April is autism awareness month, and April 2 specifically is Autism Awareness Day. Although autism awareness groups advocate throughout the year, most go that extra mile this month to fundraise and educate communities about autism.
Toronto’s Geneva Centre for Autism describes Autism Spectrum Disorder as “living in a world where you are constantly bombarded with messages that you don’t understand, where you can’t find the words to express yourself and where you continually feel a sense of loneliness and isolation.”
The Geneva Centre started out as a small camp for 20 children and as the years went on their need grew. Today they are a full resourcecentre for parents and children. They offer speech and language services, occupational therapy and social skill building.
Autism-Ontario is another volunteer fueled organization that includes parents, family members and professionals who are committed to helping those with ASD. The Toronto chapter of Autism-Ontario can be found to the east of Islington and Finch. The group wants to increase public awareness about autism through education, research and advocacy.
They have an e-newsletter and website that broadcasts events happening all over Toronto. The past few months saw them send out flyers for sportball registration, an autism awareness fundraiser and introduced Path 2 Work – a program that helps those with ASD find employment.
With summer looming, they also provide important information about preparing children with ASD for camp. Sending a child away to camp is difficult, and some ASD friendly places for a child are Camp Prospect in Barrie, Pioneer Camp and DramaWay. Additionally Camp Rena offers programs for 13-21 year-olds.
Another great program available for high school teenagers is Best Buddies. This program promotes friendship between individuals with developmental disabilities and university, college or high school students. The charity aims to provide “valuable life experiences, leadership skills and above all establish new friendships.”
The program allows friendships to grow, and gives individuals with ASD the opportunity to enjoy “the same experiences most people take for granted-going for coffee, watching a movie or simply enjoying the company of a friend.”