April 2nd is World Autism Awareness day and all month long we recognize Autism Acceptance month. In Canada and Alberta resources are available. Here is some educational information as well as resources available to parents of children with autism.
What is Autism?
Autism, also referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts brain development. This means that those with autism may experience difficulties with social interaction and communication.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is often accompanied by certain medical conditions such as epilepsy, sleep disorders, various gut abnormalities and immune dysregulation. Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are common. These conditions can impact an individual’s quality of life in varying severities.
The way we describe autism is also changing the more we learn about the disorder. Terms used in the past and even now have created harmful stigmas, this has led the autism community to try and shift away from terms like “high or low-functioning” as well as quantifiers like “mild” or “severe”. This is because all diagnoses’ are unique and symptoms may display differently on a per person basis for example, someone may be non-verbal while still displaying better social skills than someone who can speak well. The medical diagnoses may unfairly label this person as being more “severely” autistic than someone who is verbal.
What is the “spectrum”?
The spectrum is a term you will hear a lot in relation to ASD and it’s referring to the range and variance of developmental impairment. Those living with ASDs may have particular characteristics in common but the condition covers a wide spectrum. The amount and type of symptoms, how they display, and their age at onset will all vary person-to-person.
Autism Society Alberta (ASA) is a grassroots organization within the autism community connecting to its provincial members through regional partners and networking with agencies and associations throughout the province and nationwide.
ASA is dedicated to increasing public awareness about autism and the day-to-day issues faced by individuals with autism, their families, and the professionals with whom they interact. The Society and its partners share a common mission of providing information and education, as well as supporting research and advocating for programs and supports for the autism community.
There are 8 main resources centres throughout the province of Alberta and these will assist in paperwork, documentation, and resources for service provision and funding. Alberta Family Resource Centres provide services for all disabilities and also have a disability database that is accessible to everyone.
“The Autism Society of Alberta would like to introduce the Indigenous Relations Circle. Rooted in respect, the circles’ goals are to bring together diverse perspectives on the experiences of Indigenous peoples and autism in Alberta. The circle is a central concept to Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island and the Indigenous Relations Circle will listen, learn, share, connect and advocate for Indigenous autistic people and families.”
– Grant Bruno, Chair
AAFS, a common collaborator with Siksika Health Services, was founded by a small, dedicated group of parents who saw a need for social and recreational programming specific to the ASD community. It was known to them that many youth on the spectrum of Autism did not fit within traditional day camps or recreation programs intended for typical children, nor did they feel comfortable with the structure of specialized camps and programs for children with disabilities.
A program was needed that would be tailored to their specific social and recreational needs; a program yet to exist where the staff understood their abilities and they would be accepted for who they were. A place where they could come and be empowered to take part in the world around them, and where they could become a vital part of their community.
Autism Calgary is an association of individuals and families living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) striving to assist each other and the broader community so that those with ASD live meaningful and purposeful lives in a community that values them. The organization serves as the community of families, caregivers, and supportive professionals collectively striving for a supportive, accepting and understanding community for individuals and families living with ASD.