Wednesday, December 24, 2008

This Christmas This Autism Dad Says Thank You

I started this blog as an extension of the autism advocacy in which I have been engaged for the past 10 years. Here in New Brunswick, Canada parents who were active autism advocates fought to secure pre-school government funded ABA intervention by University of New Brunswick trained Autism Support Workers and Clinical Supervisors. We also fought to extend that service model into the school system where UNB trained Teacher Aides and Resource Teachers provide ABA instruction to autistic students. While far from perfect, these efforts make New Brunswick one of the best jurisdictions in Canada or the United States in which to raise autistic children.

We had substantial assistance in our efforts from parents in British Columbia (Auton) and Ontario (Deskin-Wynberg) who fought court battles, ultimately unsuccessfully, but whose cases provided careful public examination, particularly in the trial level courts, of the existing scientific thought about autism and effective autism intervention - meaning Applied Behavioral Analysis. We had help from the United States where, unlike the Canadian health and research authorities, credible agencies like the US Surgeon General, the New York State Department of Health and the Maine (MADSEC) Autism Task Force reviewed decades of research and provided clear, coherent guidance and authority for use in our autism advocacy. God Bless America!

We had the intellectual leadership of Professor Emeritus (Psychology) and Clinical Psychologist Paul McDonnell and the organizational savvy and drive of Ann Higgins of the University of New Brunswick College of Extended Learning. They provided us with a clear focus on evidence based approaches to autism interventions and the means by which to obtain such interventions for our autistic children.

We had the considerable abilities and inspirational support of a very smart gentleman with Aspergers named Jason Oldford who demonstrated his own determination in addressing his challenges with every meeting and with his public speaking efforts. And we had a core group of very, very tenacious parents of autistic children who put a lot on the line with their family time and careers in the nursing, military, financial services, and a variety of other occupations.

To the autism support workers, clinical supervisors, teacher aides, resource teachers, educators and civil servants, to all these people and to our New Brunswick politicians who listened and did the right thing I say thank you. Much more remains to be done, particularly in youth and adult residential care, but for what we have today I say again thank you.

I also thank Autism Speaks, an organization which has done great work in creating Autism Awareness and raising funds for research. Autism Speaks did not exist during most or our local autism advocacy and has made no direct contribution to autism efforts in this area. It is an organization under attack from all quarters these days from those who assert that vaccines cause autism to "neurodiversity" advocates and persons with Aspergers and High Functioning Autism who oppose the very concept of curing and treating autism. Even some internet blogging parents who want immediate help in their efforts to help their children now attack Autism Speaks.

Personally I believe Autism Speaks should be criticized like any organization BUT I also believe that it has done unbelievably great work in publicizing and raising awareness of the realities of autism disorders from the various walks, entertainment industry events, and stock car racing events to the United Nations' World Autism Awareness Day.

Autism Speaks has been very active in raising funds for research and research is what has provided the foundation for gains made by autistic persons everywhere. CNN and CBC will continue to interview a few high profile, gifted autistic persons who will explain why THEY do not want to be cured of their autism. But for the millions of people around the world, and their families, who actually struggle with autism challenges, research is the only direction that offers hope for the future and hope that more effective treatments and cures will be found for the neurological disorders now referred to as autism spectrum disorders and Autism Speaks is a driving force behind much of that research. Hopefully the research sponsored by Autism Speaks will not be limited by any specific ideological perspective except that of actually helping autistic persons. Hopefully Autism Speaks will sponsor both genetic and environmental research into autism cause and cure.

For now though this "autism dad" says thank you to everyone who has helped us with our present achievements here in New Brunswick and thank you to Autism Speaks for your tremendous efforts to date and for offering hope for the future.

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Anonymous said...

Thank you Harold and Conor, for sharing your stories and research, and for continuing to bring hope to many families.

God Bless you, and best wishes for a joyous and healthy new year!!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the kind words. Hope you enjoy the holidays.

Blogger Charles LeBlanc said...

Joyeux Noel big guy!!!

I hope in 2009 you'll be blogging more les boring blogs than 2008!!!


Merry Christmas!!!

Have a good one!!!


Anonymous said...

Beautiful blog Harold! We're not dead yet, and if we have to we will dust off and continue to work for the betterment of all persons with autism in NB.

Merry Christmas to you and your family!!


Cherie Peattie said...

Merry Christmas Harold!

Anonymous said...

Hi Harold,

I would like to take this opportunity and thank YOU and ALL THE PARENT that have work so hard over these years for our children in New Brunswick. I'm so thankfull because of your hard work my child was able to benefit of services and he has a brighter futur.

Samuel is now 7 year old and he's doing so well. We are so proud of his succes.


Unknown said...

Thank you for your kind words Joelle. I am glad Samuel is doing well.