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.
2020 Nova Scotia Invisible Champion Awards
Recognizing the extraordinary staff of United Way-funded agencies who make a difference every day.
Note: The pandemic led to Special Covid Awards being designated. If awarded, they are marked with a (C) in the Table above.
Date: Wednesday, October 14, 2020
Venue: Province House and various venues virtual event
Remarks: Hon. Premier Stephen McNeil
MC: Former Lt. Governor Myra A. Freeman CM ONS MSM
Awards Presentation: Sara Napier, CEO, United Way Halifax
Attendees: Senators Hon. Frances Lankin, Hon. Linda Frum, Hon. Robert Black, Hon. Kim Pate, MP Hon. Andy Filmore,Hon. Gary Burrill, Leader of the NDP, MLA Susan Leblanc, MLA Tim Halman. Hon. Margaret McCain
Autism NS receiving their trophy