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MBE for champion of autism services

By David Young

Pioneering Ulster autism campaigner Dr Arlene Cassidy had a royal rendezvous yesterday when she received an MBE from the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace.

Autism NI is our oldest autism charity, supporting affected families throughout Northern Ireland.

Dr Cassidy has led the charity for a quarter-of-a-century and has advocated tirelessly on behalf of families touched by the condition to establish new support services, promote best practice and achieve greater social inclusion for those affected by what had been called the "hidden disability".

Her major contribution to autism awareness was in her leadership of the political lobbying campaign that resulted in the passing of the Autism (NI) Act in 2011.

But for all her experience in the corridors of power, yesterday's ceremony in the grandeur of Buckingham Palace still gave her butterflies.

"It was surreal," Dr Cassidy told the Belfast Telegraph.

"We were all so nervous - everyone wanted to get things right - and we all had been practising our curtseys. Thankfully, there's no pass or fail on the quality of your curtsey."

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