Autism Calgary Association
Our Story Why We Exist
Biting into her burger she realized just how tired she was. Not just physically but in every way possible. Here she was, surrounded by old college girlfriends and out for the first evening in over a year and she felt like she couldn’t even keep up with the conversation. Despite having looked forward to this evening for weeks, she had hardly said a word. It felt like her once “best friends” hardly knew her anymore.
Michael, her 14 year old son with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) had started a meltdown just three minutes before she was supposed to leave and she had walked out the door with his screams still ringing in her ears and her guilt trailing her out the door. She just hoped that they didn’t ask about Michael. Not tonight. It’s not that she didn’t love him with all her being…but she just never knew what to say. When her friends discussed their own teenage children she never knew which was worse - having them forget Michael’s condition and leave her in awkward silence or if one of them actually remembered and they all apologetically started asking about how he was doing. Should she just smile and say he is progressing well with all his multitudes of therapy? It’s not that he wasn’t progressing…he was. But that didn’t take away the truth that as her friends’ teens were out dating, playing on sports teams and learning to drive Michael may never speak. They complained about whining and cursing adolescents but she longed for nothing more than to just hear his voice…to know what was going on behind those distant brown eyes. To ask him how he felt.
She had been so skeptical of the local autism mother’s support group but Doug, her husband, had pushed her to go. Joining the Dad’s group had brought him out of his shell so much that she thought it couldn’t hurt to try the mother’s group – but deep down she didn’t even want to go inside. As she walked into the room and sat down at the big, grey plastic table she looked around in disbelief. The other mothers looked just as exhausted as she was…if not more. But yet they were chattering away comfortably with each other like old friends. Two were even laughing as they poured themselves coffee. As the support group started and the women began discussing their children, their families and themselves she felt her shoulders suddenly drop as she settled into her chair.
She could hardly believe what she was hearing…these women got it. They were talking about meltdowns, therapies, hiring and firing caregivers, the guilt of robbing your other children of the attention they so deserved, the loneliness. She bit her lip. The relief was overwhelming…
Our Impact What We Do
Our mission is to bring hope and help meet the needs of families and individuals living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD):
- Speak: Be the voice of families and individuals living with ASD
- Educate: Increase awareness and understanding of ASD
- Advocate: Secure and defend the best quality of life for those with ASD throughout their lifespan and their families
- Promote: Encourage the advancement of meaningful research and the development of effective treatment options
In 2015 we served over 1500 individuals and families to find information, support and a sense of community! Through family support (advocacy, information & referral) and peer to peer networking, ACA helps families and individuals become knowledgeable, independent self-advocates. Through Public and Community Education, ACA empowers the community through greater awareness and understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Since 1992 we have been the grassroots organization in Calgary to empower individuals and families living with Autism. We have gone from zero to 10 staff and are now on the forefront of many exciting autism initiatives including employment programs, social policy research and are the lead agency for a city wide network of autism related organizations (non-profits and private businesses). All our staff are either parents of an individual with ASD, are a relative of someone with ASD or have ASD themselves. We pride ourselves on being a community of families helping families.
Since our inception in 1992 the prevelance of ASD has gone from 1 in 2500 to 1 in 86 in Calgary. We estimate that currently there are 6856 individuals (of all ages) in Calgary with ASD. These soaring prevelance rates have vastly increased our demand for services!
Our Programs How We Do It
To accomplish our mission we have several program streams and initiatives:
1. Family Support: Autism Calgary works one-on-one with families and individuals living with ASD to support them and advocate for them in a variety of ways. Our Family Support team are all parents of children and adults with ASD who can help you navigate the school, government or service system and also lend a listening ear.
2. Support Groups: We run many support groups such as Keeping It Together (Mothers of Children with ASD), Carers (Caregivers of adults with ASD), Asperger’s Network Support Groups (adults with Asperger’s Syndrome), Father’s Autism Network Support Group and the Biomedical Support Group (discussing and sharing alternative treatment options for ASD.
3. Public and Community Education: Autism Calgary also hosts regular, complimentary workshops on a variety of topics for individuals and families and has the largest Autism-specific resource library in Canada with free access for all members.
4. Peer-2-Peer Networking: With a variety of social opportunities and groups Autism Calgary strives to foster peer-to-peer networks for youth and adults with ASD. The Go-Group is for youth aged 18-35 with Asperger’s Syndrome who meet weekly to participate, as a group, in the community at large. The Autism Calgary Choir is a social and recreational opportunity for teenagers and young adults with ASD to enjoy music and have some fun too. The Pokemon club is a popular group for youth and adults which meets twice monthly to play Pokemon cards and socialize in a safe environment.
5. Employment Initiatives: Recently Autism Calgary has also become a leader in the Autism employment scene starting two successful initiatives to employ adults with ASD. Meticulon Consulting, started by ACA, is now its own social enterprise employing 10 consultants with ASD. Spectrum Advantage is a one-of-a-kind program to provide life skills and employment readiness training as well as paid internships to young adults with ASD with the ultimate goal of finding participants ongoing employment. This program just completed a successful pilot helping to find employment for 35 young adults (83% of participants) with ASD in Calgary.
Our Requests What You Can Do
Autism Calgary only exists because of the generous support it receives from the community! Every single dollar we receive goes directly towards supporting families and individuals living with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Calgary and area. Your generosity can help:
- a family avert a major crisis
- a young adult with Autism find their first job
- a new Canadian family find the medical, educational and family support they need for their disabled child
- a confused mother and father realing from the news that their toddler has Autism
- a single parent get the childcare and therapy their child needs
If you would like to sign up for free membership to Autism Calgary and receive free information and have access to our library visit: http://www.autismcalgary.com/about/membership/.
Welcome to the Autism Calgary family!
“You don’t know how lonely it is
I feel it every day
I appreciate what you’ve done
Just help me find my way”
- Quote from David W. Eastman 1963-1988.
An accident claimed David’s life at the age of 25. David, a non-verbal, autistic adult will be remembered by his poetry which gives insight into the thoughts and feelings of a person with autism. - See more at: http://www.autismcalgary.com/what-is-asd/#sthash.JnPFalmg.dpuf