Autism Awareness Centre Inc. Celebrates 16 Years
June 2019 marks Autism Awareness Centre’s 16th anniversary. When I co-founded this company in 2003, my children were 4 and 6 years old. I was only four years in to the autism journey. Today my children are 20 and 22, young adults. So much has changed in the autism field these past 16 years.
Some of our biggest advancements have come in the field of genetics, research around the biology of autism, understanding of brain growth and inflammation, and how immune and digestive systems function in those with ASD.There is a greater understanding of gender differences in autism; that women present differently than men on the spectrum and may require different supports.
We are recognizing the comorbidity of mental health issues and the effects of anxiety and stress. We are talking about neurodiversity and the strengths and contributions that a neurodiverse population can make. There is an increased focus on employment and housing issues and how will our children thrive when we are no longer here. Technology is giving a voice to those who previously had none, increasing independence, and fostering learning.
Autism Awareness Centre has been an integral part in supporting current research and expanding topics in autism through its conferences and bookstore. Our conferences continue to feature speakers from all over the world who bring new viewpoints and ways of thinking. They share their tools, assessments, and knowledge they have acquired through research and hands on experience. We offer conferences throughout Canada, reaching a diverse population of both professionals and parents. Our conference in Ottawa, ON this past April 2019 was the 124th conference. What a milestone!
Our bookstore continues to expand, adding new titles monthly. We ship books all over the world. When we began in 2003, we had 90 titles – we now have over 800. All titles are selected personally by myself, Maureen Bennie, Director. Each product has gone through a vigorous vetting process by me, to make sure it’s truly useful and of the highest quality. Using the human touch rather than computer generated linking, every book in the bookstore is truly related and similar in nature. We bring our bookstore to our conferences and support other events and conferences with our diverse resources.
In 2014, Autism Awareness Centre added a new division called Studio 3 Canada. This specialized training, the Low Arousal Approach, is designed to manage challenging behavior. Low Arousal Approaches develop better relationships between human beings through the knowledge, understanding and deployment of good social and emotional skills. It includes a solid grounding and a sound understanding of the transactional nature of stress, both between individuals and in systems which are so relevant in the classrooms and elsewhere in life, whilst taking into account differences across all the domains of development or other cognitive difficulties.
The approach teaches us to understand our approach within the context of the psycho-physiological (or Arousal) of the person we are supporting. The approach spells out the differences between and the need for proactive, active and reactive strategies. Furthermore, it teaches us to recognize the difference between a person who is calm, one that is escalating, one that is in crisis and one that is in post-crisis recovery.
Since launching our first training in 2014 at the Horizon School in Olds, Alberta, we have trained 34 trainers across Canada in the Low Arousal Approach with more Train the Trainer courses being organized for 2019-2020. We’ve offered 14 – 3 day Managing Challenging Behavior courses across Canada with more scheduled for this fall. As more people adopt this approach in professional settings and at home, we are seeing an improvement in happiness and well being for those individuals on the spectrum.
Over the years, I have seen a steady increase in the volume of mail worldwide from people seeking help, advice and resources in their community. The web is a wonderful tool to do research and find what people are looking for. It gives me great joy to give assistance to anyone who is struggling. I do my best to find what they are looking for. It’s a challenge at times, but so worthwhile and rewarding.
I am deeply grateful to have been in service to my autism community these past 16 years. It has been an honour to support such a diverse group of people, many of whom I now call friends. Had my two children not been diagnosed with autism, I would not have travelled across Canada and Europe like I have. My life has been greatly enhanced through the relationships I have developed with my conference speakers and delegates, and collaborating with them has been exciting, creating a newfound optimism.
Thank you to everyone who has given me suggestions for books, speakers, shared their ideas and discoveries, and kept me informed of new developments in ASD. Your support of the conferences, bookstore, trainings and all that I am trying to do in this field gives me the inspiration to keep going. I am excited to see what the years ahead will bring.
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.