Dozens mark World Autism Day on Parliament Hill

Around 120 people gathered on Parliament Hill over the noon hour Wednesday to mark World Autism Day.

It's a time to raise awareness about the disorder and highlight the fact that one in every 68 people lives with it.

Sen. Jim Munson is a big advocate for autism awareness and told the crowd that while the federal government has made strides when it comes to creating programming for those with autism, more must be done.

"The road is long and we have to get further down that road and I'm still convinced — I am still convinced to this day and I'm sure in this crowd you are convinced for your children and for the autistic adults that are here that we really, as a nation, need a National Autism Spectrum Disorder Strategy," he said.

Munson adds there needs to be federal leadership on this issue.

"We've all got to work together and we must move on, but I still think that World Autism Awareness Day, it's not just today," he said. "It's not just today. This is about human rights. This is about human rights, damn it, and we have to respect that and every day should be World Autism Awareness Day."

"We have come so far. We've learned so much, and yet we know there still is more to do," said Candice Bergen, the Minister of State for Social Development. "We need to ensure that individuals with this disorder are not marginalized, but instead have the opportunity to thrive and to be part of the everyday life that all of us enjoy."

Mike Lake, the MP for Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont, also attended the event with his son Jaden, who has autism. He stopped to help the 18-year-old who he said has the mind of a three- or four-year-old, pat a guide dog.

Lake said every person with autism has something to contribute to society.

"We have to notice those skills and abilities and we have to find ways to use them," said Lake. "For every single person with autism in this crowd today, they have very unique skills and abilities. They're not all like Jaden and we need to find ways to recognize those and then to be able to benefit from those skills and abilities as a society."

Parents gathered on the Hill said it is often difficult and very expensive to get their children the help they need.

"My children were severely autistic and non-verbal and they're doing really great, but we had to fork out, you know, $180,000 before government services did kick in, so that's a big deal," said Autumn, who has three children with autism.

"It's certainly difficult," she said about raising her three kids. "But you have to cope by not thinking about it and the progresses that are made every day are what makes our lives what they are. And that's alright; it's special."

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