Luke Edwards / Niagara This Week
There are more than 5,000 people in Niagara we should be talking about.
That was the message from Autism Ontario Niagara chapter’s Tamara Coleman Lawrie at the last Port Colborne council meeting, where she urged councillors and residents to bring the issue of autism into the public discourse.
“The autism spectrum disorder conversations must start,” she said.
Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, is on the rise, with 5,000 Niagarans being impacted with the disorder. Coleman Lawrie said it’s now the third most common developmental disorder.
A June report from the Niagara chapter found five priority areas where improvements are needed: employment, day time, recreation and leisure programs and housing; case management; community awareness and education; transitional planning; and additional funding.
“There may be no money, as we’ve heard, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start to talk about smart solutions now,” Coleman Lawrie said.
She said a decision earlier this year to roll out its Passport funding model in place of the old Special Services at Home model has also put a strain on families dealing with an ASD patient. She said the new model makes it more difficult to access money in a timely fashion and will leave many families on long wait lists before becoming eligible for funding.
October is autism awareness month in Canada. Coleman Lawrie said the time is now for people to start learning about ASD and get involved.