This week is a double feature. Not only are we posting a new article from Annette, but, I also decided that I would use this space to highlight a group who are doing great things for Autistic Families in Winnipeg.
Autism Winnipeg PACE (Parents of Autistic Children Everywhere) is dedicated to serving our community by providing a valuable service, for both parents and children whose lives are affected by autism or ASD (autism spectrum disorder). Children enjoy “gymboree time” every Tuesday evening, while parents have a cup of coffee and talk with parents who understand, don’t judge and embrace each other’s problems. Teens have their own group, where they play cards or boards games and work on social skills facilitated by a parent.
Birthday parties are tough for children on the spectrum. The children often don’t get invited to parties, and when they invite children from their class, parents often struggle with no shows. Autism Winnipeg PACE recognizes this problem and has created a solution: Monthly birthday parties! Here’s how they’ve become a part of the solution: Children with a birthday in a given month are thrown a birthday party, to which Arlene, owner and operator of Cakes by Arlene, donates a specialty cake for the kids. The parents of the birthday boy or girl purchase a $5 gift for their child to open to make them feel special, and the rest of the Autism Winnipeg PACE community comes and celebrates the birthdays as a family.
Every Friday night is time for Youth Group. This group has been offered to our autism community by Reverend Mark Satterly at Kildonan United Church. Mark has seen the struggles most parents face and wants to help by offering special services and supports to families living with autism. One of these ways is by providing an all-inclusive Youth Group, with the help of parents. This provides both parents and children the opportunity to learn together.
Monthly bowling for the group has become an incredible gift to both parents and children, as families get to play as part of a team. Co-founder Lou Lovrin is a terrible bowler, but she doesn’t let that little fact stop her from having fun with the kids. The guard rails at the bowling lanes were not put up for the kids; they’re up for the protection of those around Lou… She’s thrown her ball in neighboring lanes around her, but now that danger has passed with the guard rails, and her hubby, Co-founder Mike Wilwand, has assured folks he is in complete control of her game. Bowling may not seem like much to folks, but it is very therapeutic; it encourages and teaches turn taking, social skills, gross motor skills, math skills, communication and more.
With summer finally approaching, Lou and Mike will be organizing many fun events for the kids with the help of Events Coordinator Arlene Reid, Marketing Executive Michael Nurse, Graphics Designer Noreen Luptak and Teen Leaders Carollynne and Daniel Picton. Some of the plans for the summer include a Family Day Camp and possibly three overnight Family Camping Trips. Each camping trip would consist of a minimum two night stay, with lots of fun activities for families to enjoy. Every kid should have a chance to go camping, and Autism Winnipeg PACE gives families the opportunity to not only go camping, but go as a large group to 1) ensure safety, 2) have fun and 3) not worry about being judged by the campers next door who “just don’t get it.” Their first camping trip is in preparation as we speak, coming this May long weekend. Three days and three nights at Bird’s Hill Park packed with memorable adventures for the whole family.
The biggest event of the year is their annual World Autism Awareness Day Walk, every April 2nd. All of Winnipeg is invited to attend the walk, meeting at the Legislature Building. The walk lasts about 20 minutes. Every walk (three so far) is packed with 400 hand colored posters (compliments of the children attending kid gymboree) which people wear for the walk, 180 decoupage mason jar lanterns (made again by the children attending kid Gymboree and Youth Group) and always includes fun music, guest speakers, coffee and a quick snack. This last walk consisted of approximately three hundred people, and featured comedian Adam Schwartz, artist Ryan Smoluk, Fred Penner, Winnipeg Blue Bomber’s Louie Richardson, Buzz and Boomer and Lionel from Boston Pizza. The kids and parents had a great time, had coffee thanks to Starbucks and cupcakes thanks to Arlene of Cakes by Arlene.
For more information on Autism Winnipeg PACE, check out their website at www.autismwinnipegpace.com or find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/autismwinnipegpace/.