Celebrating the Acceptance, Affirmation, and Appreciation of Autistic People for World Autism Month

Posted on Wednesday, April 19th, 2023

This month, join us in celebrating the acceptance, affirmation and appreciation of autistic people. Take time this month and year-round to learn more about the experiences of autistic people and their unique contributions to where we live, work, and play. 

At CSAHS, we’re highlighting some of the work of our centres and researchers that support autistic individuals and share their stories.  

CSAHS’s Centres Supporting Autistic Individuals 

Re•Vision’s Re•Storying Autism Project 

The Re•Storying Autism project is a Canadian-British-New Zealand collaboration led by Patty Douglas of Brandon University in collaboration with U of G’s Re•Vision, the Centre for Art and Social Justice.  

CSAHS faculty Carla Rice, Elizabeth Straus, and Lindsey Thompson are involved the project, which aims to centre autistic and neurodivergent students, artists and faculty in order to reimagine a world in which autistic people are desired and valued. All the projects out of the Re•Storying Autism Project centre autistic voices and the knowledge production of autistic people. The project also collaborates with critical allies who wish to shift narratives and supports in affirming ways. 

Here are a few of the project outcomes: 

Follow the Re•Storying Autism Project on Twitter @ReStorying and on Instagram @ReStorying_Autism

Autism Services at Maplewoods Centre for Family Therapy and Child Psychology 

Maplewoods Centre for Family Therapy and Child Psychology provides a range of services for clients of all ages on a sliding scale, including supporting those living with neurodiversity such as ADHD and autism.  

Some of these include: 

  • The Program for Education and Enrichment of Relationship Skills (PEERS), a social skills training intervention for teens with autism who are interested in learning ways to help them make and keep friends. 
  • Assessment services for children and teens, which include specialized approaches to assessing neurodiversity.  
  • Support for children, teens and families living with neurodiversity. 

Maplewoods is currently fundraising to make support improvements for teaching, research, and facilities, including supports like these for autistic individuals. To support Maplewoods and the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences in this work, contact Kourtney Parker at k.parker@uoguelph.ca. 

Live Work Well Centre 

The Live Work Well Centre’s Disabilities, Access and Inclusion Cluster, led by Deborah Stienstra, seeks to take an intersectional approach to disabilities studies in order to provide knowledge kits for inclusive practices with actionable tools and inform social policy.  

The Centre has also been sharing resources for Autism Month via Twitter @live_work_well. Here are a few of the resources they recommend: 

CSAHS Research Supporting Autistic People and Caregivers 

At CSAHS, there are several research projects underway that aim to support autistic people and their caregivers. Two graduate students, Olivia Dobson and Rita Abdel-Baki, have a particular interest in working with neurodiverse youth and have experience supporting autistic youth at the Maplewoods Centre on campus. 

Caregiver Perspectives on Making Needle Procedures Comfortable for Autistic Children 

Psychology Graduate Student Olivia Dobson completed a research project on needle procedures for her master’s thesis. She found four recommendations for helping autistic children cope with needle procedures, as injections can be critical for health but also particularly challenging for this community. 

Dobson’s findings: 

  • Treat the child as an autonomous individual. 
  • It’s more than the poke and pain - environment, familiarity, and the facilitation of healthcare providers matter. 
  • Strategies need to be tailored to the child’s needs through tailoring preparation, coping strategies, and exposure treatment. 
  • Caregivers are information hubs - as experts on their child’s needs, caregivers benefit from communicating with healthcare providers in advance. 

Read Dobson’s full thesis

Better understanding parental self-efficacy in parents of autistic youth. 

The research of Psychology Graduate Student Rita Abdel-Baki investigates how well a parent feels they can meet their children’s needs, which has been associated with parenting performance and wellbeing. She is particularly interested in hearing what families with lived experience actually want and advocating alongside them, as decisions about services and funding are often not made by these families.  

Abdel-Baki is currently running three studies that look into this: 

  • A meta-analysis of whether parents of autistic children report different levels of parental self-efficacy than parents of non-autistic children. 
  • Understanding how parental self-efficacy relates to different parent, child, and social factors through surveying parents of autistic children across Canada. 
  • Investigating the factors or resources that impacted how effective parents feel they are at meeting their autistic child’s needs. 

We hope you find these resources enlightening and engaging. Throughout the rest of Autism Month and year-round, consider how you can continue to learn from the unique insights and contributions of autistic and neurodivergent people in your life or in the public sphere. 

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