Blue flag-raising kicks off Nova Scotia Autism Awareness month

There was a good sized crowd on hand in front of Halifax City Hall on Monday morning  to witness the raising of the Autism Nova Scotia flag in front of Grand Parade.

April is Autism Awareness month in Nova Scotia and the ceremonial flag-raising was symbolic of the work being done in the community to promote inclusion and belonging for all, said Autism Nova Scotia board chair Ian Sutherland.

“It’s so important for awareness in our community, but it also goes beyond awareness,” said Sutherland.

“I think this is a real sign that our community is prepared to do the hard work to make our community a more inclusive place. A place where people on the autism spectrum will be invited to contribute and where all will feel that they belong.”

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage, along with supporters from Autism Nova Scotia, read a proclamation calling for autism acceptance in the community and encouraging further steps towards full inclusion of those living with autism.

The blue Autism Nova Scotia flag-raising was well attended, as more than 60 supporters gathered for the ceremony, which kicks off the month-long campaign.

April 2 is recognized as World Autism Awareness Day by the United Nations.

The latest figures from the U.S.-based Centers for Disease and Control Prevention show that one in 68 children is diagnosed with a form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The numbers in Canada are similar, which show one in 66 children is diagnosed with ASD, according to statistics provided by the National Autism Spectrum Disorder Surveillance System.

Halifax played host to the Autism Awareness Centre’s (AAC) national two-day conference from March 29 to 30. AAC Director Maureen Bennie said the conference looked at new strategies to support self-regulation and provided the grounds for a greater level of independence for those living with ASD.

Bennie says Canada has made great strides when it comes to inclusion and supports but says more needs to be done to assist those living with ASD when they age out of the school system.

“We are really lacking supports on this side of things for adults and I don’t even like to talk about independence per se because none of us truly live independently,” said Bennie.

“I like to talk more about inter-dependence and how do we use our community to support us and how we feel included, and how do we find meaningful work and meaningful relationships.”

Autism Nova Scotia will host “Autism 101” on Tuesday, April 2, at the Keshen Goodman public library in Clayton Park where they’ll launch a new communication toolkit that will be available for checkout, along with a community panel discussion that begins at 6:30 p.m.

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