Autism affects one in 54 children in Canada, which seems magnified in a small community like Prince Rupert, where the second annual Autism Walk was held on Saturday.
Several people made the walk amid the rain to raise awareness for the disorder. Members of North Coast Community Services (NCCS) were on hand to answer questions and educate the public on the issue. Many walkers had a paper taped to their chest, with the name of a friend or relative they were walking for.
“We’re gathering today because April is autism awareness month and autism affects a large portion of our population here. We’re here to support them and raise awareness of the need that’s still in our community,” said Sarah Browne, who is a supported child development consultant for NCCS and helped organize the walk.
The event was an opportunity for community members and service providers to get together and talk about services that can be offered to families affected by autism.
Walking for autism is so important because of the need to educate and change perceptions.
“Autism affects one in 54 in Canada. That’s a huge number of children in Prince Rupert and we just need the community to educate everybody on what autism spectrum disorder is,” said Tovah Nelson, also a supportive child development consultant for NCCS.
Nelson organized the walk with Browne, Symbia Barnaby, Kim Pilfold and Sarah MacCarthy.
The biggest issues surrounding autism are a lack of knowledge about the services available for the people who are affected by autism, Nelson said. But there are actually plenty of services in Prince Rupert including North Coast Community Services’ infant development program, two speech and language pathologists who work out of the Northern Health building, an occupational therapist who works out of the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital, a behavioural consultant who works with families, behavioural interventionists, child and youth special needs through the Ministry of Child and Family Development, and the Friendship House offers Aboriginal Child Development and Aboriginal Infant Development programs.
Raising awareness about these services in the community is one thing people can do to progress the issue.
“We need to continue things like this. I think continuing to raise awareness and CCS also holds a support group for people affected or have family members affected by autism. We just have to continue to hold events,” Nelson said.
On May 10, Stephanie Jull from Canucks Autism Network, will be giving an Autism 101 chat at Charles Hays Secondary School, which CCS strong encourages everyone to attend.