To view the media release, click here.
We have developed a list of FAQs to address the evolution of our organization. Scroll down to access our FAQ.
As we are getting closer to the development of a National Autism Strategy, the time is right to reflect on the evolution of our organization, and how we can best address the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead. To set ourselves and our members up for success, we have prepared an updated Strategic Plan to build on our momentum. This plan includes a brand refresh and maps out an exciting new direction for the organization.
As part of this brand refresh, we recognize the need to change our name (Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance / Alliance canadienne des troubles du spectre de l’autisme) to reflect a more holistic and strengths-based approach to autism.
The United Nations and the World Health Organization are shifting from the deficit model of autism being a disorder, to the broader biopsychosocial model of disability which includes the use of strength-based language. Continuing to use stigmatizing language results in isolating valuable and integral members of our community. It is for this reason we are removing the words “spectrum disorder” from our name.
At our Annual General Meeting on April 26, 2022, our organization and community members voted unanimously to ratify our new name. We are proud to announce that we are officially transitioning to the new name of: “Autism Alliance of Canada” (in English), and “Alliance canadienne de l’autisme” (in French). Over the next several months our public platforms and communications efforts will reflect this change.
We have also updated our strategic direction, outlining how we will play a role in moving the National Autism Strategy forward as it becomes law. You can view the presentation of our strategic direction here. Included in this direction is our refreshed vision, mission, identity, priorities, process, and principles.
We would like to thank our members for participating in the consultation process and laying the groundwork for the direction of our organization moving forward. Consulting with our members was an essential part of this process and we appreciate the time you took to review this work and share your thoughts for the next chapter in our journey together.
We are incredibly proud of the work we have accomplished to advocate for a National Autism Strategy. As that Strategy comes together, we know we will continue to have a significant role to play in order to address other priority areas of impact within the disability sector in the years to come.
To apply for a membership or to renew your membership with Autism Alliance of Canada, we invite you to visit: https://www.autismalliance.ca/about-membership/
Frequently asked questions
Why did you update your name from Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance to Autism Alliance of Canada?
- The need for accountability and transparency has resulted in a decision to change our name. Our new name allows us to evolve the organization, shifting from a deficit model of autism being a disorder, to the broader biopsychosocial model of disability, which includes the use of strength-based language.
What is Autism Alliance of Canada doing to ensure equity, diversity and inclusion is prioritized within its initiatives?
- With work on a National Autism Strategy currently underway, Autism Alliance of Canada remains focused on bringing attention to the intersectional barriers experienced by Autistic people living in Canada and their families. We apply an intersectional lens to our work, engaging with Canadians in political spheres, service sectors, research centres and professionals, educational and health sectors, employment sectors and communities – at the federal, provincial, territorial and regional levels, to promote full social inclusion for Autistic people and identify the barriers, biases and discrimination which impede meaningful social inclusion. This engagement includes Canadians with lived experience, first voice Canadians, family members and support providers, and community individuals with a strong commitment to achieving our goals. We currently have a number of initiatives which touch upon the diversity within the Autistic community. As equity and inclusion remain a complex subject, Autism Alliance of Canada is committed to learning as we grow.
- Finally, we believe it is necessary to strengthen our current practice of ensuring a systemic culture of inclusion and outreach to engage marginalized persons and communities that have traditionally been left out of many activities within the autism sector. Of note, the last five Leadership Summits, from 2018-22, have had increasing levels of attention from the perspectives of Indigenous leaders as it relates to their unique challenges within their communities for Autistic children and adults and their families. We have begun to form working relationships with a number of First Nations across the country, their leadership and members. This will remain a growing activity, as we look for ways to make the work of Autism Alliance of Canada more accessible and relevant to them.
How is Autism Alliance of Canada currently engaging the Autistic community?
Autistic people and their families, exercising their full rights and realizing their full potential. This is the vision of our organization. Our mission is to enable the community to address complex issues that Autistic persons and their families face across their lifespan. We aim to move forward on this mandate through the following activities:
- Working with autism leaders and government departments to advance the development of a National Autism Strategy to ensure that Autistic people in Canada experience full and meaningful inclusion in all aspects of life and engage with the broader disabilities sector through the Disability Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP).
- Creating vehicles for supporting and expanding the national commitment to meaningful social inclusion of Autistic people in Canada. These include, but are not limited to:
- Creating an Autistic Advisory Committee to provide oversight, accountability and inclusion by persons with lived experience;
- Lived experience participation in the Canadian Autism Leadership Summit, attendance and presentations. CALS brings together autism leaders, including Autistic people in Canada, policy makers and committed Canadians from all provinces and territories to review emerging practices, leading research findings and community and political issues which may be impacting the advancement of a NAS and further strengthening social inclusion.
- The ongoing work on developing policy drafts through the efforts of policy working groups made up of Autistic people, researchers and other autism leaders from across the country.
Continuing to support the activity and ownership of the Canadian Journal of Autism Equity by Autistic writers, artists and editors is a shining accomplishment of how we can promote authentic social inclusion in our communities.
What does it mean to become a member of Autism Alliance of Canada?
- All persons and organizations from across Canada that are committed to the development of a National Autism Strategy are welcome to become a member of Autism Alliance. Our members work together to achieve the common goal of advancing a National Autism Strategy. You can view the presentation of our strategic direction here. Included in the strategic direction is our refreshed vision, mission, identity, priorities, process, and principles. It is important to note that we do not represent, promote or censure the views of any of our members.
Do you have equal opportunities for Autistic leadership roles at Autism Alliance of Canada?
- Yes. Autism Alliance of Canada is an equal opportunity employer committed to maximizing the diversity of our organization. We strive towards building an Autistic-inclusive space. We actively encourage applications from persons on the autism spectrum and from all equity seeking groups.
Is there Autistic representation among paid staff members at Autism Alliance of Canada?
- Autism Alliance of Canada has Autistic people in paid leadership positions – filling essential roles of researchers, project coordinators and editorial board members. Since our first paid staff member in a leadership position at Autism Alliance of Canada was hired in 2019, we have consistently worked towards hiring more Autistic people in leadership roles and strive towards building an Autistic-inclusive space. Our membership is open to both individuals and organizations, where vast and diverse experience, expertise and voices come together for the shared and common purpose to advocate and amplify the need for a National Autism Strategy.
What is the role of the Board members of Autism Alliance of Canada?
- Autism Alliance of Canada is directly accountable to its members through its volunteer Board of Directors. The Board of Directors is dedicated to representing and working on behalf of members of Autism Alliance of Canada to ensure issues of mutual importance are brought to the attention of our Federal Government. Directors are responsible for providing the strategic leadership and operational support necessary to establish and meet the vision, mission, goals and objectives of the organization.
- As of April 2022, the board of directors of Autism Alliance of Canada is made up of 15 members. Of our current members, 53% identify as having lived experience. Board members are recruited according to a skills matrix that brings a balance of lived experience, volunteer commitment to our goals and workplace experience to support the governance of Autism Alliance of Canada. The development of an Autistic Advisory Committee, composed of Autistic individuals and family members/support persons with lived experience, will introduce a new level of input, oversight and accountability to Autistic people in Canada, their families and communities.
Does the Canadian Autism Leadership Summit offer opportunities for participation and presentations by Autistic people and persons with lived experience?
- Yes. The Canadian Autism Leadership Summit (CALS) is 100% percent volunteer-based. There are a number of Autistic people that hold leadership roles outside of the Lived Experience Committee in a volunteer capacity for CALS. In addition, all Autistic persons, as well as parents or support persons, that are not affiliated with an organization or institution, are compensated for presenting at the Canadian Autism Leadership Summit.
Is Autism Alliance of Canada a research organization?
- Autism Alliance of Canada is not a research organization, but rather an alliance of 500+ members. We advocate for a better way forward where provinces and territories can have access to evidence-informed best practices, working with Autistic people in Canada, their families, health care professionals and government representatives across the country, to make decisions improving their quality of life.
What are the next steps in the development of a National Autism Strategy?
- Now that Bill S-203 has been unanimously passed into law by the Senate at the Third Reading, it will be sent to and reviewed by the House of Commons. Bill S-203 will go through a similar process: First reading, Second reading, Consideration in committee, Report stage, and Third reading. If the Bill passes in the same form by both Chambers, it will then go to the Governor General for Royal Assent to ideally become Canadian law.
- The responsibility of overseeing the development, execution, and evaluation of a National Autism Strategy (NAS) will be held by the federal government. Our organization will continue to strongly advocate that the NAS includes significant and diverse representation of Autistic people and their support persons in Canada in order to be truly reflective of the needs across the country. In addition, we will grow our role as a convener to catalyst collaboration through knowledge exchange and capacity building to support the implementation of a NAS.
- The accountability measures and timelines placed in this carefully crafted Bill have never been put in place before. These measures will ensure that the federal framework on autism will progress despite changes within the political representation climate over time. It is important to note that it is not up to the Senate Committee to decide what is included in the actual framework on autism. It will be up to the government to collaborate with stakeholders to discuss and design the framework.