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New life skills programs for teens and adults with autism: Let's Get Active and Let's Ride

New Teen & Adult Autism Pilot Course Launched in Edmonton - Click here to read the news release

 
Intervention benefits toddlers with autism Edmonton pilot project findings released

Edmonton – Toddlers with autism who receive intensive early intervention show improvements in communication, socialization and behaviour, according to the results of a two-year pilot project conducted by the Centre for Autism Services Alberta.
The Infant and Toddler Pilot Project was developed by the Centre for Autism Services Alberta in 2008, initiated at the request of the Government of Alberta’s Edmonton and Area Child and Family Services Authority. The project’s findings and recommendations are highlighted in a report, Giving Hope to Toddlers with Autism: Early Intervention’s Promising Results for Families, which is being released today. A key recommendation calls for the government to provide services to this age group, regardless of severity. Under current legislation toddlers with autism must meet a severity criteria to receive services. The report also requests the government form an expert panel to ensure that consistent and appropriate services are being offered to this vulnerable toddler group and that two years of funded services be provided to this age group.
When the group of toddlers first started the pilot project in 2008, 73% were non-verbal and struggled to make their needs known or to follow basic instructions. During the project, the numbers reversed so that 73% could now follow basic instructions and make their needs known. As well, 36% of the participants saw such a significant improvement in communication that they were able to ask appropriate questions and understand multiple step instructions. Daily living, social and play skills also improved during intervention. At the beginning of the project the majority of participants had troubles with eating, sleeping and several toddlers displayed aggressive behaviour. All the kids improved in these areas.
This comprehensive model is individualized to meet each child’s specific needs and features a specialized team that can include a psychologist, occupational therapist, speech language pathologist, behaviourist and others. Significant parent involvement is also provided.
The successful outcomes of the children who participated in the project indicate that services need to begin as soon as possible after a diagnosis, said registered psychologist Michael Stolte, who is the director of the Infant and Toddler Program.
“We know that the brain is most receptive and open to learning skills prior to age six. Once those windows begin to close it makes it much more difficult for children and their families. When we delay intervention, it becomes more difficult and costly,” said Stolte, noting services designed for older children cannot be extrapolated to a younger population.

Due to the project’s success, the Centre offers these services to children as young as 18 months of age as part of its permanent programming.

“We continue to see similar results with the current group of children participating in the program,” said Stolte. “We believe that this model offers significant opportunity to improve the lives of children with autism and their families.”

As the Centre is the only facility in the province to currently offer this comprehensive model, it will share information about the program and the project’s results with other Edmonton area service providers in an information session at its offices in July.

The Alberta government continues to support the ongoing Infant and Toddler Program: “The Edmonton and Area Child and Family Services Authority (CFSA) is a proud funder of the Centre for Autism in their delivery of specialized services which are designed to meet the needs of children and families severely affected by autism. The partnership between The Centre for Autism and the Edmonton and Area CFSA ensures that a variety of supports including speech-language services, occupational therapy services and behavioural consultation are available to local families.”
The project results have been reviewed by Shane Lynch, PhD, a behaviour analyst and board member for the Autism Society of Edmonton Area. “The Centre for Autism Services Alberta has shown that highly specialized intervention offered to infants and toddlers with autism can lead to impressive results,” said Lynch. “This program may offer new insights into how to best support this young and vulnerable population.”
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About Autism: Autism is a complex developmental brain disorder that impacts a person’s ability to communicate and socialize. Behavioral challenges are also common. One in 110 children will be affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It affects four times as many males as females. Its cause and a cure continue to elude researchers.

About the Centre: The Centre for Autism Services Alberta is a non-profit charity that offers a wide range of services for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We are the largest service provider in the Edmonton area and have been helping children and families affected by ASD since 1997.

For media inquiries, please call:
Gale Davy, Development & Communications
780-488-6600, ext 229
780-292-6092 (cell)
gdavy@centreforautism.ab.ca

 
Centre for Autism Services Alberta Launches Innovative Family Night

Parents and children turn to peers for support while kids with autism socialize

Families of children with autism will have new opportunities to interact with peers, gain new skills and share their experiences as the Centre for Autism Services Alberta launches Family Night in January.

Family Night will feature two separate support groups – one dedicated to children who have a sibling with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the other for parents of children with ASD. While the two support groups meet children with autism will have a socialization session at the Centre starting Thursday, Jan. 13.

“We realize that having a child with autism affects the entire family. We want to address the needs of the entire family,” says the Centre’s registered psychologist Jenny McAlister, who will oversee the new family support service. “Our goal is to provide a supportive place for everyone in the family.”

Children, aged 6 – 13, will share experiences with peers during the two-hour Sibling Support Group meetings. A Centre team, including a registered psychologist, will guide the meetings through activities and discussions. A variety of topics will be covered including coping and learning how to handle common situations that surface when you have a sibling with autism.

“Kids don’t like anything that makes them different from their friends and having a sibling with autism makes them different. How do they make sense of that in a way that’s healthy, that’s what we want to help them with,” explains McAlister.

While the Sibling Support Group runs, parents will meet in an informal session that will be assisted by a registered psychologist. The meetings will provide parents with the opportunity to find hope and offer strategies for present and future challenges.

 Recognizing that childcare is often a barrier for parents to attend support groups, the Centre is running a socialization class while the support groups are in session. Open to all children with ASD, the Socialization Group also welcomes siblings less than six years of age. The Socialization Group will feature fun activities.

The support groups will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the second Thursday of every month at the Centre, 4752-99 St. Participants need to register by Jan. 7 to attend the sessions.

Several families have already registered for the new groups and are available to share their stories with the media.

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 About Autism: Autism is a complex developmental brain disorder that impacts a person’s ability to communicate and socialize. Behavioral challenges are also common. One in 110 children will be affected by ASD. It affects four times as many males as females. Its cause and a cure continue to elude researchers.

 About the Centre: The Centre for Autism Services Alberta is a non-profit registered charity that offers a wide range of services for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. We have been helping children and families affected by ASD in the greater Edmonton area since 1997.

For media inquiries, please call:
Gale Davy, Development & Communications
780-488-6600, ext 229
780-292-6092 (cell)
gdavy@centreforautism.ab.ca