In music therapy, professionals use music purposefully to support development, health, and well-being. (Music Therapy Association of B.C.)

On Community: Connecting families affected by autism

As a community, we can do better.

Every parent’s dream is to see their children grow and flourish in their homes, neighbourhoods and community, including families living with a child on the Autism Spectrum Disorder.

It has been observed that children do best when they have opportunity to connect and participate in their community. This creates a sense of purpose and belonging, and provides opportunity to have success.

Families with children with ASD want those same kinds of experiences for their children. But it is not always a simple process and the family may find there are some big obstacles to overcome. Barriers such as fear of being judged for their child’s behaviour and lack of simple adaptations for the child prevent families of children with ASD from just signing up.

In addition, there could be unreasonable expectations, such as sitting quietly for long periods of time, that would make even some adults feel crazy. It appears we need more programs available to children with ASD, where the whole family feels safe and supported.

The ASD diagnosis rate continues to grow and there is increasing awareness of the condition. As a community, we need to develop programs and services that work for families raising children diagnosed with ASD. It needs to be said that all individuals with ASD are individuals and have specific needs and preferences. However, there are certain types of activities and environments that are recommended.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development’s A Parent’s Handbook: Your Guide to Autism Programs includes the following best practices for ASD programming: programs must be developed by professionals who are well trained and have demonstrated qualifications and experience in the field of autism; professionals should be brought together to work in collaboration with families in a positive manner; and motivating materials and activities should be used to increase child engagement.

The North Fraser Therapeutic Riding Association is a non-profit charitable organization located in Maple Ridge that works to enrich the lives of children and adults who experience physical, mental, emotional or social challenges by providing safe and professional therapeutic equine riding programming.

Equine therapy is unique and provides the opportunity for a bond to form between riders and a nurturing, intuitive horse. For a child with ASD, riding can provide access to recreational sport in a supportive and accommodating environment.

“ASD Come Sing and Play with Me” is a new program that Lisa Szilagyi and Colene Thompason will be starting in the fall. It is designed for families living with autism for children up to six years old at the EYC Classroom at Webster’s Corner elementary. They invite families to come sing and be silly. For more information, email colenethompson622@gmail.com.

In music therapy, professionals use music purposefully to support development, health, and well-being. For individuals with ASD, music therapy techniques can support the desire to communicate, teach social skills, and facilitate increased language comprehension.

A number of music therapists serving the community are accepting new clients.

The Autism Support Network has presentations and support meetings for parents. Email info@autismsupportbc.ca for meeting times and locations.

Summer is here and summer programs are registering and will soon begin. You may witness in your child’s class a child who is struggling. Ttry not to judge. Instead, offer a kind word or gentle smile because at the end of the day we’ve all been there in some way or another.

As a community, we can do better. Take the advice of a four-year-old who recently told his preschool class, “kindness counts.”

• Do you have any local resources for families with ASD to share? Send comments or questions to info@resourceyourcommunity.com.

– Contributed by Sunny Schiller, Colene Thompson (ECE) and Lisa Szilagyi (behaviour interventionist)

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