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Navigating the autism journey workshop

The Northern View - 2/19/2020

The diagnosis rates of autism spectrum disorder (ASD)are increasing expediently each year, said Brittaney Finnigan, a Prince Rupert parent who is assisting in facilitating a free autism awareness workshop in the city on Feb. 22 at the Highliner Hotel.

The "Waiting for Assessment Workshop" hosted by The Autism Society of British Columbia (AutismBC) will hopefully alleviate many concerns that questioning parents and families may have through out the waiting and diagnosis period, Finnegan said.

The wait for services can take over two years to receive an official diagnosis and is extremely stressful leaving parents and care givers with a plethora of questions and anxieties.

It is the first time the workshop will run in Prince Rupert and will be presented by Gabrielle Stigant, a board certified behavioural analyst. Topics covered will be basic information on autism, how to prepare for an autism assessment and what to do while you wait, pros and cons of private vs. public assessments, coping strategies, followed by a question and answer session.

'One in 46 people currently have an autism diagnosis. It's a wide spectrum," Brock Sheppard, program manager at AutismBC said. "We want to help families navigate through assessment."

In British Columbia, one in 51 children ages six to 18, have been identified with having ASD, as of March 2018. Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means it affects individuals differently. Some early indicators of autism might present as delayed or absent speech, poor understanding of gestures like pointing and eye contact, selective hearing or lack of response, and sensory issues such as textures, sounds and light may be bothersome.

"Parents don't know what to do. There is not a list of steps that a parent can take," Finnigan said. "There is no guidebook, no pamphlets. The workshop will give a road map to resources. It will take a lot of pressure off parents in figuring it out on their own.

In Canada ASD is 4.5 times more common in boy than girls, affecting one in 42 boys to comparable one in 89 girls. Finnigan is a parent of child diagnosed with autism. Now five years old, her son was diagnosed when he was two. Due to excessive waits for diagnosis in the public sector and mounting concerns, her family chose for a private diagnosis.

For many families private assessment is not an option, Finnigan said. It is extremely stressful and families can feel left out in the cold to figure it out on their own.

"The workshop can take the guess work out for parents. It can connect them to other families who are going through the same situation. It can alleviate some of the stress and pressure,"Finnigan said. "We encourage any families with questions, concerns or who are waiting for a diagnosis to attend."

"AutismBC hopes to bring inclusions to communities, to bring them together and connect them, " Sheppard said. "We empower, support, and connect the Autism community."

AutismBC is a non-profit, parent directed registered Charity which has been educating and supporting families since 1975. For more information on the workshop or to register visit

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