Just in time for Autism Awareness Month, B.C.'s Autism Outreach Program is building on its focus on rural and remote areas of British Columbia as the program moves into its second phase, which incorporates more support for families.
Local, community-based training will be offered for parents and caregivers to incorporate autism intervention methods into their daily routines. The Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) will provide up to 24 two-day workshops to families across the province throughout the coming year, with a primary focus on families in rural and remote communities. To help families plan for their child's specific needs within their own communities, the workshops will provide information on autism, intervention planning and give them access to local resources.
In addition, MCFD continues its partnership with Douglas College to offer affordable e-training programs to train an additional 60 behaviour interventionists in rural and remote communities. The online program allows students to train from their communities, without any need to relocate or travel to a bigger city centre to go to school. MCFD funding significantly reduces the cost of the training for students.
In the first phase of the Autism Outreach Program, 30 behaviour interventionists took the e-training program through Douglas College, and approximately 600 child development professionals throughout B.C. received in-person training on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs).
The ministry provided $150,000 for phase one of the Autism Outreach Program and is providing $250,000 for phase two. This funding comes from within the existing fiscal plan. The program will continue to be developed in phases to ensure that it aligns with changes in provincial demographics and the progression of provincial autism services over time.
The Autism Outreach Program was launched in 2011 in response to families, professionals and community groups who clearly identified the need and desire to improve training and support for service providers, parents and caregivers who live in rural and remote communities.
Mary McNeil, Minister of Children and Family Development -
"As we celebrate Autism Awareness Month here in B.C., it's important to value the wonderful partnerships we have with community groups and post secondary institutions - such as ACT-Autism Community Training and Douglas College - where we work together to build public awareness, open up new opportunities for training and continually improve support networks for families affected by autism. We are especially reaching out to those who live in rural and remote communities with quality training opportunities for service providers and families."
Deborah Pugh, executive director, ACT-Autism Community Training -
"Families who live in smaller communities can have difficulties accessing services. ACT is very supportive of this initiative as it can strengthen the training available to rural and remote areas of the province. When families better understand autism, the positive impact on their lives is huge."
Lori Woods, co-ordinator, behaviour intervention program, Douglas College -
"We've been overwhelmed with the positive response from behaviour interventionists across the province who are eager to take advantage of this opportunity and we look forward to a continued partnership with the ministry. We are also very pleased that a number of the participants have decided to continue on this rewarding career path and carry on with their studies towards the behaviour intervention certificate."
Dr. Elizabeth Athens, instructor, behaviour intervention program, Douglas College -
"It has been my sincere pleasure to teach practitioners in the interior of British Columbia. They have all been incredibly dedicated to building on their education and have brought priceless experience and curiosity to course discussions. I am encouraged to see that children diagnosed with autism throughout B.C. are getting access to early intervention implemented by practitioners who have a sound education in the field."
Sana Mohammed, student, behaviour intervention program, Douglas College -
"I absolutely loved this course! It has helped me extensively and it has been such a wonderful learning curve. I was a new behaviour interventionist last June, and I was nervous at the beginning because I knew I did not have any actual training or accreditation. I know for a fact that I will remain in the field of autism for as long as I can!"
- If you are a parent or caregiver and you would like to know more about workshops for families being offered, please connect with your local Children and Youth with Special Needs Social Worker for more information. A schedule of workshop dates is currently being confirmed.
- If you want more information or an application form for the Douglas College e-training program, contact Wendy Sashikata at: email@example.com or go to: www.douglascollege.ca\autism-outreach
- To learn more about B.C. government-funded services for children and youth with autism, go to: www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/autism/index.htm
BACKGROUNDERFacts about Autism and the Autism Outreach Program
- The Autism Outreach Program family workshops will be organized in collaboration with regional MCFD staff, community partners in each region, and ACT-Autism Community Training.
- Douglas College has been contracted to deliver the e-training courses for behaviour interventionists because it already has existing online credit courses for this group of professionals.
- About one in every 110 children and youth is living with ASD - making it one of the most prevalent developmental disorders in the world.
- ASD is a complex condition that impacts normal brain development and affects a person's social relationships, communication, interests and behaviour.
- Individuals with ASD vary widely in their needs, skills and abilities, but most have common types of characteristics including difficulties with communication and social interaction, repetitive interests and activities and unusual attachments to objects or routines.
- Although there is no cure, highly effective research-based treatment and intervention methods are available that can help children and their families address the characteristics of this disorder, particularly in the early years.
- B.C. is the only province in Canada that has a no-waitlist policy for families to access autism funding once their child or youth has received a diagnosis of ASD. With autism funding, families are able to choose the type of intervention, based on best practice, that best meets the needs of their child.
- The B.C. government provides more than $165 million annually for programs and services that support approximately 7,500 children and youth with ASDs and their families - including assessments, funding for early intervention, and education funding for students.
- MCFD's autism budget has increased this year by $2.3 million to $44.5 million. This is more than ten times the 2001 budget level of $4.1 million.
Media Relations Manager
Ministry of Children and Family Development
250 508-8403 (cell)