We're having an advocates meeting, and it's a BIG tent
Autism advocates have been speaking out for a long time now. We’re not referring merely to the issues surrounding the IBI program. We’ve been battling for services in schools, public awareness, services for adults, respite for families, and so much more. And we have made significant progress.
Ten years ago, very few members of the public knew what autism was. Today, there is much more awareness—not only about what autism is, but also about the struggles families face in trying to access services for their child. Some members of the public even seem to be aware that children with autism grow into teens and adults with autism, and that perhaps we should think about how as a society we’re going to deal with that.
Five years ago, there was an age six cutoff for IBI. The pioneering work of the Deskin-Wynberg families in the court of law, combined with many of us fighting in the “court of public opinion,” managed to end that injustice. Today, new legal cases like the Sagharian class action and the Ceretti case are laying the groundwork for a new wave of legal activism.
Three years ago, the then Minister of Education, Sandra Pupatello, said that ABA could not be done in schools. Now, we have PPM 140, and while it’s hardly a magic bullet, it is a step in the right direction.
In more than six years of working as autism advocates, we’ve learned and re-learned, a variety of lessons. The most important one is that we are stronger when we stand together. While we may not agree on every goal or every point, but when we do, we can make progress.
We’ve been looking ahead for some time, trying to figure out what needs to happen next to improve the outlook for individuals with autism in Ontario. The benchmarks process, ever-growing waitlists, the schools crisis and funding issue all call out for action. But the tactics that we have used in the past have worn out. While many in government take this as a sign that the war of attrition is being won, they’re wrong. There’s plenty of fight left among the “veteran” autism advocates, and there is also a new generation who are just itching to get into the fight for the first time.
It’s high time we all got together for a big pow-wow. We need to get our act together.
We need to decide what goals are important to all of us. That’s to counter the line that we keep hearing about how we’re not all asking for the same thing.
Then we need to discuss how we will pursue those goals and what tactics are we prepared to use in order to achieve them—whether as individuals or as organizations, whether as “good cop” or “bad cop.”
We need to co-ordinate our efforts. We don’t need to merge all our different organizations into one—that’s not our objective here at all—but if we could find a way to approach the government from all sides pushing for the same key goals, we might just be successful.
To that end, we want to invite you to a meeting. One day—Saturday, August 8th, 2009—with some of the most experienced, energetic and outspoken autism advocates in Ontario. All you need to bring is an open mind and your ideas. Together, we’ll lay out a road map for the next wave of autism advocacy in Ontario.
I sincerely hope that you can join us on August 8th. Details about location will be available soon. If you are unable to attend, we’d still very much appreciate it if you could complete our survey, which will be posted on our website shortly. (www.ontarioautismcoalition.com)
Bruce and Laura McIntosh