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Politics

Nova Scotia elementary school embraces Autism Acceptance Month

WATCH: A rally in Ottawa this week called on the federal government to create national autism strategy. As Alexa MacLean explains, some of the participants are from Nova Scotia, including parents of young people who are helping educate their peers on the different aspects of autism.

April is Autism Acceptance Month in Canada and advocates for equitable access to supports and resources for those living with autism are calling on the federal government to lead and implement a National Autism Spectrum Disorder strategy.

“We know that services and supports vary significantly across the country and this national blueprint calls for full and equitable access to services and resources for individuals on the Autism Spectrum and their families,” Cynthia Carroll said, the chair of the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance (CASDA).

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The need for a national autism spectrum disorder strategy was first highlighted in 2007 when Senator Jim Munson helped lead a Senate inquiry into the challenges faced by those with autism and their families across Canada.

A rally was held this week in Ottawa, one on Parliament Hill and also through a press conference hosted by CASDA, where a blueprint was presented calling for a National ASD Strategy was presented.

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“Autism is a non-partisan issue and so we really need to come together as a greater community and provide the continued supports and services that families and individuals need across their lifespan,” Carroll said.

READ MORE: Canadian autism group calls on federal government for national strategy

One Nova Scotian who lent her voice to the push in Ottawa was Allison Garber, mother to Hugh Garber, a nine-year-old boy living with autism.

“I think we’ll continue to see provinces and territories making policy decisions in silos if a national autism strategy isn’t put into place and that’s problematic,” she said.

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As a way to celebrate the diverse characteristics people living with autism have, Garber’s elementary school is participating in Autism Acceptance Spirit Week.

“It’s an opportunity to inform, to celebrate autism here at Basinview. So, each day we celebrate a certain aspect of diversity,” Ken Marchand said, principal of Basinview Drive Community School.

Garber will soon be published for an article he wrote about living with autism.

The third-grader was beaming with pride as he read his words.

“Autism means you’re smart. It means to me that my brain works differently. It’s okay to have autism,” he said.

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With the federal election coming up this fall, Carroll hopes Ottawa seriously considers taking action with implementing the blueprint.