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
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 RWMB Receives Autism Ambassador Grant

By Kirsti Mardell

There are not enough words describe how much it means to me, and to my community, to receive The Autism Ambassador Grant.I was born and raised in Fort McMurray. My son was diagnosed with autism at two years old in 2012. We joined the only Autism Support Group we knew of in our area, and until recently things remained pretty much the same in our local autism community.

That all changed last year when our community faced an evacuation. Our families were able to experience supports and services available in other areas, and it was an eye-opener. After the evacuation our group got smaller, and since then we have been trying to bring our autism community back together.

Receiving the ambassador grant means we have been able to connect with families in our region we never knew before. We have been able to provide parent-to-parent support. We have been there for families in crisis. When they had nowhere else to turn, they called us.

Before this grant we were just a bunch of parents who would randomly meet to talk at a friend’s house.  Now, with this grant, we are able to reach out and connect people throughout our whole region. We are bridging the gap so people don’t have to feel so isolated and alone.

I said it before: words cannot describe how much this Autism Speaks Canada Grant means to our community. Thank you.

Kirsti Mardell
Autism Ambassador of the RMWB
To learn more about the Family Services department at Autism Speaks Canada, please visit:
The administrators of this website hereby acknowledge the Family Services Community Grant received from Autism Speaks Canada, the funding agency for the project leading to this publication.  The views expressed on this site do not necessarily express or reflect the views of Autism Speaks Canada.

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Meticulon Is Looking For Consultants

  • Are you on the Autism Spectrum?
  • Are you 18 or older?
  • Do you have experience or interest in working with computers and/or knowledge of software applications?
  • Are you fluent in English?
  • Are you a self-driven, motivated individual?

If you answered yes to these questions, then you might just have what it takes!

Please send a completed application form and resume no later than August 1st, 2017.

For more information, please visit:

Download the PDF flyer.


— The Ability Hub Team

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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, 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

Child Care is available, but please BE SURE to let us know by Thursday, August 24, 2017 at
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Who Will Take Care of Our Kids (When We No Longer Can)? – Part 2

Carolyn Dudley & Shino Nakane

In last month's issue of Autism Around Alberta we introduced the "Who Will Take Care of Our Kids" study. This research project was spearheaded by Autism Alberta to help find out what is being done to create better futures for adults with autism, and how we can do more. This month we'll be summarizing some of the challenges that adults and caregivers currently face.

Research indicates that many adults with ASD live at home with aging parents. In a study from Ontario of 480 adults with ASD, 60% lived with family. Many adults with ASD remain highly dependent on family, and compared to higher-functioning individuals with other developmental disabilities, those with high-functioning ASD are less likely to achieve independent living.

Many adults with ASD, regardless of level of ability, need lifelong supports. In an American survey of 143 families caring for an adult with autism, 58% of adults with ASD needed help with activities of daily living (toileting, bathing, dressing), and 84% needed help with auxiliary daily living skills like bill-paying, cooking and cleaning.

Although some aging ASD families might not specifically identify themselves as a disadvantaged population, the unfortunate fact is that many experience negative physical and mental health and financial consequences resulting from the autism diagnosis. Parenting an individual with autism is associated with reduced quality of life and high lifelong levels of stress, depression and anxiety due to the nature of care required. Elderly caregivers of individuals with developmental disabilities, including ASD, frequently experience stress that can develop into more serious illness. Mothers of individuals with ASD reported significantly more time spent on care and chores and less leisure time compared to a sample of mothers of children without disability. Lifelong caregiving is very stressful, and in the context of unprepared support systems, is not sustainable.


Full “Who Will Take Care Of Our Kids?” Report Now Online

What happens to adults with ASD once their parents or guardians are no longer able to support them or are deceased? Last  year, Autism Society Alberta tried to help answer this question by launching the project ‘Who Will Take Care Of Our Kids (When We No Longer Can)?’

Now, after several months of research, Autism Society Alberta is releasing the results of the study. You can find the full report here (PDF format).

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RSVP EXTENDED TO JUNE 30 – Practical Tips for Living Successfully on the Autism Spectrum

Autism Research Centre (ARC) Presents
Practical Tips for Living Successfully on the Autism Spectrum

Join us at our upcoming FREE information session!

Date: Friday, July
14th, 2017

Time: 9:00 AM–12:00 PM

Robbins Learning Center Theatre
Royal Alexandra Hospital

Cost: Covered by donations from the ARC

  • Featuring interesting guest speakers
  • A chance to network with other families
  • Meet our team and hear about our research findings

1. Dealing with Problematic Behaviors

  • Restricted & repetitive behaviors
  • Picky eating
  • When to consider medications

2. Education & Employment for Adults

  • Employer capacity
  • Worktopia Project
  • University supports

Please note these presentations are intended for parents, and we are not able to offer childcare. We look forward to seeing you there!

To facilitate organization and planning, please RSVP by June 30th, 2017 to Erin Kapler at or 780-735-6106 ext. 1

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