Big Lunch on the beach by Autism Initiatives NI

Autism Initiatives NI is encouraging people across the North Coast to get together and have a Big Lunch with their neighbours and friends this June. Pictured at their Easter Surf Programme at West Strand, Portrush (from left): Joe McCloskey from Glenariff, local Big Lunch representative Grainne McCloskey with big-wave surfer Al Mennie, Pauline Graham, Health & Activity Co-ordinator for Autism Initiatives NI, Ricky Martin from Alive Surf School and Jonny Holmes from Belfast. For more information about holding a Big Lunch, request a free pack online at www.thebiglunch.com

Autism Initiatives NI is encouraging people across the North Coast to get together and have a Big Lunch with their neighbours and friends this June. Pictured at their Easter Surf Programme at West Strand, Portrush (from left): Joe McCloskey from Glenariff, local Big Lunch representative Grainne McCloskey with big-wave surfer Al Mennie, Pauline Graham, Health & Activity Co-ordinator for Autism Initiatives NI, Ricky Martin from Alive Surf School and Jonny Holmes from Belfast. For more information about holding a Big Lunch, request a free pack online at www.thebiglunch.com

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AT their Easter Surf Programme at West Strand in Portrush, organised in partnership with the brilliant ‘Alive Surf School’, Autism Initiatives called for community spirited people to get together on June 1st and hold a Big Lunch in their own neighbourhoods.

The innovative Surfing Programme, which was the first autism specific programme in Northern Ireland, is now in its third year and has so far provided more than 70 surf class places, which run across six to eight week sessions.

Health and Activity Coordinator, Pauline Graham, said: “When we ran our pilot programme three years ago we were excited about the possibilities around a surfing programme.

“Surfing allows the participants to enjoy physical activity and social interactivity in the unique environment of the beautiful North Coast.

“The health benefits of taking part in such a wonderful sport are obvious but the friendships which many have developed have been just as rewarding. Many of our young people and adults have returned year after year and we hope to continue for many years to come.

“We thought it would be a wonderful idea to cement these friendships with a Big Lunch at the end of the surf season in September. We will invite past participants of the programme and their friends and family to get together for a day of friendship and fun.”

The next surf programme will run in July and Autism Initiatives NI will collaborate with Alive Surf School and ‘Liquid Therapy’, a charity that helps local young people facing a range of physical, mental, emotional and behavioural challenges through surfing.

Local Big Lunch representative, Grainne McCloskey said: “Programmes like these are immensely valuable to children with autism. It provides an opportunity for important social interaction and helps the children to develop and learn in a positive environment.

“The Big Lunch is all about strengthening community and building support networks. The main date this year is Sunday 1 June, but like Autism Initiatives NI you can organise a Big Lunch for whenever best suits your community or organisation.”