QUEBEC CITY – At the first autism spectrum disorder forum in Quebec, Stephane Blackburn shared his story of living with autism, even though he didn’t know it for most of his childhood.
“I don’t think there are a lot of people who even know what it is,” he said.
“Most people think…that an autistic man or woman is doing like that,” Blackburn demonstrated by rocking back and forth on his heels.
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“[That they] don’t speak, don’t look people in the eyes, don’t even smile.”
By contrast, Blackburn found himself easily angered or overwhelmed, saying whatever came to his mind – even if it was hurtful – and wondering what was wrong.
Now, people like Blackburn have a chance to tell lawmakers what needs to change.
Last year, a group of parents gathered at the National Assembly to speak out against lengthy wait times for autism diagnosis and access to specialized education.
Their concerns are even more pressing as the number of people with autism continues to rise.
“Every five years, we’re getting double the number of people with autism,” said Public Health minister Lucie Charlebois.
She said she organized the two-day forum to get people with autism involved in the decision-making process.
“We’re going to listen to them. After that, they’re going to prioritize. They’re going to vote on some priorities to do in the future,” said Charlebois.
“I’m going to learn and maybe I’ll pick up some ideas from there.”
Charlebois didn’t say if any money was earmarked to put into play any ideas she’s taking away from this forum.
However, she did hint she might make a funding announcement Friday.