We are Heroes: A Plain Language Guide about Covid-19

See the Full Guide, with Images: Covid_Guide_A4AOntario
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About this Guide
This guide is about Covid-19 and some of the changes to our lives in Ontario. It also has AAC resources and other info.

Below is the text version. The version with pictures is at the “Full Guide” link, above.

This guide was created by autistic people, in Toronto.

A lot of things have changed in the past couple weeks.

  • There are a lot of new announcements.
  • Many places are closed.
  • People are staying home.
  • Everyone is washing their hands a LOT more.

Why are these things happening? Why are we making all these changes?

Because we are being heroes. We are all saving people’s lives, by protecting each other from the coronavirus, Covid-19.

These changes are not forever. It is just for now. Things will get back to normal again.

 What is Covid-19?
You probably heard about the new coronavirus, or Covid-19. It is a germ that makes some people very sick.

Covid-19 goes into people in different ways—for example if someone coughs near them, or if they touch something that had the virus on it, then touch their eyes or mouth.

Covid-19 is spreading around the world right now. It is in Canada now.

The reason things are closing, and people are staying home, is because of Covid-19. People don’t want to get sick or get other people sick.

We won’t be staying home forever. It is just for now. The scientists can’t say how long it will be yet. They want to find out too –and they will tell us as soon as they know.

Why are we staying home?
When we stay home, we stop Covid-19 from spreading.

Scientists know how to stop Covid-19 from spreading. One way is by washing hands. Another way is by not shaking hands or high fiving. Another way is called “social distancing”.

There are different kinds of social distancing:

  • Sometimes it means not having big events, like hockey games and parades.
  • Sometimes it means not having other things, like school or work.
  • Sometimes it means staying home, away from people who are not your family (“sheltering in place”).

With social distancing, less people will get sick–and the doctors will be able to help everyone who has to go to the hospital.

When you do social distancing, you are helping doctors, hospitals and all people who are in the hospital. You are helping our whole city to be healthier and safer.

Up and down feelings about staying home
Staying home can be really hard, especially at the beginning, because it feels like nothing is the same.

It is normal to feel upset and confused. As days go by, we usually get more used to things being different.

Sometimes it’s fun to be at home! What are some of the things you like to do when you’re at home? Make a list of things you’d like to do while at home.

Sometimes there are bad mornings, or bad days. People will say confusing things about Covid-19. Sometimes they will talk calmly about it, and other times they will sound upset and angry.

What do you do when you get upset, to calm down? Make a list of what you like when you’re upset, and a list of relaxing things you like to do to calm down.  Have your parent or carer make the same list, for themselves.

AAC resources
There is a new speech board with words, ideas, images & videos about Covid-19. It works for people that use the CoughDrop platform. You can get it online at coughdrop.com.

Other apps, like Proloquo2Go, may have their own symbols. Another place to get information is assistiveware.com. More AAC resources are being created and we will update soon with more information as new AAC resources come out!

Keeping connected
Just because we need to do social distancing doesn’t mean we can’t connect with our friends and other people we are close to.

We can use texting, FaceTime, Skype, phone and more. There are lots of fun things to do like draw pictures together and guess what they are, play games or give each other tours of our houses! It can also be fun to make plans with your friend about what you will do when you see each other again.

Set a regular time each week or day to meet. This way, they will be there and can answer back when you have a text or phone call. Make a plan just like you do when you’re meeting up in person.

Taking a break from Covid talk
People are talking about Covid-19 A LOT. Sometimes, it can feel like too much.

If someone is talking about Covid-19 and you need a break from that, you can tell them:

  • “I need a break from talking about this”
  • “No Covid right now”
  • “I need a break to relax”

Your parent or carer can also agree to a special time of day where they talk or watch news about Covid-19, and get a plan for you to do something different then. You can make that plan together.

What’s next?
The doctors and scientists will tell us when it is safe to start opening up schools, restaurants and other places. They don’t know yet, but they will be keeping us updated.

When it is safe, we will all slowly go back to doing our favourite things that are not at home. Then we will look back on this and remember it, as something from the past.

We are in this together
We are all working together, being heroes together. We are protecting ourselves and the people we love–and people all across Ontario. Thank you for being a hero.

This Guide was written 100% by autistic people, who work at an organization where autistic people are in charge. Our group is called Autistics for Autistics Ontario (a4aontario.com. We hope you found our booklet helpful!



Letter to Canada’s Auditor General about autism funding in Canada

Dear members and supporters:  We have written to Canada’s Auditor General asking for answers to some questions about how autism funding decisions are being made by Canadian governmental ministries and agencies.

We are asking the Auditor General directly because after 6 months of outstanding inquiries to the agency and ministry involved, those offices have not given us answers.

As well, the usual databases that list federal contracts and RFPs do not list most of these contracts or indicate whether any bidding processes or research was involved in the decision to choose the specific providers and programs.

Who is the Auditor General?
The Office of the Auditor General of Canada (OAG) “serves Parliament by providing it with information and expert advice on government programs and activities, gathered through audits” of financial activity by government agencies to make sure that things are being done fairly and openly.

Full letter: Our full letter to the OAG [names redacted] is here: Letter to the Auditor General, February 2020

Our questions: Below are the questions we submitted to the Auditor General of Canada.

AIDE Network
In October 2018, more than $10 million was announced for the Pacific Autism Family Network and the Miriam Foundation to develop the Autism-Intellectual-Developmental Disabilities National Resource and Exchange (AIDE) Network, a website that advertises the services of Canadian autism service providers.

  • How was the AIDE project tendered?
  • Where is the contract—why is it not online like other disability-related contracts?
  • How was any need for this project determined?
  • What demographic and best-practices research was this expenditure based upon, if any?
  • Since the primary beneficiaries of this program are the PAFN and related service agencies themselves, what data was collected or audits done (if any) to determine whether there could be secondary stakeholders/beneficiaries?
  • Was there research into the issue of redundancy (considering that similar databases exist); whether the similar existing databases were effective (how much and why or why not); and whether Canadians will access the AIDE database to find local services instead of using Google as they do now?

Other projects
The projects listed next were also funded with no apparent public record of RFPs or  tendering process, nor any record of research into their feasibility, reasonableness or sustainability.

Autism Nova Scotia’s Health Sexuality Research Program, $800,000; Autism Ontario’s Mental Health Matters Project, $524,431; Autism Resource Centre’s Building Block Program, $518,964; Jake’s House for Autistic “Children for The Legends Mentoring Program [sic]”, $600,000 (does not fund autistic mentoring); York University for The Autism Mental Health Promotion Project, $599,300 and; McGill University (Royal Institute for the Advancement of Learning) Caregiver Skills Training Program, $600,000.

  • Why were these projects funded without meaningful data about need or research into ROIs in other jurisdictions?
  • How does the level of due diligence for autism-related projects compare to that of other government funded disability-related expenditures?
  • If there are two sets of standards for due diligence, why is that?
  • What is the RFP and bidding process for these projects?
  • Why aren’t the bidding process, contracts and standards of measurement transparent for autism funding, as they are for other expenditures?

We hope to hear back from the Auditor General soon. We will update this post and our social media when we do.

Autistic Activists in Canada Take Action Against Anti-Vax Propaganda

We are very proud of all the autistic activists in Canada who have taken action against the screenings of the film VAXXED 2!!

VAXXED 2 is a propaganda film that is earning millions for the antivax industry at the expense of autistic people. The film falsely links vaccines and autism and portrays autistic people as an epidemic and a burden.

Autistic advocates were the leaders of these pro-science actions. In some cases, advocates were able to get screenings stopped before the film showed; in others, we took to the streets to educate.


North Bay, ON: An A4A member in North Bay had the idea of calling the local Health Ministry office (MOH) to inform them of 3 screenings scheduled in the area. The MOH contacted the venues to inform them that due to the public health risks of the screening, the venues needed to cancel the screenings. All 3 screenings were canceled!!!

Toronto, ON: A direct action picket line was organized by some brave autistic activists in Toronto, when the film screened for two nights at a local theatre. Activists held signs with slogans such as “Vaccines Cause Adults” and “Autistic and Proud”. They handed out educational flyers to passers-by and had engaging conversations about public health and also about neurodiversity — all while trying to avoid the angry shouts of the attendees in line… and the pouring rain both nights. A true endurance test!

Halifax, NS: In Nova Scotia, Autistics United Chapter Leader Alex Kronstein spoke with media about the dangers of antivax rhetoric and its impact on autistic people. Advocates held a spirited protest at the screening of VAXXED 2, which took place at a local city-owned recreation centre that rented the space to VAXXED 2 for $345. One ally held a sign that read: “Halifax Rec: For $345 you lost my $516 gym membership. Get lost, anti-vaxxers. My best friend has autism and is perfect.” Thank you.

Moncton, NB: New Brunswick advocates contacted the New Brunswick Medical Society and the Mayor of Moncton, but neither office showed interest in the public health risks of screening antivax propaganda films during a resurgence of measles, mumps and rubella that is being caused by antivax propaganda, so the screenings went forward. Advocates showed up at the screenings and handed out educational flyers, holding signs, and talking with passers-by about the issues, receiving supportive high fives, honks and people shouting “Yes! We vaccinate!”

Victoria, BC: Advocates were able to get two scheduled screenings shut down after the venues were made aware that the so-called “education group” scheduled at their spaces was actually a screening of VAXXED 2.  At the two remaining venues, a group of protesters–plus a very sweet service dog–stood outside with their signs. One protester, whose parents did not vaccinate them as a child, held the sign: “Not vaccinated and still autistic.” The group received support from people throughout the neighbourhood.

“My Existence is Resistance”
Autistic activist Alex Kronstein of Nova Scotia, who held a sign that read “My Existence is Resistance” spoke to Global Media about the protests, summing up the reason why autistic people are at the forefront of protesting this film: “The whole idea that vaccines cause autism, it promotes a lot of stigma and hatred towards autistic people….If a publicly-owned rec facility is hosting a screening of this film, it’s harming public health and contributing to the stigma of autistic people.”

The vaccine that antivaxxers has been most focused on is the Measles Mumps Rubella vaccine (MMR), profiting from a baseless myth that the MMR vaccine causes autism. Experts estimate a sixfold increase in mumps diagnoses, with rising numbers of measles cases each day, including major outbreaks, and new cases of rubella now being reported.

The vaccine-autism myth was made stronger for more than a decade by the group Autism Speaks, which perpetuated the antivax myth through its literature and even its research projects until just 3 years ago when its messaging abruptly shifted. Autistic advocates have been at the forefront of resistance against antivax and public education about the importance of childhood vaccines.

Thank you
We are grateful to all the amazing autistic advocates across Canada who worked so hard on this. We did not allow the antivax industry to present their hate without being there to share the facts and say “No.” We were there to bear witness to the importance of vaccines, and to our own humanity.

Thanks also to our siblings in the UK at Autistic Inclusive Meets, who were the first to organize against VAXXED 2 screenings and inspired us in our own actions.

We will continue to update our social media about upcoming protests worldwide.

Read our fact sheet about VAXXED2 and antivax claims: VAXXED2 Fact Sheet

Donate to our Action Fund

Vancouver Protest on Feb 21st! Event Info


A4A condemns the Canadian screenings of VAXXED II: New film repeats the lie that vaccines cause autism

January 22, 2019: Autistics for Autistics, the autistic-led advocacy group, condemns the Canadian screenings of VAXXED II, a propaganda film that promotes hatred of autistic people and discourage parents from vaccinating their children against deadly diseases.

To find out what you can do to protest the screening of VAXXED 2 in Toronto, please see “Take Action” at the end of this post!

What is the antivax movement?
The anti-vaccination (antivax) movement is based on the myth that vaccines cause autism. Antivaxxers actively encourages parents not to vaccinate their children against deadly diseases.  As a result of their reckless actions, the global rates of vaccination (number of people getting vaccines) has been going down.

What happens when vaccination rates go down?
Before vaccines were invented, diseases such as polio, diptheria, rubella and measles  killed people in the millions. After vaccines were invented, people were protected against these diseases for several generations; in fact, for so long that some people have even forgotten how horrific a disease like polio or measles is. (These people make up the antivax movement in Europe and North America.) As vaccination rates have gone down, more people are getting sick from these deadly-but-preventable diseases.

Who is most harmed by the antivax movement?
Newborns, who do not receive most vaccines until they are a year old, are at a high risk of catching vaccine-preventable diseases from unvaccinated adults. Children whose parents did not vaccinate them are also put at risk of disease and death. There are also some individuals who medically cannot receive vaccines that rely on “herd immunity” (meaning, most people getting vaccinated) to keep from getting diseases like measles or the flu. When people don’t vaccinate, these people get very sick and can die.

Who is making money off the autism-vaccine myth?
While the myth that vaccines cause autism has been disproven many times, there are people who still make a lot of money claiming a vaccine-autism link. They go on road trips with films like VAXXED and take money from viewers. They also sell products and give interviews and conference talks for high fees. Some, like Joseph Mercola, make vast fortunes from selling the vaccine-autism lie.

How does the vaccine-autism myth impact autistic people?
The autism-vaccine myth dehumanizes autistic people. Antivaxxers make no mystery of the fact that they would rather their children risk a painful death from a horrific disease than to be like one of us.

The VAXXED movie series promotes this hate, portraying us an “epidemic” and an “injury”. Those attitudes spread with every screening of the film. These films threaten the dignity, safety and rights of autistic people.

How do films like VAXXED 2 impact public health?
We are facing a serious health crisis with a resurgence of measles and other preventable diseases because some people are not vaccinating their children. Children and adults are dying of preventable diseases because of the antivax movement.

When theatres show films like VAXXED 2, they compromise public health by discouraging vaccination. Those who profit from the antivax movement are replicating their ancestors’ genocidal actions, leaving the most vulnerable in our society to face severe health consequences and even death due to lowered rates of vaccination. The ugliest aspect within the antivax ideology (survival of the fittest/ ”measles is no big deal”) reflects a eugenics ideology that crosses all ethical lines in our society.

But isn’t this about learning all the facts and objectively making choices?
The VAXXED film series is propaganda: it is not objective.

What we do know, objectively, is that major pandemics are on the rise and we must have high rates of vaccination in order to survive them. It is everyone’s responsibility to help ensure herd immunity by getting vaccinated, including for the flu.

Why are autistic people leading the movement against antivax?
Because we are proud to be autistic and will not allow anyone to use our diagnosis as a pawn in their moneymaking scam.

Taking Action
Autistic people across the UK, US and Canada have organized rallies and letter-writing campaigns to venues screening the film.

Here in Toronto, we are encouraging people to:
Attend the protests: Jan 24 and 25, at the Kingsway Theatre, 6-9pm.
Visit the event page on FB here.

Call the theatre: (416) 232-1939

Write to the theatre: Manager, Kingsway Theatre, 3030 Bloor St W, Etobicoke, ON M8X 2Y8

Message: The Kingsway Theatre shouldn’t be showing VAXXED II. The people who made the film are making money off of lies about autism and telling people not to vaccinate their children–putting more people at risk of disease. The Kingsway theatre has a public responsibility not to run propaganda films that harm members of our Toronto community.

Thank you for standing up for our dignity, and for science!

Ontario Autism Program: Controversial Residential Institution to Lead Workshops for Parents of Autistic Children

 cw: physical abuse in a residential institution

The Ontario Government has enlisted a residential institution facing accusations of human rights violations (including one recent conviction of a staffer for attempted murder) to lead its “Mental Health Training” workshops to providers and parents of autistic children. Under the new Ontario Autism Plan, the government plans to offer 15 in-person training sessions by the provincially-operated Child and Parent Resource Institute (CPRI), to parents and educators “to increase understanding of children on the autism spectrum and co-occurring mental health challenges”.

We are asking the government to reverse this decision and divest itself from CPRI. Institutions like it have no place in a progressive society. For information on how you raise awareness about this, please see the bottom of this post.

Background into CPRI
The Child Parent Research Institute is the subject of a class action by former residents from 1963-2011, charging that many residents were harmed at CPRI and that the Ontario government, who administered the CPRI, did not protect them. According to the CBC, one complainant in the case states that he was repeatedly called “worthless” by CPRI staff and witnessed “the repeated and continuous abuse and punishment of residents by CPRI staff and other residents.” The lawsuit alleges that the Province was negligent in “its control of CPRI, resulting in physical, sexual, and emotional abuse of residents, as well as other harms.”

There have also been criminal cases. A CPRI staff member was sentenced six years ago to 20 years in prison for attempted murder for beating a 12-year old child at the CPRI, leaving him with permanent brain injuries requiring round-the-clock care. After the child was dropped off at the centre following a weekend at home with family, the staffer (Greg Simard) “took him into the woods and beat, kicked and stomped on him. When he thought the boy was dead, he left him there.” Following his arrest, Simard called the child “a drain on society”.

Located at 600 Sanitarium Road in London, Ontario, the CPRI’s former name was the Child Psychiatric Research Institution. Although it has a new name, it remains a large-scale residential institution for persons with developmental disabilities and currently houses up to 60 youth. The original sanitarium building ( opened in 1910 for inpatients and now used for outpatient business) is surrounded by 5 residential housing units where youth are kept overnight.

CPRI and the Proposed Parent Training
It shocked us to learn that the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services had launched a parent training program led by CPRI, and that the government press release stated the decision came out of recommendations by the government’s autism advisory panel.

We cannot understand why the advisory panel would approve the training of parents and professionals by an institution like CPRI, a relic of the large residential institution era. CPRI is a Schedule 1 Facility, like the Huronia, Rideau and Southwestern Regional Centres, also residential institutions for developmentally disabled individuals which have been the subject of class actions for systemic human rights abuses (see the Clegg v. Ontario class action for citations to actions).  In 2013, the Ontario government settled a class-action suit with former residents of Huronia Regional Centre in Orillia with terms including $35 million and a formal apology. Other settlements have followed.

It is our view that the CPRI – which is the subject of litigation alleging decades of human rights abuses on its premises – should not be presenting educational information to parents about how to manage their autistic children’s mental health through a government autism program. The government’s decision to engage in education through the CPRI should be cancelled.

Action Needed
We are requesting that every member of the Implementation Working Group, especially its leader, Ann Huot, call for the immediate cancellation of the CPRI contract to teach parents and providers about autism and mental health.

Also, the government and former members of the Ontario Autism Advisory Panel must explain what measures of due diligence were undertaken before the decision was made to engage CPRI, and to agree to review best practices for vetting these decisions within future community advisory panels.

We hope that the government will reverse the decision and ultimately divest itself from CPRI, a vestige of Ontario’s old residential institution system which has no place in a modern, progressive Ontario.

Ontario’s large residential institutions for the developmentally disabled were a mistake: that is why the government moved to closed them down in the 1990s and early 2000s. However, some institutions such as CPRI re-branded and marketed themselves as “short term” residential settings. We agree with other disability advocates that there is simply no way to re-brand residential institutions for developmentally disabled people. They should just be closed down.

What You Can Do
If you are a parent, please do not support the initiative. For low-cost, informative and up-to-date education about raising autistic kids to be happy and healthy, we recommend the Foundations for Divergent Minds online education modules. They are inclusive and interactive, with sessions for teachers and other caregivers too.

Please write to your MPP to express your concerns. Find your MPP’s contact info here.

For Media
To learn more about the history and current issues of abuse in residential institutions in Ontario, please contact us.

More Information for Survivors
For information about the current class action, please visit this link.