Local Advocacy Works!

Karla Gagnon, Parent

3 minute read - In 2019, our son Ben was diagnosed with autism. At that time Ben was three-and-a-half years old, non-verbal, a flight risk, and unaware of danger. We live in a quaint, quiet area, but there were many times where motorists would speed down our street. This made it incredibly dangerous for Ben who would easily wander off into the street. Knowing this, I had to try and make a change. Signage! We needed signage on our street that would tell drivers to slow down because there were autistic children in the neighborhood. So, I went on Amazon and purchased metal signs, one for each end of the street. I didn’t realize that in order to put up the signage, I had to work through a lot of red tape to have it approved. After calling the City of Timmins, I was greeted with a kind voice on the other end of the line, who listened to my story and wanted to help make change. 

The days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months and while we were waiting, Covid struck the world, and everything came to a sudden halt. We worked very hard with Ben. With his dedicated speech-language pathologist, and our eagerness to learn and teach him safety, Ben, now aged four-and-half, was able to identify words, communicate, and was no longer a flight risk and understood danger.  

Fast forward to September 14th, 2021. After a long day at work, I was heading home, driving up the hill. I drove until I needed to make a left onto our street. I slammed the breaks immediately, gasped and said out loud, " OMG they did it, they remembered." There it was, SIGNAGE. A tall metal post with vibrant colours that read in bold letters: SLOW DOWN Autistic child at Play. The tears started flowing down my face as I felt an immediate sense of gratitude. "They heard me. They do care." I came up to our driveway, parked the van and ran to the opposite side of the road and saw a second sign that was posted. I took a picture with my daughter standing next to it, took a moment and stared in what I felt was complete silence. Then slowly and calmly, I walked back to our home, overwhelmed by emotion.  

I contacted the City of Timmins the following day. I spoke to the kindest and most caring person on the other line and asked her to please pass on the message to everyone involved in making change happen. I wanted to thank them for listening and not forgetting about my Ben, and all the other children on our street with autism.  

I later found out that the same signage was put up on another street in Timmins. I see change happening in our city and I strongly believe it's because of everyone who continues to advocate for our loved ones on the spectrum. 

Thank you for wanting to know our story.  



DISCLAIMER: This document reflects the views of the author. It is Autism Ontario’s intent to inform and educate. Every situation is unique and while we hope this information is useful, it should be used in the context of broader considerations for each person. Please contact Autism Ontario at info@autismontario.com or 416-246-9592 for permission to reproduce this material for any purpose other than personal use. © 2021 Autism Ontario 416.246.9592 www.autismontario.com