Meet the most autism-friendly town in Canada

Meet the most autism-friendly town in Canada


“Oh why hello there.” For Isaac Matthews, having autism is no big deal Diagnosed when he was three now at age
eleven amazingly this small town has made him feel that autism is something
to be celebrated. Something to be so proud of. “I wouldn’t just wave at them and say,
look at this, I have autism!” “I’m not gonna brag. I’m just gonna say, I’m not really going to say anything I’m just gonna let them figure it out.” In this remote corner of Newfoundland an extraordinary thing has happened. A town of just four thousand people has opened its hearts and minds to everyone on the autism spectrum. For Candice Matthews, Isaac’s mom, it has been life-changing “There’s a lot of isolation comes with
the diagnosis of autism. There’s a lot of self-doubt and insecurity So when you when you have this community that rallies around you, it feels great.” “You can’t expect a child to just get it.” This mother’s hope and her son’s total acceptance into the community started with one woman. ‘The autism brain develops
differently.” Retired special education teacher Joan Chaisson. “Candice is just phenomenal she’s just a wonderful person to work with. And Isaac is super You know he’s our little superhero and Isaac is very very high-functioning academically I mean he’s quite well and everything. It would be his social skills where he would come under for the autism spectrum. You get to learn your child. It all started as a small support group and quickly grew
into so much more. “Joan has been instrumental in helping
this town get to where we are right now with with being an autism friendly town. She has she’s been tireless in her efforts and I think her heart is huge. It has really inspired a lot of people to
fully embrace the children on the spectrum.” Suddenly there was this: a gym
specially equipped for kids just like Isaac. They got grants. The town bought in. They fundraised over $15,000 And here’s the thing: Now all the kids in town benefit “We don’t do things just so the children wit
autism can use it. We never do that. We do it so that is open to the public.
Everyone can use it. We don’t feel like we’re a secluded group of autism and I think this is why we’re getting so much support from the public. And that’s not all. “So glad to see you all. I’m so excited you’re all here.” This is something you don’t see every day “I didn’t introduce myself but you all know I’m Joan, right?” Joan has attracted more than 60 business
owners. All here to find out how they can be more autism friendly. “This is the one that is found at the hotel.” Because you all know we have a sensory room at the hotel?” The town has had so much buy-in that even the local
hotel built something called a sensory room “And this is it!” That is incredibly
calming for kids on the spectrum And Isaac was asked to help design it. “I just love being in here.” “If I’m getting really stressed or if I’m being made fun or something, it’s a good room to use.” “And I squeeze it, it has a good feeling in it. Everybody should really come here, no matter if they have autism or not.” And what’s more Port Hope Basques hotel owner Kathy Loman also modified some of the guest rooms. “And we’ve included a
third” And added training for all staff. “As soon as they come in they ask the
parent do we need to dim the lights? Is there any special needs they have if
they’re wanderers and the staff will keep an eye out for them and if they
need to use a sensory room it’s the first thing that we offer them.” And now the hotel phone is ringing off the hook “I had lots of calls from Toronto, a couple of sites in the U.S. just wondering what modifications we did
and you know how they could start the process.” Joan didn’t stop there. For many kids on the spectrum like Christopher Shepard, eating out can be overwhelming. Simple modifications have made all the difference. “Christopher, what are you going to get to eat?” “I’m going to get a cake, a pizza, and…” “They can look at the menu and pick out what they want. Their kids menu is all pictures.” The children have learned to look at the menu and ask themselves so the parents don’t say what they want they have to ask themselves and the
staff will wait until the child asks. “If he come in and he knows he can point to
that and get a kitty cat pizza, this is what he’s like, calm cool collected like
not a care in the world.” And to help families spot these autism friendly businesses All they have to do is look for this. “We have 30 businesses in town
who are autism friendly and when people walk by and see that sticker in their
business they know they are good hearted people who are willing to not just take
your dollars but to learn w to better interact with the customers that come
into their business.” Then there’s the one-on-one swimming
lessons. A town program that for kids with autism can mean life or death. “Drowning is one of the highest reasons why children with autism die and of course we see where we live are surrounded by water.” Parents even get a
financial break. “They decided to give us a discount on this one-on-one lessons
whereas in most places if you’re gonna get specialized treatment you have to
pay more. There are no certificates Nothing written down as such. So the
children to them they’re just going and enjoying. But we know where we want them
to go.” And Isaac sure has gotten there “Now he’s on the swim team. Once it started he progressed so quickly through it that now it’s one of his
favorite things to do and he can participate in swimming you know
programs with with peers with with you know his typical peers.” “I got that medal, I got, yeah. I just love swimming” “In partnership
with the school we’re buying this apparatus.” Joan is nowhere near done. She’s not finished her work of transforming her town. Her latest mission: Make the school’s playground autism friendly. “I had lots of negative days. I
have lots of times that parents are mad at me, you know it’s not all is not all
pleasurable, far from it, sometimes you know I have wondered why do I do this.
I’ll be quite honest about it. The children keep me going. The children are just so happy when they’re successful. I am so proud to be in this. “Sometimes in other places you can get bullied, you could get made fun of, get called names and Port Aux Basques right here it’s not like that. Wherever you go you see friends.” Not only is Isaac proud to be in
this town. But this town has made him proud of himself. Chris O’Neill Yates, CBC News, Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland. As autism awareness grows we’re seeing a lot of
other examples of businesses adapting their programs and services. Like haircuts Wyatt Lafreniere has autism and is
sensitive to having his hair touched Enter Quebec barber Franz Jacob. Last fall this photo of Jacob and his young client went viral. Why his mom says usually hairdressers panic, but not Jacob. He locked the front door. Keeps the place
quiet and takes his time often following Lafreniere around the salon with his
tools until the job is done over the Over the holidays children with autism got a
special opportunity to meet Santa at Edmonton Mall. Their parents were able to
book a visit in advance to avoid long lines and old St. Nick knew to keep
things calm and quiet and just last month a major supermarket chain in the
UK introduced a weekly quieter hour for shoppers with autism. The lights are
dimmed, the music turned off, beeping checkout machines turned down and the
movement of carts kept to a minimum

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