Unique partnership to research autism in Indigenous communities
- EFN Staff | May 26, 2019
The Cowessess First Nation and Regina’s Autism Resource Centre (ARC) have formed a partnership to start ground-breaking research on exploring autism in Indigenous communities – a first of its kind in Canada.
On May 22, 2019, the Chief of Cowessess First Nation Cadmus Delorme was joined with ARC Executive Director Keely Wight at the community’s urban office to make the announcement.
“Autism is a growing disorder in First Nation communities across the province. Studies prove that early intervention is key; however, waitlists for diagnosis are long,” said Chief Delorme. “There is a need for equitable access to supports and services for Indigenous children with autism but the problem is a lack of resources, research and funding. This partnership will assist the direction we want to go in terms of addressing what is needed to help families who suffer without the proper supports in place.”
This partnership is made possible by a multi-year funding contract from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) Autism Spectrum Disorder Fund. The 3-year project called the Building Block Program: Transition Services for Indigenous Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder is focused on researching autism within First Nations communities and improving participation of Indigenous youth with autism that are transitioning from high school to paid employment.
“Through the development of autism resources, increased awareness of autism within the Indigenous community and specialized services such as supported employment, cultural identity, mental health and transition planning, together with Cowessess First Nation, we can ensure our Indigenous young people with autism have the skills to become employed in a career of their choice, and that employers understand the value employees with unique abilities can bring to their workplace,” said Wight.
ARC, Cowessess First Nation, other community-based partners such as the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Network, Street Culture Project, and academic partners from the University of Regina and Simon Fraser University, will be embarking on this project which is one of the first in North America focused on autism through an Indigenous perspective and worldview.
“We also greatly appreciate the willingness of Chief Cadmus Delorme and his team to teach ARC the traditional and cultural perspectives needed to make this programming successful for years to come,” said Wight.