News Column

Ontario Marks World Autism Awareness Day by Raising the Flag at Municipality Offices Across the Province

Mar 27 2013 12:00AM



TORONTO, ONTARIO -- (Marketwire) -- 03/27/13 -- April 2nd, 2013 will mark an historical day in Canada for the Autism community, as Canadians recognize World Autism Awareness Day for the first time. To commemorate the day in Ontario, all municipalities are being invited to "Raise the Flag."

Autism Ontario has sent the World Autism Awareness Day flag to municipality offices across the province, thanks to the generous support of BMO Financial Group. Communities are being asked to raise these flags at noon on April 2nd, 2013 at all City and Town Halls across the province to raise awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and encourage support and inclusiveness for individuals with ASD.

"This is a monumental day for the Autism community," said Margaret Spoelstra, Executive Director of Autism Ontario. "Autism Spectrum Disorder is something for which many Ontarians require support. Together, with BMO and the Province of Ontario, we look forward to all communities in Ontario showing their support for individuals with ASD."

ASD, which affects an estimated 100,000 Ontarians, is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain. ASD impacts the typical development of the brain in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Children and adults with ASD typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities.

"BMO's commitment to improving the communities in which we live and work includes fostering an inclusive, supportive and accessible workplace that focuses on promoting diversity and accommodating people with disabilities," said James Kelsey, Senior Vice President, BMO Financial Group. "As someone with a family member affected by Autism, I know firsthand the challenges it brings. For that reason, I am delighted BMO is part of this historic occasion to raise awareness of Autism and support Autism Ontario in its Raise the Flag campaign."

The idea for 'Raise the Flag' came from Shari Bishop of St. Thomas, Ontario, whose daughter, Bailey Bishop-Hume was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder when she was two-and-a-half-years-old. Bishop saw a growing need for providing support to parents of newly diagnosed children in St. Thomas. When she realized the importance the month of April signified to the Autism community, she decided to put her efforts towards creating a greater understanding of ASD, not only within her community, but within the province of Ontario as a whole. This was the catalyst for the 'Raise the Flag' initiative.

Each year, the 'Raise the Flag' for Autism Awareness has greatly impacted the members of the parent support group in the St. Thomas community. Since 2010, parents, along with their children, come to celebrate Autism awareness by raising the flag at city hall every year.

About Autism Ontario

Autism Ontario is the leading source of information and referral on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and one of the largest collective voices representing the Autism community. Members are connected through a volunteer network of chapters across the Province of Ontario. The mission of Autism Ontario is to promote lifelong access and opportunities for persons within the Autism Spectrum and their families to be fully included, participating members of their communities. Autism Ontario is dedicated to increasing public awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorders and the day-to-day issues faced by individuals with ASD, their families, and the professionals with whom they interact. Autism Ontario shares common goals of providing information and education, supporting research, and advocating for programs and services for the Autism community.

For more information please contact your local chapter.

Katherina Symes
Community Resource Manager
800-472-7789 X 226 or 416-246-9592 X 226

Source: Marketwire