Author Archives: ACT

COVID-19  – Advice for the Autism Community 

Dr Anthony Bailey, Professor and Chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia is well known to the autism community. Dr. Bailey has kindly written an article for us that is helpful as we all struggle to support our families in this time of uncertainty.

Worldwide, families are experiencing a sudden change in their life situation. Nearly a billion children are out of school. Recreation centres, restaurants and cafés are shutting their doors, many workers are being sent home or laid off, and in some countries the entire population is being asked to stay at home. There are numerous reliable sources of information about COVID-19 in the mainstream media and on government websites; the purpose of this brief piece is simply to draw attention to some issues that might crop up in families affected by ASD.

One of the clearest relevant fact sheets about the virus is written by a colleague, who draws attention to how anxiety and fearful reactions are contagious and can be counterproductive in managing the current situation. Helping individuals with ASD get through this disruption in part relies on our own ability to stay calm and to model sensible behaviours; indeed, as at other times, strategies that are helpful for people with ASD are often beneficial for us all.

The closure of public and private places to decrease the risk of viral transmission is disrupting many family routines, which by itself is stressful, often particularly so for individuals with ASD. Consequently, it is helpful to almost everyone to keep to as many old routines as possible and to substitute new ones if necessary. Sticking to the usual sleeping and waking times, and planning to vary meal times as little as possible, keeps the normal reference points of our day. Getting dressed, even if we are not expecting to leave the house, also keeps us in touch with our usual behaviours.

With regard to youngsters who may be out of school for quite some time, we don’t know yet just how much use the different school boards will make of remote learning, but this may be slow to kick in, or only keep children occupied for a limited number of hours. So, it may be necessary to arrange some types of home-based structured activities in order to minimize the possibility of more time spent on repetitive behaviours or obsessional interests.

When both parents are at work, or in working single-parent households, it may be possible to ask for help from local older teenagers who are out of school, or indeed from adults who have been sent home from their own jobs. Of course, this could be the moment to encourage children and youth to play their part by helping with every day household tasks and acknowledging their contribution. For some individuals it might be appropriate to help older people in the community who are staying at home, perhaps by running errands, walking dogs, doing yard work etc. These strategies may not be relevant for some less able individuals, and although individual therapists may have to cease their contact with child and youth clients, their expert knowledge about the individual can still be tapped for suggestions for appealing activities.

Many people are anxious about contracting the virus. Additionally, the pandemic is figuring so prominently in the media that it is very hard to resist the temptation to update ourselves far too often. If this is a problematic behavior for someone with ASD, then a helpful strategy can be to suggest checking on the news just once or twice a day; but if that fails limiting access to electronic media may be helpful, although possibly liable to cause some friction! There is also the potential for repetitive questioning about the pandemic, or an overdeveloped sense of risk or vulnerability, particularly in individuals who already worry about their health or have OCD. As with other types of repetitive questioning, it can be helpful to allocate a limited time at a fixed point in the day (after the evening meal often works well) when questions can be asked and answered.

Many individuals with ASD prefer certainty, whereas at this stage of the pandemic so much is uncertain. Providing false reassurance nearly always backfires, and it is generally more helpful in the long run to say when some things are unknown, such as when life will get back to normal. We can, however, be clear about some things. COVID-19 is unlike the worst pandemic of modern times -the Spanish Flu of 1918. That influenza outbreak was particularly virulent in young adults, whereas the vast majority of younger people who contract COVID-19 will have a relatively mild illness. The reason that governments worldwide are taking such far-reaching precautionary measures is to protect the elderly and people with serious medical conditions, who appear to be particularly vulnerable to developing a severe illness. That is why visits to or by grandparents are being discouraged, but we can still stay in touch by phone or other media. For younger, or less verbally able individuals, Social Stories can be an effective way of explaining why something invisible has had such a big impact on our lives.

This morning when I asked a family member who is also a lawyer, what areas of legal work she thought were likely to increase because of the pandemic, she immediately replied Divorce! We are not use to being cooped up with our families for so long and sometimes our nerves can start to fray. That makes it particularly important to create some personal space for each family member, but also to make sure (whilst we are still allowed) that we all leave the house for a reasonably long period of time each day. Exercise is an effective stress reducer and we can still take it whilst maintaining a reasonable physical distance from other people.

We are fortunate to be living in a highly developed country with a good health system. For the overwhelming majority of us the stories we will tell about this period in the years to come will be about our individual privations and our ingenuity, rather than the effects upon our physical health. We need to keep upbeat and take good care of ourselves if we are going to help individuals with ASD get through the pandemic without too much stress.

COVID-19: Practical Advice, ACT’s Advocacy, and Specialized Resources

ACT is gathering information to support families during the COVID-19 crisis, including resources specific to those who are neuro-diverse and useful general resources. Our COVID-19 Resources page will be updated as new resources come in.

COVID-19 Advisory

ACT’s Live Events – April events postponed; In-person attendance suspended

ACT has suspended two events scheduled for April 2020, as it is unlikely that Simon Fraser University will be available. We are providing full refunds to registrants. Our May 22, 2020 event, Advocating within BC’s Ministry of Children and Family Development – A Workshop for Parents, is still open for registrations but will be available via web streaming only. We will keep all registrants updated as that date draws closer. In-person attendance will resume when the provincial government allows.  For information on ACT’s web streaming program, visit ACT Live Web Streaming.

We urge everyone to follow the best practices listed below as compliance will dramatically lessen the effect of COVID-19 on our citizens – especially those who are the most vulnerable.

Visit COVID-19 – Resources for the Autism Community for information to support families during the COVID-19 crisis, including resources specific to those who are neuro-diverse and useful general resources

3 Spring Events | Submit Your Events, Resources, and Research | Autism in the News

Upcoming Events – Spring 2020


Positive Behavior Support – A Practical Introduction for Parents & Caregivers

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

Vancouver, BC & Webstreaming!
View details & registration

blankAn Introduction to Autism and Anxiety – from Research to the Classroom

Friday, April 24th, 2020

Vancouver, BC & Webstreaming!
View details & registration

blankAdvocating within BC’s Ministry of Children and Family Development – A Workshop for Parents

Friday, May 22nd, 2020

Vancouver, BC & Webstreaming!
View details & registration

Save the Date! – Events in the coming year

Details & registration coming soon


Thursday & Friday, August 20 & 21, 2020

Two Days of Social Thinking:
A Focus on Emotions

Surrey, BC & Webstreaming
Presented by Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP


Thursday & Friday, October 22 & 23, 2020

Educational Forum – Future Of Special Education In B.C.

Vancouver, BC & Webstreaming


Thursday & Friday, November 5 & 6, 2020

Supporting Early So cial and Communication Development through Parent Coaching

Vancouver, BC & Webstreaming

Friday, November 27, 2020


Parents are Teachers Too! PBS Scenarios in the Home and Community

Vancouver, BC & Webstreaming

Brenda Fossett, PhD, BCBA-D

blankThursday & Friday, February 4 & 5, 2021

Toilet Training For Everyone – Revised And Expanded

Vancouver, BC & Webstreaming

Presented by Pat Mirenda, PhD, BCBA-D and Katie Rinald, BCBA

Does your organization have an event, resource listing, or research project to list on ACT’s website?

ACT supports the autism community with special sections on our website for contributions from organizations, researchers, support groups, service providers, and educational training & employment opportunities. Submit to any of these sections:

Share Your April Autism Awareness Month Activities on our Community Events listing

ACT’s Special Needs Community Events listing shares event information from B.C. organizations. Are you planning anything for April to mark Autism Awareness Month? You are welcomed to submit your organization’s events.

Visit Special Needs Community Events to see what is happening around the province,

Participate in research

ACT encourages research that builds evidence-informed approaches to supporting individuals with autism and other conditions. We devote a page on ACT’s website to informing autistic adults and parents of children with ASD about university-affiliated projects which may be of interest.

Visit the Participate in Autism Research page to see all current research projects and project contact information. Submit your research project using our online form to submit your university-affiliated research projects related to the field of autism and special needs. It may take up to one week to post.

Submit a Community Resource to the BC Community Resources Database

ACT is continually adding to our community resources from throughout B.C. You can submit your recommendations for quality resources in your community for inclusion in the BC Community Resources Database. We also appreciate updates or corrections of existing community records.

Categories for submission include

Autism in the News

ACT carefully sources insightful stories, ranging from research and government policy, to the world of entertainment, culture, and lifestyle.

Join ACT’s Facebook page for all the latest updates.

Woman takes up law to fight for son with autism – BBC News

Canadians with lifelong disabilities can lose disability tax credit – Global News

Teachers encouraged by special-needs funding changes – Prince George Citizen

I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder – CBC Books

Girl Scout troop for children with special needs makes scouting ‘meaningful’ – Today

Malena Ernman on daughter Greta Thunberg: ‘She was slowly disappearing into some kind of darkness’ – The Guardian

Autistic teen faced relentless bullying since he came out at age 12. He died by suicide. – LGBTQ Nation

Melatonin may ease autistic children’s sleep troubles – Spectrum News

I’m Autistic, But I Didn’t Know It Until After Marriage And Kids – Yahoo

Thank you to Herring Sale volunteers, donors, and sponsors

The Staff and Board of ACT – Autism Community Training send out a big thank you to everyone who made the 2020 Herring for Autism Sale a resounding success – helping us to raise $20,000 to support ACT’s free evidence-based information services for families and community professionals across B.C. and around the world.

First and foremost, Kevin Smith, skipper of the Western Investor, based in Prince Rupert. Despite the aggressive sealions and the harsh weather last week, he managed to catch 20,000 lbs of herring from the Salish Sea before making a dash for Steveston as the weather deteriorated.

blankFrom Oceanside Fisheries, owners Mike Rekis and Anne McCaw, and all the intrepid herring unloaders and baggers – it was no small job to bag herring in the icy rain and snow last Friday: John Kitchen, Doug Shinde, Darrel Hills, Bob Macdonald, Len Fanning, Ken Johnson, Ken Yoshikawa, Rob Clarke, Paul Bevindick, Jim Cahill, Tim Edgington.

blankVital to our successful day were our volunteers who hoisted the 20 & 10 pound bags and wheelbarrowed the big orders out to the waiting vehicles, as well as translating, counting money and many other tasks: Anne Millerd, Nicole Provost, Brent Shirley, Paul Burns and his sons Nathan, Matthew, Dade and Jacob, Paige and Hannah Sharpe, Brennan Kovacevich, Karim Alrawi, Karen Wong, Abbey Rekis, Jenny Zhao and her daughter.

blankSpecial appreciation for the support we received from Leader Fishing Ltd and owner Erling Olsen, and the sponsorship from the General Manager of the Steveston Harbour Authority – Jamie Gusto. As well the media outlets, including Global TV, Stingray Radio and Fairchild Media who helped get the word out!

blankLast, but not least, we appreciate all of our customers and donors who made the day a very warm one for ACT despite the very cold temperatures. We are sorry that we ran out of fish (it was just too dangerous for Kevin to fill the hold) but we are hoping for better weather next year and more of the fresh and healthy herring!

Join our Herring for Autism Email List

We urge all herring connoisseurs to join our special Herring Email List and we will give you plenty of notice for the 2021 Herring Sale with how to pre-order online so that you can avoid the line-ups and be sure of your order!

Volunteers Needed for the Herring Sale – January 11

Support ACT this Saturday, January 11th at our 3rd Annual Herring Sale fundraiser! We need volunteers to help carry 20lb and 10lb bags to customers cars, help with directing customers, and general support!

There will be pizza, snacks, coffee, and beverages for volunteers, Volunteers can also take a free bag of herring home! The Herring Sale is from 8am-3:30pm. We ask volunteers to commit to a 3-4 hour shift.

Please email ACT at to volunteer or for more information. Visit the Herring Sale page for more details on the sale.