Autism Around Alberta (AAA) is Autism Society Alberta's monthly e-mail newsletter. Each month, we collect articles and stories from autism parents, family members, and professionals, along with news and events from organizations around the province. We are offering a web archive of past issues, but if you'd like to get AAA delivered to your inbox each month, join Autism Alberta now for free! We also welcome article submissions at AAA@autismalberta.ca.

Autism Around Alberta – September 2017 Edition

President’s Message

Jason Scheyen
It is with great excitement and pride that I am taking on the role as President of Autism Society Alberta (ASA). I would like to thank our outgoing President, Deborah Barrett, for her dynamic leadership. Deborah has helped develop many great initiatives like Who Will Take Care of Our Kids, Autism Around Alberta, and Autism Alberta Alliance. Her leadership has also seen our organization become more financially viable. I hope we can continue to build on these initiatives, and to develop our strategic direction as our organization changes.

As a board member for the past three years I have learned a great deal more about people with autism, and I have met great people who desire to do great things. I look forward to my time of furthering existing initiatives, as well as taking direction from the board on the other places we wish to progress. Thanks to the groundwork laid by previous ASA boards, I am excited to say that I see tremendous opportunities ahead for our organization to lead the autism community in Alberta.

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Autism Around Alberta – August 2017 Edition

Reflection

Deborah Barrett
It’s the beginning of a long journey when you recognize that something about your child is very different. It’s a shock to hear the diagnosis of autism. It’s so challenging to make sure your child has all the advantages and opportunities he or she deserves. It’s beyond challenging to understand and live with different ways of perceiving, to find ways of coping that work for your child, your family, your community, yourself. And it’s an uphill slog to make sure your adult child has a good life.

You find yourself doing things you never wanted to do and never thought you could do. You find yourself reading about topics that never interested you before. You find yourself educating, advocating, speaking, organizing, creating, leading. You find yourself growing. You discover there’s more to yourself than you’d ever imagined.

And somewhere on the journey, you realize that autism isn’t a scourge – it’s a blessing.

Parenting always asks you to dig deep, to find things in yourself you didn’t know existed. It asks you to figure out how to be there for your child, whether young or old. Autism asks the same. For some of us, autism asks us to participate in the community; it asks us to co-create the future. It asks us to parent more broadly, to help the community understand and develop better options for our loved ones on the spectrum.

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Autism Around Alberta – July 2017 Edition

Moving Mountains – My AGM Experience

Jessica Schurman
With Autism Alberta's Annual General Meeting coming up next month, we wanted to share Jessica's piece from last year, where she talks about why attending our AGM was a meaningful experience for her. We hope we'll see you at this year's meeting on August 26th in Red Deer!

I walked into Autism Alberta's Annual General Meeting feeling lower than low, discouraged; my bucket was empty. Three children, 17 loads of laundry, a van covered in Rice Krispies, and having only 24 hours to prepare for a mini-lake vacation will do that to you. Five hours is a great deal of time for anyone to dedicate and commit to a meeting, but wow, what a five hours it was. Everyone there had their own 17 loads of laundry and cereal covered minivan waiting for them, but they volunteered their time, showed up, and shared! I walked away from the AGM feeling completely inspired by the twenty people from across Alberta who were in attendance at the table and over the phone.
 
It was not five hours of budgets and reports – it was time spent learning and celebrating the other events and initiatives happening all over Alberta. For myself, on a personal level, it was a chance to spend time and connect with other parents and grandparents from across the province who are actively working to make the lives of all people touched by autism better. They are working tirelessly on policy, fundraising, and awareness. Most importantly (for me), I get the privilege of sitting in a room with parents who have children who are significantly older than my daughter and gaining knowledge and tips from them for when we get there. The advice, in my mind, is invaluable. My Matea is ten years shy of adulthood, but what a fast ten years I know it will be. I am forever thankful to this group of men and women who give of their time and their experience to help me and my daughter.
 
I would encourage any parent, with a loved one of any age, to attend a future AGM or call in if you ever have the opportunity. Walking away this afternoon, the statement that stuck with me the most was one made by both President Deborah Barrett & Vice President Lyndon Parakin: “we were and are just a group of parents, but if we have learned anything, it is that parents can move mountains.”
 
Thank you for the inspiration, my autism community friends. We in Red Deer are ready for another amazing year of working together with Autism Society Alberta to move some mountains.

Autism Alberta’s Annual General Meeting
Saturday, August 26, 2017
10:00 AM – 3:00 PM

 
Board Room
GH Dawe Centre
56 Holt St
Red Deer, Alberta
 
RSVP to info@autismalberta.ca
by 4:00 PM, Thursday, August 24, 2017

 
Child Care is available, but please let us know your needs by the RSVP deadline of 4:00 PM on August 24.
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Autism Around Alberta – June 2017 Edition

This Board is Not Boring!

Deborah Barrett
Over the years, I’ve sat on a number of boards and committees. Many of them were, well, boring. They were about budgets and numbers and a lot of what seemed like rubber-stamping.

My three years as President of Autism Alberta have been anything but boring! We’ve met regularly as parents or family members of loved ones on the autism spectrum. We’ve brought up issues, not to whine, but to see how Autism Alberta could use our collective voice to address these issues, bring awareness, and move toward making positive changes for individuals and families affected by autism.

We’ve created a newsletter, updated our website, started several Facebook communities, got funding from Autism Speaks to look into issues in rural and remote communities, and received funding for an Autism Ambassador replication grant in the Fort McMurray area. We’ve started a Social Solvers group in Red Deer and followed up with a play date program so kids could practice their new skills.

Directors of Autism Alberta worked on a committee that got a grant to pilot the first-ever Lifespan Clinic for Adults with Autism, and sat on the advisory committee for the pilot clinic. We've also met with Government of Alberta officials about housing issues and with MLA Marie Renaud about AISH issues that affect many adults on the spectrum. We’ve funded a groundbreaking report called Who Will Take Care of Our Kids (When We Can’t Anymore), and work will go forward there as well. We’ve heard from parents about mental health issues, and we look forward to hearing and doing more.
 
A meeting of the directors for Autism Alberta leaves me inspired and motivated. To a person, our directors are compassionate, caring and forward thinking. Each director is moved to create a better quality of life for individuals who live with ASD and the families and caregivers who support them. I am always in awe of the deep love and respect that members of this board have for people on the spectrum, and by the good, doable ideas they bring to the table. We don’t ignore budgets and numbers, but we try to use them to make the needs and concerns of Alberta’s ASD community known to the various areas where differences can be made.

Autism Alberta’s Board of Directors is composed of inspired, passionate people who use both head and heart to move Alberta toward a better quality of life for people on the spectrum. The good news is that there is currently room for you to join this forward-thinking board! If you are concerned about the issues surrounding people who are affected by autism, please consider joining our board. I can promise it won’t be dull! Contact dbarrett@interbaun.com, or call Deborah at 780-982-2051.
 
If you can’t join the board, you can still attend the Annual General Meeting. It is open to all members of Autism Alberta.
 
Autism Society Alberta
Annual General Meeting
10 AM-3 PM
Saturday, August 26, 2017
GH Dawe Centre
56 Holt St,
Red Deer, AB

Please RSVP by Thursday, August 24, 2017 at jscheyen@hotmail.com

Child Care is available, but please BE SURE to let us know by Thursday, August 24, 2017 at jscheyen@hotmail.com

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Autism Around Alberta – May 2017 Edition

Our Spring Vacation

Erika Rowden
This Spring Break, we were very fortunate to get away on a vacation to Mexico. It was definitely time to escape winter for a bit! We had travelled with Conor and Shea before, so I had picked up a few tips for this upcoming trip.

I made sure we had plenty of activities to choose from on the plane. After all, Conor told me before that plane journeys are the most boring thing in the world! We packed together, so he had lots of say in what he wanted to bring, and he chatted lots about what we would do once we got there. For the first time, he was actually getting excited about the whole adventure!

This time our airport experience was much calmer. The new terminal in Calgary meant we did not have to line up or deal with crowds going through security. That really helped! Choosing where to eat did result in a meltdown, but Conor went along with our group plan and tried a new restaurant. Before boarding, he spent lots of time in the play areas and running up and down the corridor to satisfy his sensory needs!

The flight went great, with no big lineups after we landed, and we arrived at our destination safe and sound after a very long day of travel. Big relief!

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Autism Around Alberta – April 2017 Edition

April Update From The Autism Society of the RMWB

Tina Delainey


Happy Autism Awareness Month from the Autism Society of the RMWB!

We’ve been busy celebrating Autism Awareness Month since March, with plenty of activities going on. For our March Movie Night we watched The Lego Batman Movie. About fifteen families came out for the event, and the kids had a blast!



We were also invited to the Wellness Fair at Peter Pond Mall. Groups from the region that promote mental and physical health were invited to have a booth and do talks about their organizations and what they provide for the community. It was a great to chance for us to share about what we do.



We are fundraising hanging baskets from Meadow Creek Greenhouses until the end of April, for delivery in May. So far the fundraiser is going very well!



We also hosted a Swim for a Toonie event at MacDonald Island on April 2nd, World Autism Awareness day! We offered sensory items for sale, information packages and displays, pins, and tickets for our Gala. We had a great turnout, and it was a very successful day!

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Autism Around Alberta – March 2017 Edition

Hardly Eating Anything!

Kitty Parlby
Can you count on one hand the foods your child will eat? Perhaps your family has concerns about nutrition. Maybe your child’s weight is below average as a result. I went through the very same thing with Eric when he was younger, and still have to prep him when I want him to give a new food a chance.

There are so many strategies I’ve used over the years. Today let’s just concentrate on one strategy: make food a play thing! Invent a lot of play opportunities that involve food, when there is NO pressure to eat. This is not done at meal time, and maybe not even at the table where you normally eat, but in places in your home that are associated with fun.

For some people with autism, part of the problem is that they need to build up trust and confidence with food. Meaning, they need to have many experiences with food so that they slowly learn to cope with the overwhelming input that comes through their senses. In this way, you help to prevent them from feeling the overpowering fear and stress they may associate with food, and therefore increase their interest and comfort in eating other things.

Don’t tell them what to do in the activities; show all the ways you can think of participating, by doing it yourself. Be expressive with your words and your facial expressions. Show by example that you can touch the food, smell it, lick it, put it some on your nose or chin and laugh. Lay cooked spaghetti over your head to make long hair.
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Autism Around Alberta – February 2017 Edition

February Update from Autism RMWB




Happy Valentine’s Month from the Autism Society of the R.M.W.B.! This month we hosted a family tubing day at our local ski hill. It was great turnout, with 98 people in attendance. Everyone had a blast, weather was great, and the staff at Vista Ridge were amazing!


In other news, a local boy named Josh generously requested that, instead of getting birthday gifts, his friends and family should make donations to the Autism Society of the RMWB. In total $415 was given to us on his behalf. We are so grateful for such a kind gesture from such an amazing kid! A big thank you to Josh!


We are planning several new events for the upcoming months:
  • March Movie Night
  • Autism Awareness Art Gala on April 22nd, featuring comedian Don Burnstick
  • Paint Night fundraiser for Mother's Day on May 14th (Almost sold out!)
We are looking forward to spring just around the corner and all our plans for our community. All the best from Autism Society of the RMWB!

Sincerely,

Autism Society of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo
780-742-4424

AutismSupport@AutismRMWB.org
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Autism Around Alberta – January 2017 Edition

January 2017 Edition

New Year’s Resolutions?

Erika Rowden
Every year, I used to make New Year’s Resolutions for myself. They were the usual stuff: get fit, lose weight, eat better… and after a few weeks, I had broken them all!
 
This year I have made a few, but I’m not going to call them resolutions; I’d rather call them intentions.
 
So here is my little list:
  • It’s OK not to be involved in everything that you feel you should be. Because of Conor’s ASD I feel like I need to be involved in every committee and activity, but in reality it’s just too overwhelming, and is simply not possible.
  • Stop feeling like Conor has to be busy all the time to help him regulate. With school demands and extracurricular activities he needs that downtime, just like all kids. I have to tell myself that it’s OK to take a break and have a quiet weekend – sometimes that is what we all need.
  • Spend more quality time with Conor and Shea – we don’t always have to go somewhere. Never be too busy to stop, listen and focus on what they are telling me or showing me.
  • Take care of me! Making time for the things that I enjoy doing is very important. I am a better person and parent when I can do this. I need to stay healthy for my kids!
  • Follow Conor’s cues more. Give him more independence to make him feel good about himself.
  • Stay connected with friends
  • Continue to learn about ASD – this will be a lifelong intention!
  • Stop and look at how far Conor has come, and appreciate the amazing progress. Make sure to tell him, too!
  • When regression hits, remember that he will come out of it and progress. Just be there for him and give him the support he needs.
Wishing everyone a wonderful 2017,
 

Autism Around Alberta – December 2016 Edition

December News from the Autism Society of the RMWB

Tina Delainey
It has been a very busy month for the Autism Society of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, and we have had great success with all our events since our last update.

We had a great turnout to our movie night! A lot of parents thanked us and asked that we try to put on more of these events, and we are now looking hosting an adult/teen movie night in the new year.

We have also been getting amazing feedback on our visit from Dr. Anthony Bailey, Dr. David Nicolas, Dr. Deborah Barrett and Nancy Gale. Our community is grateful to them for taking the time to come all the way up here to give us some wonderful information and advice.

Our fundraising efforts have been going well, but raising funds is challenging in a community that is still recovering from the events of the summer. A lot of our businesses are still struggling, but we were amazed that we managed to sell twice as many poinsettias as our initial target!

Our Christmas party was a hit, too! We had almost double the kids from last year – almost 70 children had a wonderful time visiting with Santa and enjoying the bouncy castles. They all loved their gifts from Santa, too! Even the parents told us what a great time they had, and that they’re already looking forward to next year’s celebration.

We are all excited for the New Year and all the great things we have planned for 2017. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Autism Society of the R.M.W.B.!


Sincerely,

Autism Society of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo
780-742-4424

AutismSupport@AutismRMWB.org
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