Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Autism resource centre connects families

REACHING NEW HEIGHTS: Autism Connections Fredericton held its official opening Monday. Above, enjoying some of what the centre has to offer during the open house are, from left: Joe Ann Kent, senior therapist with Autism Intervention Services; Christopher Arbeau, 4, who is autistic; Shanna Arbeau, Christopher's mother; and Tamara Downey, parent and board member of Autism Connections Fredericton


For The Daily Gleaner

Published Wednesday May 2nd, 2007
Appeared on page A6

Autism resource centre connects families

At four years old, Ryan Downey can't speak and he still isn't toilet-trained.

Ryan is autistic. His father, Todd Downey, is frustrated.

"Everything is so much harder," Downey said. "Everything has to be taught 20 to 30 times... It takes (him) so much longer to learn."

But now there is support for Fredericton-area families such as the Downeys.

Autism Connections Fredericton held its official opening Monday, though it's been operating since October.

It's a resource centre run by volunteer parents of children with autism to support families who are dealing with autism.

People with autism have an impaired ability to engage or communicate with others socially.

They often have unusual behavioural patterns, including short attention spans and abnormal moods. They may also have certain special abilities.

Lana Thompson, the chairperson of the Autism Connections Fredericton committee, said the centre will bring people dealing with autism together.

"I think anybody with children with handicaps needs a support system," she said.

"That's what a resource centre does."

Downey, who is a member of the centre's board, agrees.

"The biggest thing is the networking," he said.

Downey said parents don't always have the money for autism resources.

The centre provides up-to-date information, workshops, guest speakers, parent meetings and guidance to parents and familys so they can navigate local autism services.

It has toys specifically designed for autistic children and books for parents on how to teach their children certain things. All the services are free.

"Everyone can't go out and buy all these books," Downey said.

"It costs like 80 bucks (for a book), but you can check it out from there (for free)."

He said there are resources at the centre for all autistic individuals, not just children.

Fredericton MP Andy Scott was at the opening ceremony for the centre.

Scott had a private member's motion calling for a national autism strategy passed in the House of Commons.

He said the centre is a positive development for families in the area dealing with autism.

Scott said what's needed now is help from the federal government. He pointed out that treatments, therapies, and help for autistic children can cost upwards of $70,000 annually.

"In some provinces, there is funding for that," Scott said.

"But it is a mish-mash across the country. That is why the federal government has to help bring all the provinces together."

Autism Connections Fredericton is located at 66 Lincoln Rd. To contact the centre, call 450-6025.

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