Autism Awareness Centre Celebrates 11 Years
Autism Awareness Centre is celebrating 11 years in business this month. It’s hard to believe that much time has passed since creating this company in June 2003. When I started my children Marc and Julia, who both have autism, were only 4 and 6. Today they are 17 and 15. Marc will be entering grade 12 this fall and Julia will be joining him in high school for grade 10.
What strikes me most about the past 11 years is the development and increase of knowledge in the field of autism. There is a greater awareness about autism in the general public thanks to film, documentaries, blogs, websites, books and media coverage. I can remember when our bookstore started, we had 90 titles which was considered a a lot. Now, we have almost 700 titles and I add 5 new ones to the collection every month. The new additions to the literary scene have been wonderful, with books on education, speech development, communication, anxiety, challenging behavior, medical management, personal accounts, and the growth of relationship literature because we are recognizing life partners who are on the spectrum.
Diagnostic tools for autism spectrum disorders are increasing and improving. We are headed towards earlier diagnosis leading to earlier intervention and better outcomes. Interventions are evolving and new ones are being introduced such as the Zones of Regulation and the PEERS curriculum.
We are now entering into an on-going dialogue about the future for people with autism. We are asking, “What does a meaningful life look like?” Parents are demanding employment opportunities, higher education, better funding for supports, and adequate housing for their adult children. Schools are recognizing the need for transition planning to happen earlier, in grade 7, because it’s too late to start in high school.
People on the spectrum are finding a voice through their own blogs, social media, and websites. Those that could not speak are now being heard because of developments in technology. There are affordable ways to communicate through tech devices and we are discovering a deeper dimension of our non-verbal population. Through these new voices, we are coming to understand that a strong and sound mind can be present in a body that does not work well or a voice that can’t express itself. The developments in technology are creating the most excitement because we are seeing what is possible through the touch of a key. This coming of age generation has grown up with technology; they understand and use it in ways we could never have imagined.
What are the important issues that are emerging for the next decade? I believe we need to have a greater understanding of co-morbidity in autism and the presence of mental health issues. We need to start researching autism and aging as we don’t understand the health concerns that may be unique to those on the spectrum. For example, what will be the implications of a restricted diet over one’s lifespan? What effect will chronic anxiety have on the body 30 years down the road? We need to find a better way to manage challenging behavior and move away from the restrictive practices of Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI). Appropriate housing models will be needed and meaningful employment opportunities. This is where I envision the dialogue going.
Autism Awareness Centre has hosted 86 conferences these past 11 years in every province and territory in Canada with the exception of the Yukon. I am proud to have helped so many communities find solutions and realize the dreams they have for their children. I receive lovely e-mails, updates and messages every week from people all over the world telling me what’s going on in their community and how their students and children are doing. I have saved every card and letter from all of you because on the dark days when I feel like giving up, it is these words of encouragement and thanks that keep me going. Every day, I am so honoured to be able to use my life in this way because being in service is the greatest vocation.
Many of our conference delegates have become friends and colleagues. You’ve shared your vast knowledge with me and trusted me with your personal ups and downs. I’ve watched your children graduate, speak for the first time, learn to read and write, get that first job, and successfully move out. It has given me great joy to be a part of your celebrations. Thank you for including me.
Autism Awareness Centre is embarking on a new collaboration with Studio 3 in the UK. We are introducing the Low Arousal Approach to Canadians. The Low Arousal Approach was developed by Dr. Andrew McDonnell 25 years ago and is widely used in the UK and Europe. It is my hope that we can embrace these non-restrictive practices when managing challenging behavior. There is also an important reflective piece to this approach which is examining what part we play as the caregiver or support person in the onset of challenging behavior. I am excited about what I’ve seen as a participant in this training and am eager to share this knowledge with my fellow Canadians.
Our upcoming conference season will introduce new speakers Kerry Mataya, Joyce Cooper-Kahn and Elizabeth Laugeson. Subscribe to our newsletter or “Like” our Facebook page to be kept in the loop of what’s happening in the world of autism. We have a number of exciting projects this year, some of them international.
Thank you for your continuous support of Autism Awareness Centre. By attending our conferences, recommending us to others, and purchasing books from our bookstore, you enable us to support communities both in Canada and internationally. This exchange of knowledge from all over the world helps us grow and assist people with autism in the best way we can. I’m looking forward to what the next ten years will hold for all of us.
Autism Awareness Centre Inc.
Editorial Policy: Autism Awareness Centre believes that education is the key to success in assisting individuals who have autism and related disorders. Autism Awareness Centre’s mission is to ensure our extensive autism resource selection features the newest titles available in North America. Note that the information contained on this web site should not be used as a substitute for medical care and advice.