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Rural, Remote and Northern Communities

Amber Young

Services and information about Autism Spectrum Disorder can be difficult to access outside of urban Albertan centres. In particular, rural, remote, and northern Alberta regions have unique needs related to ASD information and services. Autism Alberta, the University of Calgary, as well as community leaders and partners, are working together to better understand the information and resource needs related to ASD for rural, remote, and northern communities in Alberta.

In order to learn more, we want to talk to community members (that’s you!) touched by ASD. We are hoping you will share your knowledge to increase the understanding of the resources, gaps, strategies, and strengths that exist within your area. We will be hosting discussion groups in two selected regions over the next few months. We invite community members who have been touched by ASD (individuals with autism, family members, service providers, and other supporters) to participate in guiding the development of a strategy relevant to your community. The voices of individuals and families impacted by ASD are critical to this project. Only you can ensure issues are meaningfully addressed.

Our work has already begun! On March 15th, Dr. David Nicholas (University of Calgary), Dr. Deborah Barrett (Autism Alberta) and Kirsti Mardell (Fort McMurray community leader) hosted two initial teleconference calls for residents of Fort McMurray and surrounding areas to discuss and receive feedback regarding local resources and information. Thank you to all who joined us for providing valuable insight.

As we move forward, we will be scheduling in-person discussion groups in the Fort McMurray and Central Alberta regions to provide further time and space for community members to share perspectives and insight.  If you live in either of these regions and are interested in participating in this project, please let us know.

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Updates from Autism Society Alberta – Central Alberta Chapter

Autism Society Alberta – Central Alberta Chapter will be holding its monthly Autism Parents Support and Information Meeting on Monday May 9th from 6:00-8:00 pm at the GH Dawe Community Center (Meeting Room 2).  The first 30 minutes of the meeting will be dedicated to letting everyone know about upcoming events in our community, as well as brainstorming ideas for future community events that parents might be interested in attending.  The last 90 minutes of the meeting will be a facilitated discussion on a number of topics.  The topic for May is “Dealing with Diagnosis”, and our facilitator’s will be Kerri-Ann Dalstra & Jessica Schurman.

We look forward to seeing you there!   


Looking Ahead:

In June we are going to be screening the movie Jack of the Red Hearts at Carnival Cinemas.

Date: To be determined
Location: Carnival Cinemas, 5402 47 St., Red Deer
Time: Evening

 

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Finding Community in Camrose

Amanda Dunsmore

Our son was nine years old and in grade three when he got his diagnosis: Asperger’s. We thought he might have some form of dyslexia or dysgraphia when we realized how hard he was struggling to learn to read and write, but the ASD (Asperger’s) diagnoses came out of left field for us — not because it wasn’t accurate, but because we really knew nothing about autism spectrum disorders.

Suddenly things started to make sense for us: there were the “tantrums” that we  failed to recognize as acting out, the problems socializing, the stubborn resistance to change, the reading problems. There was the intense focus on things he liked for hours at a time, or the way he could remember everything he had ever heard about outer space, but couldn’t remember to take his laundry downstairs, and how the rules were the rules were the rules – no exceptions! I had thought of them as quirks – my sweet,  funny,  loving little boy doing his best to be wonderful for the adults in his life and not being able to relate to peers because he spent too much time around adults. It took our feet out from under us, and at the same time finally gave us firm ground to stand on. Now we could figure out what to do, how to help make things better for him – we had a place to start.

Fast forward a couple years. We had a good working relationship with the elementary school he had been attending; anything we ever needed to talk to his teachers about was heard and addressed quickly and with minimal fuss. Things should have been going well, right? Unfortunately, they weren’t, exactly. Social problems persisted, he was lonely and becoming sad that no one seemed to understand him. Sensory problems with light and noise continued to becoming increasingly difficult, leading to headaches and irritability. He was isolated and so was I. There were no weekly play dates; he would be willing to attempt socializing outside of school only a few times a year, and we decided not to pressure him. I don’t know how many times I wished there were other kids who could understand him, be patient with him and be willing to be his friends.

Like any parent, I worried and watched, suggested and chivvied him into activities he didn’t want to do – all in hopes of him meeting someone who would want to visit once in a while. Like a lot of kids with Asperger’s, he resisted, then agreed to try because it was important to mum, then mostly ended up tense and not wanting to go back after a while. Slowly I watched as he closed in on himself more and more, unable to understand or handle the requirements of his normal peer group, crying into my pillow at night, thinking I had somehow failed him, taking all of his hurt and confusion into myself as if that alone would make it right. Family friends always had advice, ranging from helpful (“What about an activity that isn’t a group one? Like maybe music lessons?”) to not so helpful (“He just needs a good spanking!”). Likewise teachers had comments ranging from “He doesn’t need homework to catch up” to “All of Keenan’s problems come from your bad parenting!” (to this day I can’t even begin to address the sheer ignorance of that remark). Not even my husband seemed to understand sometimes, although I know he tried every time.
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Local Autism Societies

Aspire Special Needs Resource Centre

Aspire_Logo_cmykAspire is a charitable organization run by a team of caring and optimistic professionals who believe in working with families, and the local community, in order that children with special needs can reach their full potential.

Formerly the Children’s Services Centre, we have been providing an understanding, supportive and knowledgeable experience for families who have children with special needs since 1985.

4826 47th Street
Red Deer AB T4N1R2

Click here to visit Aspire’s web site