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frequently asked questions

Autism Canada is not a treatment centre.  We are a national, volunteer-led organization and we provide information to individuals on the autism spectrum and their families.

Autism Canada is the only autism advocacy organization with a national perspective on the issues currently facing those on the spectrum, their families and other stakeholders. We work collaboratively to share expertise, build consensus and help inform public policy and research. In addition to encouraging the sharing of best practices across provincial and territorial boundaries, Autism Canada actively promotes national dialogue on the most effective strategies for building equitable access to funding and services.

Please contact our Family Support Representative at 1-800-983-1795.

Autism Canada relies on the generosity of donors like you.  Every dollar goes towards helping the Canadian autism community. Your donation makes a difference in the lives of individuals on the spectrum and their families.  See below for ways in which you can make a financial contribution to this worthwhile cause.  Income tax receipts will be issued for all donations of $20 or more.

  1. Make a secure online donation with your Mastercard, Visa or American Express.
  2. Call 1-800-983-1795 to make a donation by phone.
  3. Mail your cheque, payable to “Autism Canada”, to the following address:
    Autism Canada
    Suite 200, 140 Yonge Street
    Toronto, Ontario M5C 1X6

Your donation supports Autism Canada’s national autism programs, initiatives and resources including, but not limited to:

  • Family Support and Resource Program
  • Search And Rescue for Autism (SARA) project
  • MedicAlertR Autism Program
  • Annual conferences for parents and caregivers held across Canada
  • Au-Some Conferences/Webinars for ASD adults
  • School presentations “Autism Awareness and Acceptance”

SARA stands for Search & Rescue for Autism, and this program is the first of its kind! It provides both prevention tools (to prevent becoming lost due to bolting and wandering) and response tools in the form of technical training for Search and Rescue Responders.  SARA is a project by Autism Canada  funded through the federal government’s Search and Rescue New Initiatives Fund (SAR NIF) with many partners across Canada including Parks Canada. To learn more, please contact Autism Canada at 1-800-983-1795 or visit the SARA website sarautism.ca

SARA, like Autism Canada, is a national program. Through our unique delivery methods and training, we are able to reach across the country to any SAR Team or Responder Group.

SARA was developed primarily for Search & Rescue and the Autism Community. However, most SAR teams are made up from volunteer members who work in a wide variety of fields including emergency medicine, police, fire, EMS, dispatch and community members who care. So at the end of the day, everyone can benefit from SAR programming.

Your company may choose to donate funds specifically towards SARA training.  You may also sponsor a SARA training in your area for your volunteer responders. If your SAR or other responder group wishes to have SARA training, we can work with you on sponsoring that.  If your community wishes to be involved in the prevention activities and support responder volunteers, please get in touch with us for tips, tools and ides for sensory friendly open houses and community events.  Your support by following and sharing on social media broadens our audience.

The MedicAlert Autism Program was created by Autism Canada and MedicAlert Foundation Canada.  It was designed to help protect Canadians on the spectrum in emergency situations. To learn more, please visit www.medicalert.ca/autism

The official position of Autism Canada is that we are not trying to “cure” autism.   Our goal is to support those individuals on the spectrum and their families to provide the knowledge to treat co-occurring medical conditions in order to live as healthy a life as possible.  Some of these supports may be:

  • getting therapy to help someone recover from depression
  • providing tips on how to communicate better with people
  • teaching them how to set boundaries properly
  • helping them deal with everyday chores despite problems with executive function.

According to some adults on the autism spectrum, there is a small percentage of autistics who would wholeheartedly get a treatment to turn their brain into a neurotypical one.  But most, even the non-speaking ones who need devices to communicate, are adamantly against any form of cure. Many parents are also strongly against a cure for their child, but the opinions are much more divided there. The rationale is that if you change an autistic mind, you change the whole person. If you treat someone with ADHD (whether they are autistic or not), they are the same person only with better concentration. If your goal is to treat autism, you would have to rewire the person’s neurology.

These terms are often used in the autistic community, as well as in disability advocacy groups, to describe distinct types of brains.  Neurodivergent refers to a neurological development and/or state of mind that differs from the norm. It could be characterized by autism, ADHD, OCD, dyslexia, PTSD, BPD, bipolar disorder, and many others, that can occur on their own or together.  Neurodiversity is an inclusive term to refer to all neurotypes, including the neurotypical brain, which is considered the norm.  Allistic more specifically means “non-autistic”, so an allistic person may not necessarily be neurotypical.

Named after an Austrian researcher who conducted experiments on children during WWII, this diagnosis was previously used in psychiatry to describe a certain form of autism that is usually more verbal.  It is now considered part of the autism spectrum, although some people still use it to refer to themselves or employ the shortened version “Aspie”.

You may hear about ‘mild’ or ‘severe’ autism, and ‘high-’ or ‘low-functioning’ individuals.  These labels are often used in the medical field and by certain interest groups.  Some people may also refer to themselves and/or their children as high-functioning.  Most self-advocates, however, warn that functioning labels are misleading and may be harmful.  They explain that since autism is a spectrum, it’s possible to require a lot of support in an area but function independently with ease in another.  They prefer to use support labels (low- or high-support, for example) or hope to abolish labels in favour of the individual.  They fear that a person who is considered low-functioning may have a hard time seeing their talents recognized, whereas another who is seen as high-functioning may struggle to find the help they need.  They also argue that functioning labels divide the community.

No more than other people.  In fact, many feel too much empathy and thus find it painful, for example, to watch the news or emotional movies.  It may, however, be very difficult for an autistic person to express empathy in a way that is understandable to others.  They may also require context before they can empathize with another person’s emotions, as they may miss the social standards involved.  For example, an autistic teen may not understand why their friend is distressed after learning that several people will wear the same dress as her at the prom.

It is the act of discriminating, consciously or not, against disabled people.  It happens at a personal level, but it is also a social reality.  Moreover, this prejudice is internalized, which means that from a young age, disabled people learn that their difference makes them “less than” others.

Masking happens when an autistic person tries to emulate their neurotypical peers.  They may, for example, copy speech patterns, pick uncomfortable yet socially preferable clothes despite their sensory issues, and avoid stimming in public.  Masking may be a choice an autistic person makes to fit better with a group, but it may also be imposed by parents, peers and/or educators.  Masking may prevent ostracization, but it may also lead to autistic burnout, as the person spends a lot of energy pretending to act in a neurotypical way.

It can happen at any age, usually after an autistic person has made tremendous efforts to achieve expected neurotypical standards.  It has been called ‘autistic regression’ when a child appears to lose abilities, such as speech or toileting.  The duration may be short:  if a person has spent some time in a noisy environment and/or socialized a lot during the day, they may be exhausted when they come home and be unable to talk or even partake in simple activities, such as watching a series they enjoy.  It may also lead to depression and last for weeks, months, or years as the person slowly regains their capacities.  During an autistic burnout, a person may be at greater risk of considering suicide.

Awareness is a good first step but we should aim for acceptance.  When it comes to autism, the word awareness may involve fear and learning about a problem that needs solving.  Acceptance means that not only the autistic idiosyncrasies are acknowledged, but that differences can be welcome within our society.  It also implies that we should develop more supports for disabled people.

Stimming refers to a self-stimulatory behaviour that helps an autistic person regulate their emotions when they are feeling overwhelmed. Examples include rocking, hand flapping, pacing, vocalizations, but could also involve self-harming, such as pulling skin, hair, or head banging.  Autistic people may stim when they are processing negative emotions, such as anxiety, but also when they are happy or excited.  Joyful stims are usually harmless.  Additionally, stimming may be considered a form of communication as autistic people find it much more difficult to transmit information when they are feeling overwhelmed.  It is also important to note that for some autistic people, all strong emotions, good and bad, are perceived as pain.  As such, an autistic child may poorly react, for example, when they unwrap a toy they’ve been dreaming of for months.

Most autistic people are hypersensitive or hyposensitive to certain things that affect either or all of their five senses. A mix of both is also possible, thus a person may be sensory avoiding and sensory seeking.  As such, someone may lash out if tapped lightly on the shoulder but ask for a strong hug.  Sensory issues commonly include textures (touch and mouthfeel), the weather, clothing, and an aversion to bright lights, strong smells and loud noises, but they vary across the spectrum.

We are pleased to see the movement towards sensory-friendly shopping.  It is a great example of creating accessibility for those who have autism or are neurodiverse.  The idea that retailers can make shopping easier with simple steps like these is catching on, and it really can make a huge difference for those with sensory needs. 

Retailers are seeing that they need to be more diverse in all areas of their business, including being more accessible for families and for autistics. It is great to see this growing organically across the country with stores picking up on the needs of their community and offering to make changes to accommodate.  It is a true example of community and people coming together to help one another. Very often the small things we do become the most significant – like making shopping easier!

Across Canada! We applaud the regional organizations and businesses who are leading the way.  Autism Canada supports creating sensory-friendly shopping times and we are developing downloadable toolkits for businesses and communities to help them do just that! The kits will have great templates and printables as well as some guidelines and creative ideas for retailers.

Having sensory-friendly spaces are very important to the autism community.  They are a great way to bring everyone in a community together to better understand one another.  Autism Canada has other partnerships and programs in development around sensory challenges, e.g. events, clothing, community areas.  Anyone interested in learning more is welcome to contact us on social media, on our website or at info@autismcanada.org

A fireworks display may not be an exciting experience for someone on the spectrum.   The combination of unexpected loud noises and sudden bright flashes of light can be distressing and even painful for a person with sensory issues.  Those unpredictable “bangs” can cause anxiety and stress.  A child or adult on the autism spectrum may hear it as if the fireworks are exploding right in their ears. 

Autism is a complex issue – one that intersects with many other complicated social issues. The complexity of this conversation and the diversity of the groups concerned means that dialogue can be difficult at times, and the importance of said dialogue requires that we recognize both a need for clarity and a need for sensitivity to each other’s perspectives. In this vein, it is necessary to create a shared language that will ensure a productive, positive discourse, respectful of all relevant parties. This document endeavors to create collaborative language and communication in the field of autism.

“Words Matter – Collaborative Language and Communication”

The following report is the most recent source for these statistics. Note that the data collected was from seven participating provincial and territorial governments so it represents only 40% of Canadian children and youth.   The report found that 1 in 66 Canadian children between 5 and 17 years of age have been diagnosed with autism.

Public Health Agency of Canada:  National Autism Spectrum Disorder Surveillance System (NASS) 2018 Report

You can make a positive impact in a few ways:

  • Following Autism Canada on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
  • Sharing our social media pages with your family and friends
  • Hosting a fundraiser
  • Volunteering with a web-based project or at an event.

The only logos/websites we feature on our website are conference sponsors and/or cause-related partnerships for a specified agreement time. Outside of those situations, we cannot post external logos nor websites on www.autismcanada.org

Here are some of our most recommended videos:

INTERNATIONAL INQUIRIES

Immigrating to Canada can be difficult and the assistance for children and adults on the spectrum is not easily accessed. Even those born and raised in Canada are being placed on long waitlists and the demand for services continues to grow. We suggest that you contact Immigration Canada to ask about autism services:   https://www.canada.ca/en/services/immigration-citizenship.html

Autism Canada cannot advocate on behalf of your family to Immigration Canada.  We are not able to send letters to help families immigrate to Canada or help with a visa.  Our mission is to provide information and support to Canadian individuals on the spectrum and their families. 

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