Autism Awareness Month: a Manitoulin mother’s story

by Blake Priddle

MANITOULIN—April 1 marks the beginning of Autism Awareness Month where people take the time to raise awareness for autism spectrum disorders by wearing blue, holding community and fundraising events, and putting bumper stickers on cars. Valerie McIntyre, a mother with an autistic teenager from Little Current, tells this newspaper what it is like to have an autistic child and what she has to deal with on a daily basis.

“I have a 16-year-old son named James who is considered to be severely autistic,” she explained. “When he was three-years-old I noticed that he wasn’t speaking and my family simply told me that he will talk when he is ready. I don’t consider his condition to be severe, but not having the ability to speak to other people makes it very difficult for him to function.” Ms. MacIntyre goes on to say, “It is hard to get services for James because they tell me that he is an older child so what is the point in giving him services. But if he was hearing impaired or sight impaired then no one would say that we shouldn’t receive services just because he’s a teenager. It has been really hard to receive the services that James needs.”

Although finding support services has been a challenge, Ms. MacIntyre does speak on the benefits of living in a small community. She goes on to say, “One of the reasons I came to Manitoulin Island is because it is such an accepting environment. There is no city noise or chaos, it’s nice and quiet and I don’t have to worry about him crossing the street because people will stop for him. When we were in Mississauga everybody stared at him probably wondering what was wrong with him? On the Island people never look at him like he is weird. The town of Little Current is a fabulous place where James feels accepted for being who he is.”

You can support Autism Acceptance by attending the flag raising event on April 2 which is World Autism Awareness Day. The event takes place at the Espanola Town Hall at 11 am.

To find out more information please visit the Espanola Autism Acceptance Facebook page at www.facebook.com/autimacceptanceespanola.