Achievement award given for helping others with autism

Jacynthe Geschke will be receiving a Community Achievement award at the second annual International Naturally Autistic People Awards and Convention this weekend in North Vancouver.

Jacynthe Geschke

Jacynthe Geschke has a soft voice and a shy smile. When she makes eye contact, it is with a nervous look. Her voice is hesitant and faint.

Jacynthe has autism, a developmental disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate with other people or to have normal social interaction.

According to the Autism Canada Foundation, people with autism have impaired social skills and relationships, deficits in communication and language, a dependence on routine. They can also have a narrow range of interests and behavior issues.

However, 26-year-old Jacynthe has got the better of her disability and will be receiving a Community Achievement award at the second annual International Naturally Autistic People Awards and Convention this weekend in North Vancouver.

This award is one of 11 being given out to autistic individuals and organizations nominated from eight countries around the world.

Jacynthe is among nominees from Canada, the U.S., India, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Scotland and Germany. She is one of two Canadians to receive an award.

“She’s come so far and she’s out there in our geographical community, visible and helping”, said her mother, Laurie Geschke. “She is very active in the autistic community. She helps there by mentoring and modeling”

Jacynthe works for ANCA Consulting, a company that educates autistic people, their families and the community about the disorder with help from a support staff.

She travels for two to three days a week to the Sunshine Coast to work with Anthony, the son of ANCA Consulting president Leonora Gregory-Collura, who is autistic himself and is confined to a wheelchair after a car crash.

“She started first developing through the program like everybody else, and then I noticed that she actually had a talent in being able to read other autistic individuals or people with other challenges,” says Gregory-Collura.

“She just seemed to have a natural knack, you know, very gentle, very understanding, but also just intuitive. Particularly with little children and individuals like my son who would be considered non-verbal.”

During her time with Anthony, Jacynthe says they play board games and go for walks.

“It was actually Jacynthe that got my son to start using his hands again,” says Gregory-Collura.

“As a peer friend, she was the one who taught him to play cards again. She was the one who held his elbow, again without anyone telling her, to paint. Because that is something she loves herself. And now he is at a stage that he can play board games and take the little counters and what-not and that was all due to Jacynthe.”

She also volunteers at her church, Southgate Church on Laity Street.

“Right now I organize communion and get stuff for it ready,” explains Jacynthe. “I mostly prepare and clean up and organize, like phone people and get people to serve (communion).”

“It makes me feel useful and helpful,” she says.

“She is showing that there is life after an autistic diagnosis,” says her mom.

Opening ceremonies for the awards take place Friday in West Vancouver.

The gala awards dinner and fundraiser takes place at 5 p.m. Sunday.

Families affected by autism will be able to use their autism funding through The Ministry of Children and Family Development to attend the entire weekend.

“It is important for people to come. And I’ll tell you why,” says Gregory-Collura. “Even though you are seeing successful autistic adults  at this event, their families have worked very, very hard to see the potential in their child and not get swayed by the negativity that’s out there.

“I think this could be very supportive for folks out there because they will have the chance to actually speak to the parents of these very, very talented individuals who now run their own businesses, I might ad.”

It’s an opportunity to learn from others who took the challenge, to live life and not be afraid of it.

• Go to naturallyautistic.com for tickets to the event.

Just Posted

VIDEO: Townhouse fourth Maple Ridge blaze in less than a day

UPDATE: Fire victims have much to be thankful for, despite loss of pets on Thanksgiving Day

ON COOKING: Embrace the experience, from beginning to end

A passion for cooking can easily be rekindled according to this chef and culinary instructor

Nostalgic trip down TV theme song lane at ACT in Maple Ridge

Juno nominee jazz artist John Stetch will share his love for television themes

Win and a tie for Maple Ridge secondary

Ramblers beat Garibaldi, tied with Gleneagle

B.C.’s rural paramedic program expands, with home support

Advanced care ambulance staff added for six communities

BC Ferries sees steady traffic of post-Thanksgiving weekend travellers

Ferries filling up fast, sailing waits at some terminals

‘Save the kids!’ Dorian survivor tells the harrowing story of his Canadian wife’s death

Family held a funeral and placed Alishia Liolli’s remains in a niche at a cemetery in Windsor, Ont.

Okanagan woman, 91, votes at advance polls despite broken hip, shoulder and wrist

Angela Maynard has voted in almost every election during her lifetime

Heiltsuk Nation open first Big House in 120 years in northern B.C.

Opening means the community now has an appropriate space for spiritual and ceremonial events

Singh says NDP would form coalition with the Liberals to stop Tories

Singh was in a Liberal-held riding Sunday afternoon in Surrey where he was pressed about his post-election intentions

‘My heart goes out to the mother’: B.C. dad reacts to stabbing death of Ontario boy

Carson Crimeni, who was also 14, was bullied relentlessly, his dad says

BC Ferries filling up fast with post-Thanksgiving weekend travellers

Monday anticipated to be busiest day of the weekend

The one with the ‘Friends’ photoshoot: Kelowna group recreates TV show intro

A friend’s departure prompted them to create something that really says, “I’ll be there for you”

Most Read