Reflecting on the Past Year - Autism Awareness

Reflecting on the Past Year

Here is what I am thankful for in this country:

Provincial Autism Societies – I have had the opportunity first hand to see what these organizations do for communities across the country. They offer lending libraries, counselling services, family support, advocacy, information, workshops, and support groups. They are often the first lifeline a parent receives. Many of these societies are staffed by volunteers.

Internet Resources – I have seen these grow over the past 10 years at a rapid pace. While you do have to be discerning, there is so much available like instructional clips on You Tube, Facebook autism groups, blogs written by people on the spectrum, support groups, forums, news, educational materials, and research. There is no topic in autism that you can’t find information about.

Educational Options – While these vary across the country and area you live in, there are options for inclusion and more specialized programs and schools. Most children with a diagnosis do receive aide support depending on need. I would like to see improvements in the area of special education funding, especially for teacher and EA training and also funding for parents who wish to send their children to a more specialized privately run school. These still are only affordable to a select few.

Free Programs or Reduced Rates – Our Calgary Public Library has offered some wonderful free programs over the years as has the City of Calgary Parks and Recreation Department. The library’s Story Pals program where my daughter reads to a dog each week has been a life changing program for her. Our children swim each week for a small fee, go bowling for a reduced rate, and are often let in for free at mini-golf.

Respite Funding – I know this varies in each province, but we have been fortunate to have good support in the area of respite. We use it too for much needed breaks from our two children. Without this funding, our outings would be minimal and sporadic. Getting out of the house recharges my batteries and helps me face the challenges of my children much better.

Books – Reading books has been a lifesaver. I read everything from personal stories to educational methodology. I like being able to pull a book off the shelf when I need to refer to something or get more information. The autism publishing industry has exploded in the past 7 years with new books coming out monthly. The difficulty now is what book to choose on what topic. We highlight 5 newly published books each month in our book blasts that you can sign up for on our newsletter page.

Conferences and Trainings – At AACI, we travel across the country bringing in world class speakers to almost every province. There are lots of options for training available that range from evening sessions to week-long trainings. There’s nothing like attending an event live to be able to network, ask questions, and learn about new resources.

Media – While media can sometimes be misrepresentative of the autism movement, overall the media has increased people’s awareness of autism and the vastness of this diagnosis. Temple Grandin’s HBO movie brought an autism success story into mainstream thought. Newspapers and TV shows highlight new research and show the challenges families face. I am not asked the question, “What is autism” nearly as much as I used to be. This is a good sign. Social media like Facebook and Twitter have increased the circulation of groundbreaking news.

The Collective Viewpoint – In this country, we do not instutionalize individuals on the spectrum nor view autism as a mental illness. We follow diagnostic protocols. Children with autism have a right to an education. We receive financial support and funding from the government. Many countries don’t have any of this. Parents have no hope and the child no future.

We have much to be thankful for. I wish all of our readers a Happy New Year!


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