PAPHR getting ready for Autism Awareness Month

Jodi Schellenberg
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Autism Services in Prince Albert is ready to celebrate both Autism Awareness Month and Day this April.

“The mandate of autism services is to support families and children with autism,” autism consultant Ellen Montour said. “The reason we want to promote Autism Awareness Month and Day is so that we can reach families who suspect their children have autism or that they know have autism and need support.

“We think the more that people are aware, the more likely they are to reach out to us for support,” she added.

Both the month and day will also help keep people in the community aware of the disorder.

“I think the other part of it is that we want our community to be aware that there are people with autism living among us -- they are your neighbor, your student, the person that is your customer, the person sitting next to you in a restaurant or a hockey game,” Montour said. “Perhaps an understanding of people with autism will just help those people understand just a little bit more.”

Montour explained that autism is very difficult to diagnose -- it takes a team of people, including a doctor, a psychologist, a speech and language pathologist and an occupational therapist.

“Autism is a neurological disorder, so it is not something (where) people can just try harder and be cured,” Montour said.

“People with autism will have social interaction difficulties, they will have difficulties communicating with other people, they will have sensory challenges and they have a lot of difficulty handling the input of the world around them,” she added.

Although Autism Awareness Day is April 2, they will start the month with a workshop on April 1.

“We have a morning workshop for anyone interested in learning about encouraging language for autistic people,” Montour said. ”Then it continues with World Autism Awareness Day on April 2.”

She said businesses in Prince Albert will be helping the campaign through balloon bouquets with posters and brochures to provide information to people who may enter their place of business.

“The mayor is going to be proclaiming April as Autism Awareness Month and we are going to (be) sharing information with various media people about autism,” Montour added. “We have a couple of other workshops we are offering to private groups that have requested workshops on autism a couple of times that month as well. It is kind of spreading the word.”

The theme of Autism Awareness Day is Light It Up Blue, Montour said.

“As a part of World Autism Day, the Autism Society in the States started it with lighting up buildings and changing light bulbs to blue to just highlight and focus the awareness on autism,” Montour said. “That is why it is called Light It Up Blue because people are encouraged to wear blue clothing, change a light bulb to blue (or) eat blue food.

She said it is similar to wearing a pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness or white ribbon to end violence against women.

Anyone interested in learning more about autism is encouraged to call Autism Services at 306-765-6055.

“In order to contact to us, if a family is curious or looking for information about autism, they don’t need a referral or any long forms -- all they need to do is just phone us,” Montour said. “If they want to know more about autism or they suspect their child has autism, it only takes a phone call. There are no hoops to jump through.”

Organizations: Light It Up, Autism Society, Autism Services

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