Pacific Autism Family Network and Miriam Foundation Receive Federal Funding to Help Canadians Impacted by Autism

Government Invests in National Resource and Exchange Network to Support Canadians Impacted by Autism and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Ottawa, Ontario, Feb. 27, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The movement to assist Canadians living with autism, intellectual and development disabilities, and their families gained ground today when the government of Canada announced an investment of $20 million over 5 years as part of the 2018-2019 federal budget.

The funding will be used to develop two new initiatives to support the needs of Canadians experiencing autism spectrum disorder and their families. This will include $10.9 million towards the creation of an Autism-Intellectual Disability National Resource and Exchange Network (AIDE) which will provide credible and evidence-based resources for individuals and families living with autism and intellectual disabilities. Led jointly by Pacific Autism Family Network and Miriam Foundation, AIDE is the first of its kind in Canada, and will be available in a curated online library, reducing regional disparities and offering equitable access across the country. 

“This investment is a historic step in helping Canadians living with autism and intellectual disabilities,” said Sergio Cocchia, Chair of Pacific Autism Family Centre Foundation. “We commend the federal government for placing importance on the development of an innovative solution that will not only help improve quality of life for Canadians living with autism and disabilities, but also navigate and avoid harmful misinformation in the online arena.”

Today, over 515,500 Canadians are diagnosis with Autism Spectrum Disorder, affecting an estimated 1 in 68 children across the country. Despite these numbers, Canadians remain at an unfair disadvantage relative to our global counterparts, with countries like the United Kingdom and Australia adopting comprehensive, national autism strategies, and 47 states in the US with legislated specific autism mandates.

In contrast, Canada is widespread with systematic barriers and regional fragmentation, preventing families from accessing the information, care and resources required to obtain and navigate a diagnosis, ultimately leading to lifelong challenges that wreak emotional, social and economic havoc. Consequently, recent Canadian reports indicate access to information is top of mind for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families, with 74% ranking better access to information as a top priority. 

“With access to reliable and credible information currently lacking and varying widely, families and people living with Autism Spectrum Disorder face unfair pressures, considerable stress, and disproportionately high costs upon receiving a diagnosis,” said Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia, co-founder of Pacific Autism Family Network. “It is time Canada steps up to the plate to deliver these much-needed resources, and this commitment from the Canadian government makes this possible.” 

“AIDE will offer credible, reliable and evidence-based resources – tailored to impacted Canadian families and individuals, not academics – and available in a curated online library,” added Warren Greenstone, President and CEO, Miriam Foundation. “In addition, AIDE will reduce the disparities that Canadians face across the country and offer equitable access regardless of whether you live in Kamloops, Sherbrooke or Halifax.”

The $10.9 million investment will support the development and launch of the AIDE, which includes a centralized website and online portal, resource library, electronic asset maps, and hub-to-hub network, ultimately addressing the shortfall of resources and supports available to Canadians and families living with autism. The exchange will be built upon the touchpoints of “intervene early, intervene often, and intervene across the lifespan.”


About Pacific Autism Family Network
Pacific Autism Family Network (PAFN) is a first-in-North America charitable organization with a mandate to serve the lifespan needs of individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder and all related disorders. Founded by parents Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia and Sergio Cocchia, with the vision to break down barriers to access across the province, PAFN has collaborated with over 60 organizations to bring together essential lifespan needs for those affected by Autism, all within one network. In late 2016, PAFN opened their first location – the 60,000 sq.ft GoodLife Fitness Family Autism Hub in Richmond, and will open smaller satellites in other areas of B.C. in 2017. The network ensures that all British Columbians have access to state-of-the-art resources for assessment, treatment, education-support and research, providing a “one-stop-shop” for families looking for help in their navigation of available information and services.

About Miriam Foundation
For over 40 years, Miriam Foundation has been dedicated to ensuring that greater insight and new research improve the quality of life for all those affected with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and intellectual disabilities (IDs). The Foundation is committed to raising and investing funds, and providing the leadership required to: create and support developmental, clinical, vocational, residential, and respite programs for children and adults living with ASDs and IDs; offer education and training to professionals, caregivers and family members; foster specialized research focusing on improving diagnosis and developing new treatments and interventions for people with ASDs and IDs; and deliver social and recreational activities to promote inclusion.


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