With the recent opening of Pacific Autism Network, a non-profit organization, families of autistic individuals will have access to various adaptive programs, such as Employment Works, Worktopia, and a social club geared specifically towards females with autism. Apart from this there is a children’s treatment centre and a dental clinic for autistic individuals. Many programs are still in the works and have not yet been added to the website.
The centre is located at 3688 Cessna Drive Richmond, B.C. V7B 1C7. It is easily accessible by transit or car. According to a 2015 online article for Global News, approximately $28-million was invested in the construction of the facility. The centre was completed by November 2016, but just recently opened its doors to the public.
As the diagnostic rate of autism and related disabilities continues to increase, there is a higher demand for a support network. Autism is one of the most common neurological conditions amongst children, young adults, and adolescents. It is a life-long disability, and unfortunately the cause is still unknown. “The Pacific Autism Network aims to create liveable communities where everyone (regardless of culture, socio-economic status or barrier) can be an active member and feel connected. These connections should be made through active public spaces, employment opportunities, social connections, and appropriate housing”, explains Anjela Godber, the outreach manager at Pacific Autism Network.
“I have worked in the non-profit service sector with families and individuals experiencing barriers for 22-years”, she adds. “When I noticed that individuals and families were beginning to feel disconnected and excluded from their communities, I decided to get involved in this field of work. At the moment, Godber is working with 72 adults with autism in search of employment and other needed services. “Working with adults who experience significant anxiety and depression is very difficult”, Godber stated. Many of these adults have expressed a high desire for work, yet are still struggling to overcome anxiety. Going to a job interview and starting the first day of work can be stressful. The main goal is finding a service or employment program that is suitable to an individual’s needs. Their job needs to be maintainable and an appropriate fit. “Some participants have tried out certain jobs, even though they were not super excited about that particular venue. A few realized they enjoyed the work placement and have continued with it”.
In her spare time, Godber enjoys reading, knitting, and listening to the 1980’s New Waves. Her favourite author is Miriam Teows. She also admires, Jane Jacobs who is an expert on community engagement and liveable spaces. Her favourite community events are “car free days” in Vancouver and farmer’s markets. “As an individual in my field of work, I would like to note that there are less spaces for cars and more spaces for social interaction and getting to know your neighbours. When people start to feel an increased level of social isolation and disconnect from one another – this can exacerbate levels of depression and anxiety. We need more public engagement spaces to get to know one another. Perhaps the front of coffee shops, cafes and small markets. That way we can create more natural social environments that are more comforting to individual who struggle socially. Everyone needs to feel some sense of connection to others, regardless of their level of social skills”, concludes Godber.
The Pacific Autism Network’s front receptionist, Abbe Gates has two special needs children, one of whom works at the centre alongside her. “I have been working here for 6 months. My passion is helping other families with their special needs kids”, explained Gates. The most difficult aspect of her job is hearing heartbreaking stories of how families are so lost in their journey with autism. “Seeing families smile after I talk to them is rewarding for me. I love all the events we do at Pacific Autism Network”, she added. In her spare time, Gates enjoys scrapbooking with her daughter. “I would like children, families and other professionals to come to our centre. Everyone fits it here. There is no judgement. It’s a safe environment for all individuals, especially those who are autistic”, Gates concluded.
To learn more about the Pacific Autism Centre, families can visit their website at pacificautismfamily.com. Gates offers tours of the centre from Monday to Wednesday. This is a wonderful opportunity for families to learn more about the Pacific Autism Centre. Families will also have the chance to address questions and concerns to the Pacific Autism staff. If you are in the area, be sure to stop and visit the facility. The staff will kindly welcome you.