Winnipeg parents raise awareness of autism, call for change

Hundreds of supporters outside of the Legislative Building for autism awareness. Adrian Cheung/Global News

WINNIPEG — Hundreds of parents and families gathered outside the Manitoba Legislative Building, for a rally and walk to raise awareness for autism, on World Autism Awareness Day on Saturday.

One in 68 Canadian children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Medical experts say there is no “typical” diagnosis but many with autism struggle with social communication, such as making eye contact or shaking hands.

“When you meet a child with autism, you’ve only met one child with autism,” said Michael Wilwand, co-founder of PACE, a support group for families.

Parents in PACE said the group has become an important resource for navigating a medical system that can often overwhelming.

Candice Allard, mother to a 15-year-old boy with autistic needs said, “The support system, I didn’t know a lot. But with PACE, there’s a huge community.”

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“This is actually a family.”

Parents also called on political parties to improve support and reduce waiting list times. Families at the event said after diagnosis, children often have to wait years before treatment, such as speech therapy, is provided by the province.

Candidates from each of the major parties attended the rally and supported PACE’s campaign for changes.

“Even though you have the diagnosis, it isn’t the end of the world,” said Wilwand.

[People with autism] can be as productive as anyone else can be, they just need the supports.”

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