Power of One: Mother creates autism play group
Published Sunday, April 1, 2012 2:04PM EDT
CANDIAC - There are lifelong challenges for the parents of children with autism – and that's especially true when there are limited services and programs available to them.
With a desire to provide a place for her son to run and play, Audrey Burt created Soutien Autism Support, an organization that has grown to help children live with the condition.
S. Au. S., as it is known, helps raise public awareness on what it means to live with autism, but also helps children become active members of the community.
"In society, the problem is that we feel isolated, we feel looked at, we feel judged," said Burt of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. "In our programs, there's none of that, because we're all in the same situation."
Burt's own son is low-functioning, making it difficult for them to spend time in public and social situations. A lack of programs available to him prompted her to found S. Au. S.
Now, dozens of children with autism have an opportunity to use their facilities to jump, ride, laugh and interact with others at the program, which takes place on Sundays inside a Candiac school gym.
"My heart is a 100 per cent in it. This is where my heart is. This is my homage to my son," said Burt, who funds the program through an annual autism walkathon.
One out of every 110 children in Canada will be diagnosed with the condition. It's difficult to detect before the age of three and there's no known cure.
For parents like Marie Claude Coulomb, the centre gets her son Lucas away from one-on-one therapy.
"This is a godsend, honestly," she said. "My son does speech therapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and hypnotherapy with horses, but having this outlet on a Sunday is phenomenal."
Parent Jacinthe Lauzon said the group also helps build her son's self-esteem.
"(It's great) to be able to try to play with other kids, because at his age he's a little bit older than two and a half, and other kids of his age start to look at him a little bit strange," she said.
For Burt, it's all about adjusting expectations and finding a place for her son to belong.
"My prayers were I want, one: for my child to speak, and two: for my child to go to a regular school. Both did not happen so it's always a matter of changing our attitudes and adjusting to what we have, and to work with the child that we have," she said.