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(Canada) NWT Autism Society changes name to Neurodiverse North Alliance; 'we're all different'

Mar 30, 2024, NT NNSL: ‘We’re all different and that’s alright’, says Denise McKee about autism

Autism is a condition that affects many people. There are several types of autism, including Asperger’s syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, Kanner syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder.

While you may not have heard about most of those types, you may have heard the term neurodivergent. According to the Cleveland Clinic, it describes people whose brain differences affect how their brain works.

And that’s what the NWT Autism Society is expanding its scope toward.

The society has adopted a new name and will now be known as the Neurodiverse North Alliance. It will be launching a new website that day and it will host its first annual general meeting virtually at 12:30 p.m.

Denise McKee, chair of the current autism society board of directors, said the board decided to make the name change to extend its outreach.

“It’s about incorporating the larger spectrum and a new way to approach neurodivergence,” she said.

She also said like most disabilities, autism has been underfunded for years; the first time autism was even mentioned in a territorial budget was during the 2018-19 fiscal year, she said.

“(Former Health and Social Services minister) Glen Abernethy proposed $848,000 for autism and FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder),” she said. “Almost all of it went to FASD and there was nothing specific for autism. We did have two positions identified — an occupational therapist and a speech specialist — but it was on and off for both of those.”

McKee did note that the federal government has been working on a plan to deal with autism directly and that’s been in the works for several years. . . .

 “Those with autism may wander off and they may not respond to people,” said McKee. “There was a recent case in Saskatchewan where a non-verbal person ended up being arrested by police and so that’s the right move in our opinion.” . . .

The NWT Disabilities Council, where McKee works as its executive director, provides as much support as it can, she said, with its summer camp, respite programs, learning supports and connecting families with programs that are there to help. . . .


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