The Blue Dragonfly Foundation was recently launched in Antigua and Barbuda to bring the first integrated specialist autism services to the twin island state.
Founder Caroline Hopton says, “The [ not for profit organization’s] physical facility will offer a unique, holistic and lifelong service to autistic adults, to help them achieve the necessary skills for work within our planned diverse social enterprises. We will assist our learners to gain the necessary life skills to become as independent as possible. Ours is a ’transitional’ service for young adults leaving education when they meet a ‘cliff edge’ — when it comes to further education, training and work opportunities”. Caroline, through her experience over the past 24 years in dealing with her two sons on the autism spectrum (both who were born and raised in Antigua), said she has learned that a model of autism specific support is necessary for many. She explained that the Foundation will serve autistic persons of all abilities, and will also assist those schools on both islands that require the training of staff, in order to better support their students with autism and/or learning difficulties”.
President of the Halo Foundation, Her Excellency Lady Williams, commended Caroline Hopton on her initiative. “The passion and determination which Caroline exudes in focusing on the issue of autism awareness and management is noteworthy. According to the website Caribbean National Weekly (April 4, 2019), ‘Caribbean mothers are among the most likely to have autistic children.’ Many of these cases go undiagnosed and therefore either untreated or under treated. With the provision of proper tools and opportunities, Blue Dragonfly can make a meaningful impact in the sphere of adult life transition”.
Ms. Hopton stated , “The Blue Dragonfly’s program will incorporate community leisure activities, designed to encourage social interaction between learners and their peers. Persons with autism generally find it very difficult to make and sustain friendships which leads to social isolation and, in turn, mental health issues. A family advice and support program will also be readily available to those in need, and the final phase of the project will provide lifelong community based residential facilities.”
Governor General His Excellency Sir Rodney Williams congratulated Caroline Hopton on the progress of the organization to date. “There has been much discussion and planning going on in the background for a few years, and we are more than reasonably satisfied that the Board of the Blue Dragonfly intends to propel the project forward. Had Covid not happened, the operations for tackling Autism Spectrum Disorder would have been much further along. We wish the team members all the best in their endeavours.”