Accepting autism, in all its forms, one event at a time

Wikwemikong’s own Crystal Shawanda poses with Blake Priddle, Expositor correspondent, at the second annual Espanola Autism Acceptance Event, held in conjunction with the Espanola Rivermen.

by Blake Priddle

ESPANOLA—The second annual Espanola Autism Acceptance Event was held on Sunday, March 1 at the Espanola Recreation Complex. Over 150 people attended this event that brought in many North Shore and Manitoulin families of children on the Autism Spectrum.

Everyone participated in the various social activities that were provided such as swimming, Zumba, bowling and watching the Espanola Rivermen’s championship game. Although the Rivermen failed to clinch victory, losing to the Batchewana Attack 6-2, the game still brought a lot of excitement and smiling faces to the many fans.

Espanola resident Dennis Lendrum, who formed a committee to help with the many tasks, coordinated the event. Mr. Lendrum became a big supporter of Autism Ontario and Autism Awareness after his grandson was diagnosed with autism 10 years ago.

“I believe that autism awareness has been out there long enough and if people aren’t aware by now then I think that it’s time for autism acceptance in our communities,” he told The Expositor. “The people that we have talked to have accepted autism but some people in malls, stores or restaurants see an autistic child having a sensory meltdown and might think that the child is misbehaving.”

“The intent is to make people realize that this is real life and parents with autistic children deal with things like this on a daily basis,” Mr. Lendrum continued. “So instead of giving parents a judgmental look maybe you can lend them a hand instead.”

The families at the event also had the opportunity to present short inspirational stories, win some fun door prizes and have lunch with Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha.

“It’s important for the government to be proactive with families who have been touched by autism, to help them when they are in need—particularly when they are in financial stress,” said Mr. Mantha.

Manitoulin’s own Juno nominated country singer Crystal Shawanda also attended the event. Ms. Shawanda sang the national anthem at the start of the Rivermen game and even tried her luck at bowling.

Overall, the entire event was a big success. Mr. Lendrum plans to organize another one next year along with some additional autism related events in the Espanola area, including a special visit to the local emergency services. You can find out more about autism acceptance by visiting the Autism Acceptance Facebook page at: Facebook.com/autismacceptanceespanola.