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The Gift of Training: From Autism Parent Partners to the Kamloops School District

December 22, 2008 - Vancouver
ACT- Autism Community Training Society is delighted to announce a $5,000 donation from Autism Parent Partners, a Kamloops based parents' organization. This funding will enable ACT to provide all staff in School District # 73 - Kamloops - with access to all of the webcasts that ACT produces over the next two year period - an estimated 10 presentations, featuring outstanding speakers from B.C. and the U.S.

"We raised this donation from a workshop presented in Kamloops and we want to see all the district schools benefit for the sake of kids on the autism spectrum - who have very diverse needs. We saw how ACT and their workshops benefit families and professionals in our province and we know how difficult it is for folks to get to these events from across our district. So this was one way we thought we could help our community", explains Betty Ann Garreck, one of the founders of Autism Parent Partners. Betty Ann also provides support and information related to autism to parents and professionals across the Kamloops region in her role as the Coordinator of Autism Parent Partners, known as Autism Kamloops.

Marilyn Hogg, School District # 73's highly respected Director of Special Education is very pleased that this gift will help provide affordable training on autism and related special needs issues to staff across one of the province's largest school districts. "Our school district covers roughly the same square kilometer area as Belgium, and that presents problems in getting teachers together for professional development, so anything we can do to ensure that we can meet the training needs of all our diverse learners is a huge plus - our staff are very pleased, especially as we already use webcasting extensively and we are set up to take advantage of this gift."

Over the past three years, ACT has presented over 50 workshops in smaller communities across B.C., an initiative that has been enthusiastically received by parents and professionals but ACT is also aware that there is frustration that ACT's speakers can't travel to more communities, more frequently.

"Our presenters are extraordinarily dedicated," explains Deborah Pugh, ACT's Director of Research and Training, "but they all have demanding jobs and families. Keeping in mind that our province is as big as France and Germany combined, and the fact that 500 children are being diagnosed every year, we had to find a way to meet the need - webcasting is one way to do it because it allows viewers to watch a pre-recorded event on their computer at a time convenient to them."

One of ACT's most committed presenters is Kamloops based Dr. Jill Calder, who is based at the Royal Inland Hospital where she is the Clinical Director of Rehabilitation Services for the Thompson Cariboo Shuswap Region. Few people who know Dr. Calder in her demanding day job realize that over the past three years she has also spent many weekends traveling across B.C. and to the Yukon, providing orientation to parents on finding treatment for their children with autism, inspired by her own experiences as the mother of a son with autism. In August 2008, ACT video-taped Dr. Calder's presentation—it is one of an estimated ten that will be available on the ACT website over the next two years, all presented by speakers with expertise in different aspects of autism treatment. For a preview see www.actcommunity.net/webcast/2008/PRAC08WEB.html.

For Dr. Calder, one of the founders of Autism Parent Partners, webcasts are a useful tool in getting vital information to families and professionals across the province: "When my son was diagnosed 12 years ago, there was so little information available, now there is a sea of information but not all of it is reliable. We appreciate that ACT is focused on providing quality training, not biased by sponsorship, and on keeping it affordable and accessible for both parents and professionals. That is why Betty Ann and I decided that donating to ACT is a cost effective way of supporting excellence in our district and recognizing what a great job Marilyn Hogg is doing in listening to parental concerns."

While Dr. Calder won't have to drive the Coquihalla in the middle of a snow storm this winter to present for ACT, she will be continuing to contribute to building community capacity in autism around B.C. Thanks to a donation from the Inukshuk Fund, ACT is moving forward on its goal of developing an on-line community of parents and professionals keen to support each other in gaining a better understanding of autism.

"We are planning to have Dr. Jill available to provide a follow-up to her webcast online so that parents can still have the interaction with the speaker that is such an important part of the live event. There are also plans to make other resources available on-line, as well as a blog. Simon Fraser University is our partner in this initiative - we have a lot to learn but when you see the community coming together as they are in the Kamloops region it does encourage ACT to keep pushing", explains Deborah Pugh.




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