A Halloween Message For All

Thanks to my friend Melissa who posted this on Facebook today.  It speaks volumes to help raise awareness of Autism and Aspergers Syndrome.  Please keep this message in mind for Halloween Night this year and every day of the year.

Navigating Through The Fog – Autism Awareness

As those who know me, they know that raising awareness for Autism is important to me and my family.  Many people have asked why.  Do your kids have autism they ask?  The answer is thankfully no.  But that doesn’t mean someone who I know and care about isn’t affected by autism.

One in 88 kids are born and diagnosed with some form of autism.  That’s up from one in 100.  The numbers are staggering when you think about it.  As I talk about autism at events, fundraisers, at council meetings or just speaking with friends, many of them are surprised by that number and the fact its changing…in the wrong direction.

As I said before, thankfully my children are not affected by autism, but you don’t have to go too far outside of your circle of friends to find someone who is.  I have a number of very close friends who have to deal with an autistic child on a daily basis.  What you or I would consider to be a “normal” life with our kids dealing with soccer, football, hockey, gymnastics practices on a weekly basis, parents of autistic children would beg for that kind of normalcy in their life.

I have had the pleasure of meeting so many parents of autistic children over the last few years while helping out Autism Halton and with every parent I speak with there’s a sense of frustration & optimism as well.

Their lives are so structured and defined that if the proverbial “monkey wrench” was tossed into their lives it would be a catastrophe.  But still they move forward.  Move forward with the hope that one day their son or daughter will navigate through the fog.  Their day to day lives take a toll on friendships, marriages and work life.  The much needed therapy for their children can cost them thousands of dollars a month.

Even with all of this going against them, they keep moving forward.  Most recently at the 13th Annual Halton Police fundraiser for Autism I had a chance to meet with so many parents and their stories were the same.  Tales of frustration and of hope.  But the one common thing I got from them all…they are no different than parents of children without autism.  There has always been a “stigma” with autistic kids.  Must be bad parenting…they cant control their kids…they’re so disruptive.  These parents only wish people would understand.

That’s where awareness comes in.  If more people knew about autism they would understand.  The “stigma” of being bad parents can be lifted and they can continue to move forward.  Some of these wonderful people feel like they’re alone in the world since not everyone understands what they go through.  That needs to change.

I’m so glad the local paper is doing this 4 part series on autism.  Please read it and pass it on to your friends.  Your understanding will go a long way in the lives of parents with autistic children.  They wont feel so isolated and the stigma can be lifted.  Awareness is the first step…so please read on.

Catherine O’Hara and Julie Slack, METROLAND WEST MEDIA GROUP

Trying to piece together the autism puzzle – Navigating Through the Fog, a four-part Metroland series on austism spectrum disorder.

Somewhere in Ontario, a child would rather line up his toy cars than navigate them through an invisible maze.

Somewhere in Ontario, a mother looks at her child and instinctively wonders. A doctor tells a father they should wait and see.

Somewhere in Ontario, the diagnosis is confirmed — autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Approximately one in every 100 children lives with autism, a neuro-developmental spectrum disorder that impedes a person’s ability to communicate and make friends.

Statistics indicate about one per cent of the population is on the spectrum. In Hamilton, some 5,000 individuals are caught in its fog.

The cause of the disorder remains unknown, but researchers believe the secret is in the genes. With no cure for autism, families affected by the disorder have turned to a variety of therapies that have proven successful in alleviating its wide-ranging symptoms. But accessing help is easier said than done.

Navigating Through the Fog, a four-part Metroland series on the spectrum disorder, attempts to piece together the puzzle of autism.

• • •

Little Max Carefoot was just a tot when his mom Katrina and dad Scott suspected their son’s development was lagging compared to that of his peers. The blond-haired boy with beautiful doe eyes wasn’t talking, didn’t respond to his name and didn’t offer eye contact.

The Carefoots struggled with the notion something was impeding Max’s development. Doctors weren’t sympathetic. They wouldn’t entertain autism spectrum disorder as a possibility.

“Our doctor was telling us milestones go six months either way. I’m going through my autism checklist saying, ‘Hey, look buddy, he meets all the criteria,’” said the Oakville mom. “We just weren’t taken serious(ly) as first-time parents.”

Families across Hamilton and Halton share similar stories.

In Milton, Ana Bejarano and her husband, Antonio Herrera, did just about everything to soothe their fussy toddler, Lucas. At 18 months, the young boy was getting very little shuteye, would shy away from any touch, didn’t point to objects or people, and wouldn’t respond to his name. Lucas was also very rigid in his play and suffered meltdowns for no reason.

“The doctor said he’s just eccentric,” said Bejarano. “She took the wait-and-see approach.”

This approach, according to medical experts, is common, as family doctors don’t often feel comfortable making the diagnosis. Many believe a specialist is better qualified to do so.

“I didn’t know it was autism, but I knew enough that something was really wrong,” she said.

Dorian Poe, 9, is a Burlington boy who was diagnosed with ASD when he was in Grade 1. It took several years for the long-awaited answer to his tantrums and fits that left the family reeling since he was a toddler.

“He was hurting inside and he’s frustrated, but we never knew why,” said Dorian’s mom, Christine Poe.

Obtaining a diagnosis is a long, taxing journey. According to these three families, the wait was roughly two years. They decided they couldn’t waste any more time.

The Carefoots sought the advice of a medical professional trained to identify autism, the Milton couple opted to pay out-of-pocket for answers, while the Poes just kept pressing their family pediatrician.

“When we got the diagnosis, it was like death to me,” said Bejarano. “We both cried.”

As devastating as it is, the diagnosis is also a relief, allowing families to inch forward down the long, winding road towards solutions.

“I wasn’t comfortable starting behaviour therapy without a diagnosis,” said Carefoot. “Once he got that, we just went full steam ahead.”

• • •

Autism is a lifespan disorder — one its victims must deal with their entire lives. It originates in the brain and changes with development. Severity of symptoms experienced by infants, children, adolescents and adults vary widely, hence the designation of autism as a “spectrum” disorder.

In the U.S., statistics indicate one in 88 children have ASD. “This is a huge epidemic,” said Bejarano.

North of the border, however, Dr. Peter Szatmari, McMaster University’s expert on spectrum disorders and director of the Offord Centre for Child Studies, suspects the figures are more like one in 100.

ASD is prevalent in today’s society. But this doesn’t mean that the condition is on the rise. “Most of the increase is accounted for by better recognition, better diagnostic criteria, understanding what autism looks like in the very young and in older individuals and in those with other conditions like Down’s syndrome and cerebral palsy,” said Szatmari.

Trish Simons, president of Autism Ontario’s Hamilton-Wentworth chapter and mom to three boys on the spectrum, thinks there’s more to the increase than better diagnostic tools.

“When my children were diagnosed, it was one in 15,000. Thirteen or fourteen years later, it’s one in 88,” said Simons. “You can’t just tell me that in 13 years boom, everybody’s figured out this is how we diagnose it.”

Changes in risk factors, such as environmental influences, increased frequency of in vitro fertilization and older parents could contribute to autism’s pervasiveness against the background of genetic vulnerability, explained Szatmari. Yet, much about ASD remains to be determined as medical researchers continue to explore its mysteries to develop better ways to treat it.

Next week, Navigating Through the Fog looks into the traditional therapies available for those living with autism, their successes and the hardship parents face when accessing therapies and funding.

Halton Region Announces 311 Service

Halton launches 311 service

Halton Region is making it easier for residents to connect to programs and services.

It has launched the 311 non-emergency service online, which allows residents to find, pay, register, report or request services from the Region, Halton Regional Police, or local municipalities.

Residents can now either dial 311 or visit www.halton.ca/311 to access all eight Halton government partners (Regional and local municipal governments, Halton Regional Police Service, Halton District School Board and Halton Catholic District School Board) and find out more about recycling and waste pick-up or register for parenting or parks and recreation programs.

Customer Service is a priority of Halton Region’s Citizens’ Priorities (2011-2014) Action Plan. Last year, more than 290,000 residents called Access Halton for information about programs and services.

What is 311?

  • 311 is an easy-to-remember, three-digit, non-emergency telephone number that offers a single window of direct access to Halton government services.
  • 311 provides free, multilingual assistance to anyone calling from within Halton.
  • It allows citizens to request a service or receive general information.

Whose services can I access by dialing 311?

  • Halton Region
  • City of Burlington
  • Town of Halton Hills
  • Town of Milton
  • Town of Oakville
  • Halton District School Board
  • Halton Catholic District School Board
  • Halton Regional Police Service (non-emergency calls)

Why do we need 311?

  • 311 means you don’t need to know which Halton government provides a particular service. You don’t have to sort through dozens of telephone numbers to find the people you need to talk to.
  • 311 also provides an easy-to-remember telephone number for non-emergency police calls which will reduce the burden of non-emergency calls made to 9-1-1.

How does 311 work?

  • 311 calls will be answered by customer service representatives in Access Halton.
  • While 311 is a program of Halton Region, callers will be able to access the programs and services provided by any of the eight partner organizations:
    • Regional and Local Municipal governments
    • Halton Regional Police Service
    • Halton District School Board
    • Halton Catholic District School Board
  • The customer service representatives will use a powerful database of about 1,500 records to respond to your inquiries on a vast array of Halton government services.

What are some examples of 311 calls?

  • reports of potholes
  • questions on site plan applications
  • location and hours of libraries
  • requests to register for parks and recreation programs
  • complaints about parking bylaw infractions
  • reports of stolen property after an event has occurred
  • requests to hire police officers for special events
  • reports of motor vehicle accidents
  • queries on police security checks
  • reports of suspected food poisoning
  • queries about well water
  • requests to book travel health clinic appointments
  • reports of dog bites
  • requests for financial assistance
  • queries on child development
  • queries on road construction projects
  • reports of sewer backup
  • reports of missed garbage collection
  • queries on acceptable items for recycling

What are the hours of operation?

  • You can dial 311 any time and speak to a live person.
  • Regular business hours of 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
  • After regular business hours, only those of an urgent nature will be handled.

Will 311 work from cell phones, payphones, etc.?

  • Yes.

Can I still call the city or town directly using the ten digit number I have previously used to reach them?

  • Yes, and if you know the name of the person you wish to speak to, you should always call the ten-digit numbers.

Region of Halton Approves 3 Bag Limit

Recently the Region of Halton made a presentation to the Planning & Public Works committee outlining possible changes to the bag limit for Halton residents.  Currently the limit is 6 bags per pick up (biweekly) along with weekly Blue Box and Green Cart pick ups.  According to the staff report roughly 85% of Halton residents put out 3 or less bags of garbage per pickup which has helped extend the life of the Halton landfill.

There has been a very in depth discussion regarding this proposal on the Hawthorne Villager.  See that thread here.

At the Halton Region Council meeting earlier this month, they approved these new measures.

Here is a link to the video of the meeting which will include the staff presentation as well as potential costs of another landfill site, exemptions for the 3 bag limit as well as costs of the program.  This will end up costing roughly $650K per year to implement this program, bag tags, education but, according to staff reports, save millions of dollars in future costs of transportation of waste and costs for a new landfill.


If you skip forward to the 20 minute mark, you will see the beginning of the staff presentation.  Comments made by a Milton regional councillor during the recorded vote stage begin at the 55 minute mark of the video.

Following the decision, here is an article from Juila Le from the Milton Canadian Champion

Region imposes garbage bag limit to boost waste diversion

Halton regional council unanimously passed a motion to have the bi-weekly garbage bag limit decrease from six bags to three for curbside garbage collection Wednesday.

Residents will see the new restrictions and the introduction of a bag tags program come into effect April 1, 2013.

Waste management staff presented two related reports to council outlining their recommendations, which were previously supported by Halton Region’s planning and public works committee.

Any bag above the three-bag limit will require a bag tag, which will be complimentary to residents for five months while the Region rolls out its promotion and education component of the program. Bag tags will likely be distributed at the Halton Region Administration Centre, the Halton Waste Management Site, waste management truckload events, municipal community centres, public libraries and online through the Region’s website. After the phase-in period, households will be required to purchase the bag tags for each garbage bag that exceeds the three-bag limit on their scheduled collection day. Starting September 9, 2013, tags will cost $2. For those living in a townhouse with common pile collection areas, a limit of three bags per unit will also apply, however townhouse residents won’t be able to use the bag tags.

Other exemptions include complimentary diaper/medical condition tags provided to approved applicants and a grace period of two weeks following the December holiday. Reiterating his point made at a similar presentation to planning and public works committee members late last month,  Rob Rivers, Halton’s director of waste management, said the new garbage bag limit and bag tag program is one of the key components in meeting the Region’s goal of diverting 65 per cent of waste from its landfills by 2016.

He said implementing the recommendations would also add an additional four years to the Region’s landfill, expanding its life to 2044.

Council also heard from Rivers that the overall cost savings by extending the life of the landfill from 2040 to 2044 would be about $15 million. He mentioned replacing the landfill in 2040 is estimated to be more than $750 million.

In backing staff recommendations, Rivers said 85 per cent of homes already place three bags or less of garbage out for collection every other week.  He added that while 95 per cent of residents place a Blue Box out for collection every week and 70 per cent of residents place a GreenCart out for collection every week, the average garbage bag still contains 13 per cent of Blue Box material and 29 per cent of GreenCart material.

Rivers said he believes more education and the expansion of the Blue Box program — to include mixed plastics like clear clamshells, yogurt and pudding cups, empty steel paint cans and cardboard spiral cans — will help decrease the amount of Blue Box and GreenCart materials being put in garbage bags. The new 22-gallon Blue Box will accommodate additional volume as well.

Before the motion was put to a vote, Burlington Councillor Marianne Meed Ward asked if illegal dumping would increase. Rivers replied that other municipalities that have gone through similar changes have seen a small spike in illegal dumping, but over time, “that delinquent behaviour” starts to peter out.

Waste management staff will report back to council about details of the three garbage bag limit and the bag tags program implementation and communications plan later this fall.

Halton Region Community Investment Fund

In the next of his series of videos, Regional Chair Gary Carr highlights the value of just some of the organizations that benefit from the Halton Region Community Investment Fund.

The Halton Region Community Investment Fund (HRCIF) supports non-profit community health and social service programs aligned with strategic directions in The Citizens’ Priorities – Halton Region’s 2011-2014 Action Plan.

HRCIF provides:

– one-time grants for a maximum of 1 year and up to $20,000 that fund community health and social service programs aligned with funding priorities for short-term, time-limited, small capital and/or innovative projects.

– multi-year funding aligned with the term of Council and up to $125,000/year to non-profit, charitable, community health and social service programs aligned with funding priorities.

The next call for proposals will be in 2013 for one-time grants and 2015 for multi-year funding.

In this video he shows what the investment fund can do for two local Halton organizations, one of which is MCRC (Milton Community Resource Centre)  As part of my official duties as local councillor for the Town of Milton, I am a board member of MCRC and very impressed at the quality of child care they provide the children.

Have a look at the video and if you want any information on the Halton Region Community Investment Fund, you can send me an email mike@mikecluett.ca