Our Quarterly Report: Spring-Summer 2019

Photo by Anne Lesserknaus

Our spring and summer was full of activities and advocacy. Thank you to everyone who was a part of it!

Neurodiversity Flag Raised at City Hall
On April 15, for the first time in history, the Neurodiversity Flag flew at a City Hall in Ontario! Taking a cue from activists around the world, we gathered and raised the rainbow infinity flag to celebrate our pride. Afterwards, we had an awesome hangout–with cake–making this historic moment even sweeter.

Thank you to all our members for helping to make it all happen and special thanks to Nancy Marshall for getting our flag screenprinted! Read more about the event here.

A4A Member Appointed to Government of Ontario’s Autism Policy Consultation Panel
In June, Matthew Jason Dever, an A4A member from rural eastern Ontario, became one of two autistic advisors on the Ontario Government’s Consulting Panel on Autism Policy, which is on-going this month. This is the first time in Ontario history that autistic people are included on the autism policy panel. This fact was recognized by CBC Radio, which interviewed Matthew about the panel and a range of issues. We would like to thank our Government for supporting equity and including autistic voices. Read more about it here.

A4A’s Autism Policy Recommendations submitted to the Government of Ontario
The government of Ontario requested reports from stakeholder groups including A4A and we submitted our Report and Recommendations early this summer and received positive feedback for our proactive approach. Our report was the only one that meaningfully addressed issues such as housing, employment, inclusive education and access to health care, with examples of best practices in other jurisdictions and a systems-thinking approach based on our members’ lived experience as end-users.

We also presented our specific Education Policy Recommendations in a very productive meeting with Education Minister Stephen Lecce in July. Thanks to Minister Lecce and everyone in his office for making this important conversation happen.

SpectrumWorks Job Fair
In April, A4A had an info table at Toronto’s annual SpectrumWorks job fair. The job fair brings hundreds of autistics together with companies to interview for jobs such as banking, service, IT, admin and others. Organizers Neil and Xavier are committed to creating a better environment for autistics to find, enjoy and retain work in our province and across Canada.

Thank you for inviting us to be a part of it, Neil and Xavier!

Health Access Workshops
This spring, our members led another successful health care access workshop at the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health. Thank you to Yona Lunsky for arranging them and for all who participated.

Over the summer, we have been planning for fall workshops at CAMH, University of Toronto and McMaster University. In these workshops, we will be talking about how medical practitioners can provide accessible care for patients who use AAC and autistic patients generally. Join us on social media to learn more about these workshops!

Counter-protesting Autism Speaks
In June, some of our members bravely stood and leafleted at the counter-protest to Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks supports research into eugenics and trying to prevent people like us from being born. Autism Speaks Canada gives more than $500,000 per year to MSSNG, the world’s largest Whole Genome Autism Study, attempting to identify autism-linked genes which, if found, would be part of prenatal testing, abortion and eugenics. In addition, Autism Speaks does not effectively support autistics living today. Few of their donor dollars go to services; in fact, 51 percent of their Canadian budget is consumed by overhead costs, well beyond the reasonable range according to charity watchdogs.

This is our most difficult event of the year and not everyone can endure it. Counter-demonstrators face harassment in an atmosphere that is anything but sensory-friendly and it can bring up bad memories and difficult feelings as well. We are thankful to A4A co-founder Rishav Banerjee for organizing it and for all those who attended: it is important to be a presence there and we will continue to be.

Employment Workshops at Viability
On July 29, A4A members Talia and Gaby delivered a presentation about Neurodiversity and the workplace to the team at Viability Employment Services. Viability is an organization that works with neurodivergent job-seekers and has been doing amazing outreach in the community. This was the first of a series of workshops that our members will be collaborating on giving workshops to schools and other interested groups in 2019 and 2020.

We were so glad to meet everyone at Viability and see the great work they are doing. Thank you to the Viability team for reaching out!

York Region Pride Parade and Other Hangouts
A4A members marched at York Region Pride Parade in June. It was awesome to make connections between members who live in York Region and some Toronto members who sought a quieter and more relaxed (accessible) Pride atmosphere that Toronto’s.

At another meetup, members met and described the kinds of activist and arts projects they are doing, which was very interesting. We also had another informal hangout in Toronto, and some of us who are rail fans are meeting up for Day Out with Thomas this month. For fall, there are more hangouts planned as well as an RPG meetup. To learn more, join our autistic chat group on Facebook.

Thank you to Mandy, Jeremy,  Kim and all organizers of these awesome events.

Our Families Project
Our parent committee is preparing a series of social media posts about the joys of parenting!

Parenting a neurodiverse child, like parenting any child, is a gift and should be celebrated. Unfortunately, much of Ontario media and some organizations portray parenting an autistic child as a burden. This is hurtful and also dangerous because it dehumanizes autistic children and this can be used to justify abuse. We are seeking to re-humanize ourselves through a positive social media campaign, much-needed in Ontario. Watch our Twitter and Facebook for more info in September.

Several generous people came forward to donate for the printing of our Neurodiversity Flag, as well as the ASL interpreter for the event. We received another donation which helped to cover the costs of printing handouts for our flag event.

We have some associated costs with printing copies of our government report, as well as local travel costs and server and domain registration fees. We may have some small expenses coming up for the Neurodiversity Library as well. None of us are paid for our labour. If you would like to make a donation to help with our projects, it is always appreciated. Donate here.

Learn More
If you are an individual or a member of the media who would like to learn more about A4A or get involved in projects, please contact us. Thanks!