April 2, 2013 6:53 pm

World Autism Awareness Day Packs Local Punch

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An international health crisis is being put in the spotlight around the globe today.

World Autism Awareness Day marked its sixth anniversary this year, a campaign that brings attention to the disability that affects about one in 50 children.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is typically diagnosed within the first three years of a child’s life, and Asperger’s Syndrome is diagnosed once a child reaches school age.

Amanda Kinney’s two sons, Carson and Connor Swazey, both have ASD, on opposite sides of the spectrum. Carson is Autistic, and Connor has Aspergers which affects each child differently.

“There’s so many different degrees of it,” Kinney says. “Carson, who is non-verbal and complete care, to the higher functioning Asperger’s, like my other son.”

The Chinook Autism Society in Lethbridge works as a resource for those diagnosed with ASD, as well as their caregivers. The Society coordinates with the event each year to spread the word that World Autism Awareness Day is not just for those with ASD.

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“What’s important to us on this day is getting the message out about the community’s understanding and acceptance.,” says Kareena Zanolli, acting President of the Society.

“The fact is that people on all points of the spectrum have wonderful gifts to share with the community.”

Zanolli is also mother to a child with Autism.

Kinney adds that while it’s important to bring attention to ASD, it doesn’t take a special event to recognize the disability in her house.

“I think it’s great that we have this day. But to me and to our family, everyday is Autism day.”

As for Connor, he says he has no limitations. In fact, he believes having Asperberger’s has given him a unique advantage.

“I like Social Studies. I get 90’s in that, so that’s my favorite subject. I focus on that a lot.”

The Autism Society of Canada says the number of children diagnosed with the disease continues to increase every year, and tends to affect boys more than girls.

ASD is a neurological disorder, that despite ongoing research, still has no known cause.

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