children to get outside and get active.”

Members of the Acorns for Autism parent/carer group and Southern Trust staff are pictured at the opening of the walled garden at Longstone Hospital including Jamie Creaney, Deputy Lord Mayor Councillor Tim McClelland, Barbara McCrea, Finn Dunwoodie, Shirley Dennison and Denise Carroll. 

Members of the Acorns for Autism parent/carer group and Southern Trust staff are pictured at the opening of the walled garden at Longstone Hospital including Jamie Creaney, Deputy Lord Mayor Councillor Tim McClelland, Barbara McCrea, Finn Dunwoodie, Shirley Dennison and Denise Carroll.

Julie McConville, Assistant Director for Specialist Child Health and Disability added:

“We always strive to develop and improve services for families and the Walled Garden at The Oaks is the result of the hard work and dedication of staff and the support group Acorns for Autism”

“This new facility is a fantastic asset for the Autism Service and a big thank you to estates and planning colleagues for their work in creating this space”

If anyone is interested in joining the Acorns for Autism group please contact joanne.gallagher3@outlook.com

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