TRURO – It’s been six years since the Truro chapter of Autism Nova Scotia was formed, and now the organization finally has a place to call home.
The chapter has some of the upper level of 89 Queen St., alongside the Colchester East Hants Hospice Society.
“We see multiple ways of this space benefitting the community,” said Leah Poirier, the autism support coordinator for the local chapter, which serves those in Colchester County and Municipality of East Hants. “The biggest benefit is us having a physical presence in the community.”
The space, said Lori Logue, the chapter’s vice-chairperson of the board of directors, will give individuals and families a chance for face-to-face support time.
“And it will be a place for parent meetings,” Logue said.
“We will be linking with local residents in a way we never could do before,” added Poirier. She said Autism Nova Scotia in the past had been very much Halifax-centric, but having a local office will be of benefit. Resources will be available at the fingertips thanks to the chapter’s lending library, and programs and services will be offered on site.
“While a lot of the resources are available online, people still like to have a physical place,” said Logue. “There’s nothing better than sitting down and talking with someone. This has been a dream for a long time.”
Two years ago, Autism Nova Scotia released ‘Choosing Now: Investing in Nova Scotians Living with Autism’, a follow up to its report issued in 2010. The report determines priority areas of focus for autistic Nova Scotians across the lifespan.
Logue said prior to that release, the local chapter had to decide between paying to rent a space, or offering programs.
“That Choosing Now document has since provided some provincial funding to hire someone and gives us seed money to get us up and running for the first year,” she said.
“Then it’s up to the chapter to pay for the office space,” added Poirier.
“Having this office space will afford us more opportunities to fundraise, raise awareness, and build acceptance at the community level.”
According to statistics, Logue says 1 in 58 children in the school system are on the autism spectrum, with just as many adults in the community on the spectrum.
“We are seeing 20, 30-year-olds in our programs now,” she said.
For Poirier, that’s an interesting part of her job.
“Just like the autism spectrum is broad, I serve a very broad spectrum of ages, stages, and people going through life changes,” she said.
“If you don’t know where to start for information, it can be overwhelming,” added Mallory Fowler, a board member.
Poirier said families at the beginning stages of a diagnosis aren’t alone.
“There are people who understand where you’re at,” she said. “We are all parents of a child with an autism diagnosis, and we are very mindful of the fact everyone with autism is unique and has their own needs.”
Up until the office space was attained, Logue said the chapter hosted an annual walk and various educational chats for parents and families. The chapter also supported families to attend Camp Brigadoon over the years.
Poirier says the partnership with the hospice society has been great so far, and both organizations have the potential for future growth.
“We chose this space because of its location – it’s exceptional,” said Poirier. “The hospice society and us, we both have the desire to expand and make this a really welcoming and vibrant space. There is room to grow.”
“Hospice has been very supportive,” said Fowler, who organizes the annual Walk the Walk for Autism.
For more information about the Truro chapter, email email@example.com or follow them on Facebook at ‘Autism Nova Scotia Truro Chapter.’