Autism Nova Scotia

Autism Nova Scotia

2020 Invisible Champion (C) Award - Nova Scotia/Halifax

Nominator Comments:

AutismNS made an organization-wide pivot due to COVID-19, remaining strong and present for the community. With no layoffs or shutdown of programming, AutismNS:

– closed physical doors in mid-March; staff continued to work from home. Within two weeks, most programs/services were adapted and running online.

– developed new programs to support emerging community needs, including online social and crafting groups, virtual Netflix parties, and online resources to help autistic individuals and families adjust to understanding COVID-19, routine changes, masks, distancing, handwashing, etc. 

– greatly increased online connectivity resources for program participants and staff.

– adapted and grew their employment supports and early intervention for toddlers and launched a new person-directed planning program.

– before anyone else, developed and offered a “pandemic-safe” summer day camp model that was then followed by other camps in the region.


One of AutismNS’s many significant contributions to enhancing community outcomes is their new Healthy Relationships, Sexuality and Autism (HRSA) program. Because of their unique learning needs, Autistic adults often do not benefit from sex education in the classroom and have a harder time learning healthy behaviours and attitudes from peers, which causes higher risk of not understanding sexuality, sexual expression, consent, or how to have safe and healthy relationships. AutismNS saw the void and developed and piloted the innovative HRSA curriculum. HRSA supports adults (19+) with autism by introducing concepts of sexuality and social skills through interactive, sex-positive, inclusive lessons. HRSA received federal support for delivery through autism community organizations across the Atlantic provinces in 2019 and is now teaching dozens of Autistic adults the concepts and tools to achieve the healthy, positive relationships they want for themselves.  

Before AutismNS, the autism community in this province was fractured, dispersed, and desperate. Parent-led volunteer groups were exhausted, and there were no consistent supports from one region to the next. AutismNS brought grassroots groups across the province together under a Chapter model so they could share info resources, increase fundraising capacity, and implement best practices in budgeting, volunteer recruitment, and program delivery to make their efforts sustainable.

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