When my son, River Christie-White, started school, he did not talk. In fact, until the age of about 8, there were no words. And until River was born, I did not know what autism was. Today, Autism Ontario can be there for you when you get the diagnosis, or in fact, at any time you need help. Their staff and volunteers give every day.
Now, at 17, my First Nations teen speaks in front of crowds across Canada and the United States, spreading not just awareness about autism, but the need for inclusiveness for all, and particularly supports for children and families with special needs on reserves.
As River paints a picture with his brightly-coloured hoops – a beautiful flowing dance that speaks to traditional teaching about inclusion and community – he strikes a chord with other kids and teens. He ‘gives back’ because he feels it’s his responsibility; to speak for those who cannot. Today, think about how you can give back too.
Think about this – 1 in 66 children in Canada is diagnosed with autism – meaning in Ontario alone there are over 136,000 people – who want to, and should, be part of a larger community, not bullied or stigmatized, but included.
The reality today is that services and supports are needed for each person with ASD – child, teen, and adult – of all races, ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. We are a province of diversity. Autism Ontario and its 25 Chapters across Ontario work with everyone who seeks out help, and works for all people affected by autism, through advocacy, providing education, sharing evidence-based knowledge, and seeking partnerships.
River’s goal is to build a community. Autism Ontario also works to build community, and strives to make a difference for River, and others across Ontario, through its Family Support Coordinators, who connect families with community services, share knowledge and are often the ‘point of contact’ to lead families through the often unknown and challenging journey of autism.
On the Oneida Nation of the Thames, River and I try to act as a liaison, connecting families to Autism Ontario, offering advice, or just lending an ear or a smile. We understand the struggles, frustration and even the joy of the journey.
As any parent, I have dreams for all my children. For River, I wish for him to live a normal, accepting life.
What can you do to ensure that children, youth and adults have what they need over a lifetime? What can you do to make sure that people from all cultures are given the opportunity to reach their potential?
Donate today to Autism Ontario! Your gift of $20, $50, $100 - will make a difference.