April is National Autism Awareness month and the Autism Society of the RMWB is continuing its commitment to improving services in the region.
After the Horse River wildfire, many families with a loved one dealing with autism found it difficult to return due to lack of opportunities and available resources.
Kirsti Mardell is an ambassador for the society and says they’re hoping to bring help to those families who need it.
As a mother of a son who suffers from non-verbal autism – she tells Mix News she understands the need for more supports.
“That’s what we’re trying to do right now is just try and get out there and show everybody that we have families here, we want to be included, we want to be able to go out and do things and participate in things in the community. It’s just we need some extra support and awareness so that we can be successful when we do these things.”
The local society has many initiatives and events planned throughout the next few weeks – including its 2nd annual Autism Art Gala.
Mardell feels it’s important to have these initiatives that bring all of these affected families together.
“It’s really empowering for all of us to get together and support each other. Autism is a spectrum, so, I feel like a lot of us have similarities. And finding those similarities and connecting – it just builds for a better community.”
Mardell says there’s room for improvement in areas like accessibility and inclusion for those dealing with autism. She notes issues like people misusing handicapped spaces often leading to safety concerns for her own son.
“A lot of people don’t know but some of these spots are specifically designed for children,” Mardell said.
“When we get out of our vehicle in a parking lot, my son has no awareness. He will step out into moving traffic and get hit by a car. So, the handicapped spots are very safe for my son, they’re a little bigger so my son can stay close to the car and they’re also quite close to the buildings.”
The Autism Art Gala is being held at the Local 707-A Union Hall on April 21, from 5:30 to 11 p.m.