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Meeting Steele Marple is a contradiction on all accounts. This exuberant, unassuming young man, in the casual attire of a born and raised Urbanite, sporting a distinguished looking, “and sharply groomed beard and “stache”, has autism? This chatty, accomplished 25 year old is “on the spectrum”, and has Asperger’s? If you asked him, he’d say “Yah, and so what”! Not in the least embarrassed or victimized by having Asperger’s, he just doesn't let it define entirely who he is. He’s actually very invested in life on the autism spectrum, so much so that after receiving services as a teen, followed by volunteering at countless events held by Autism Ontario-Durham Region, he’s gone ahead a started up a “Young Adult Social Group”.... a very successful social group! Asking him why he started the group, I'm taken a bit aback by his response. “We are the only one, the only group like this, I needed to do it”. Turns out he was right, there are very few groups of this type for young adults anywhere, and certainly none in Durham Region until now. The group is run by volunteer facilitators, Steele included, as head facilitator. He and his growing group of volunteers think up and implement outings of all kinds, from dinners downtown, to movie nights, and you guessed it, participants are lining up to take part. Mr. Marple has big dreams for himself and for growing programs like the one he started. He’s troubled by the lack of available employment for those on the autism spectrum. He himself is a 3.5 year graduate of Durham College, having completed a marketing program. Twenty-five, well spoken, educated, motivated and the creator of a very successful service to the Durham community, he has been unable to find employment. “People just won’t give us a chance”.
Lack of funding is the biggest challenge for Autism Ontario-Durham Region (of which Mr. Marple is affiliated), who would like to provide more services. Although this chapter, mainly run by volunteers, fundraises continuously, they cannot keep up with the growing needs of the autistic community and the lack of funding available. “We need dedicated and courageous corporate business owners like Preferred Men’s Luxury Magazine and its founders to ignite change and awareness”, says Mr. Marple. “Trail blazers that look out for the little guy and want them to be successful”. Mr. Marple sees a brighter future ahead for Autism Ontario-Durham Region and all those affected by autism, should others follow PMLM's example.
Meet the Alfonsi family: Rosa, Pat and their son Joseph. The family lives in the Durham Region where they enthusiastically make use of Autism Ontario’s Durham Chapter activities (run mainly by volunteers) to help socialize their son. Support systems this organization strives to provide have also been very helpful for this family. “Honestly, it would be hard to imagine not having the Durham Chapter in our lives, we are incredibly grateful!” says dad, Pat. Rosa, a stay at home mom and primary care giver for the couples autistic 12 year old son feels strongly in providing her Joseph with as much positive social interactions as possible:
“I searched and found Autism Ontario Durham and have been a member now for several years”. This mom has diligently registered herself and her son for all sorts of events and outings run by the organization. From baseball and basketball games, to whole day outings to such crazy busy places as Canada’s Wonderland and Centre Island! The duo also took part in Autism Ontario Durham’s Family Day Event, and the organization’s many Christmas activities, BBQ’s and other social gatherings. Pat goes on to to say, “They give kids on the spectrum a chance to do normal things without the worry of being judged. Where else could our son take part in a “Movie Morning” with a theatre full of other families with children on the spectrum?” Here, Pat refers to the Chapter’s rental of movie theatres several times throughout the year. “I mean, my kid gets to do normal everyday things, it makes him happy and that’s what makes us happy!”. Joseph, who attends a DDSB regular class (with help of an aide), has a “knack” for remembering places and how to get to them! His dad proudly gives examples of Joseph’s “inner compass”. “The kid can tell you exactly, and I mean exactly, how to get to someplace , and how to get back…..he’ll tell you which streets to take, which highways, which ways you’ll need to turn, its incredible!”
Autism Ontario-Durham Region continues to provide supports to all persons on the autism spectrum in their community. They heavily rely on fundraising initiatives and corporate support. Their hope is to provide more families with positive experiences such as the Alfonsi family have found. As grants and funding opportunities shrink and the need for services grows, the organization is dedicated to finding ways to support amazing families like the Alfonsi’s.
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