ACT – Autism Community Training is Canada’s leading independent, not-for-profit specializing in evidence-informed research and resources to support individuals with disabilities/diverse abilities and their families, as well as community professionals. In addition to our guides, live events, web streaming, and videos, ACT provides an unrivaled information portal that responds to the diverse needs of our communities across the lifespan, in multiple languages.
As visitors on this land, ACT – Autism Community Training is grateful for the opportunity to work and learn on the ancestral and unceded territory of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, xʷməθkʷəy̓əm and səlilwətaɬ people who have lived in this area since before recorded time. These nations are hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh speaking peoples. The hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh languages are part of the Salish Language family, which dates back many millennia. We pay our respects to elders past, and to those present and emerging. ACT is committed to addressing the recommendations arising from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action, as well as the British Columbia (BC) Declaration Act Action Plan.
ACT is a registered charity. Our Charitable Tax Number is: #861691236RR0001.
ACT’s Board and Staff are committed to the future
ACT is most grateful to our members, donors, sponsors, presenters, and community partners including researcher practitioners and Autistic adults, and all who volunteer their time and expertise. Together, we present evidence-based research and resources that would not be possible without these relationships.
ACT continues to respond to the acute need for resources and training and in 2024, with your support, ACT will continue with our important work.
In 2023, ACT strengthened partnerships
- United with community partners across disabilities and diverse abilities to become a founding member of the British Columbia Disability Collaborative
- Provided financial support to recommit our affiliation with First Call Child and Youth Advocacy Society and regularly attend First Call meetings.
- Provided financial support to BCEdAccess Society to help fund BCEdAccess & BC People First AdvoCon2023: Breaking Barriers Together, presented by Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
Improving Communication Access with ASL & CART
ACT worked to address communication barriers by bringing in American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreters & Computer Access Real-Time (CART) Captioning Services for all events. In addition, ACT has recruited volunteers to help translate emails and assist with phone calls to remove barriers for callers learning English.
Autistic Representation & Neurodiversity Affirming Content
ACT has formed an Autistic Advisory Committee, which will provide us with the opportunity to learn from Autistic people as they share their opinions and perspectives, study issues, and develop recommendations for services and training. ACT recognizes the importance of presenters with lived experience, and so as we are planning events, we are aiming to ensure one or more of the presenters is Autistic. Moving into the new year, ACT will be bringing in presenters to provide neurodiversity affirming content that speaks to Autism Acceptance and Autistic strengths, and the value of diversity. We do not speak for this community. Instead, we listen, we learn and we collaborate to improve therapeutic practices and acceptance.
Connecting with rural, remote & Indigenous Communities
ACT has been connecting with members of rural, remote, and Indigenous communities to better understand barriers that prevent members from accessing resources and workshops. ACT is exploring ways to offer face-to-face support, resources, and training by working with community leaders and Elders to form trusting relationships and traveling to remote communities. ACT has established a relationship with Helicopters Without Borders to help facilitate this vital work. ACT has formed an Indigenous Advisory Committee that we hope will help guide the supports that we offer and ensure that we are true to community needs. Building relationships of respect will enable us to continue our collaborative learning journey.
Creating Community Connections
ACT has joined multiple Boards of Trade to stay informed and current alongside local businesses, and to help our organization thrive, and in turn more effectively support our members. These connections will allow us to grow our network by connecting with local businesses through volunteer committees and engaging events; and accessing training sessions to participate in personal and professional development opportunities. ACT has been invited to connect with community through radio ads and interviews about our events, supports and services:
- Tips and best practices for transitioning from school time to summer for Autistic kids on 5 regional Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) early morning editions
- Autism Sexual Health and Safety, on Pulse 107.7 FM, and Sher E Punjab AM 600.
Community Training & Events
In response to survey feedback, ACT provided presentations on navigating the public education system, transitioning to adulthood, physio activities, social thinking, executive functioning, and are tackling sensitive topics such as sexual health, gender diversity, mental health, and suicide.
ACT has provided community outreach support to both public and private sectors of education within British Columbia and now offer Low Arousal Training, in partnership with Surrey Schools. ACT also provides Practical Functional Assessment/Skill Based Treatment support, and moving forward will be doing so in collaboration with community service providers.
In 2023, ACT’s events provided:
- 9,250 hours (over 1 year) of training for 1,600 people, online and in-person.
- 8 evidence-informed training opportunities featuring provincial and international experts on a range of topics.
- ACT introduced a new free series: “ACT Chats”. ACT chats are quarterly training opportunities that provide the community with vital information based on subscriber requests.
- Self-care for Autistic children, youth, and adults and recommendations for friends and family members, led by an Autistic adult, in response to your questions.
- Web-streamed 8 events to reach a larger audience.
Providing Event Bursaries
- ACT Provided $28,375 in bursaries for 90 attendees in the Indigenous community and will continue to support the Indigenous community by providing full bursaries for registration costs.
- ACT Provided $26,200 in bursaries to 123 attendees of families where registration costs were a barrier.
Information & Resources
Twenty years ago, reliable information and training for families was painfully scarce. Today, the landscape has been transformed and ‘information’ is everywhere. With hundreds of millions of hits for a Google search for “Autism”, however, many families may not be able to discern reliable sources.
ACT provides a vital non-commercial alternative to a random Google search – a portal to reputable online resources, in multiple languages. Furthermore, we are working with local research practitioners and other community partners to highlight the evidence-informed innovations that are being implemented. We are also exploring the application of additional types of content, such as expansion of our YouTube channel and incorporating the use of blog posts and podcasts, as well as Learning Management Systems, to be more interactive and reach an even wider audience.
- Autism & Intellectual Disability Search: A unique online portal that allows users to keyword search:
- 1,700 Information Resources records containing evidence-based, practical, information resources in over 40 languages,940 community resources in British Columbia.280 Research Resources from recognized scientists/scholars in the field
- Hundreds of current newspapers and magazines articles from Canadian and International Sources. News items are updated automatically from reputed sources like Spectrum, Science Daily, Autism Awareness and general sites like the CBC or The Guardian.
BC Community Resources
- Added a Chinese-language version of the 新診斷中心 New Diagnosis Hub
- Community Events
- New diagnosis hub
- Transition to Adulthood Hub
- Participate in Autism Research
- Opportunities for Individuals with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) – post-secondary
- Post-Secondary Programs for Professionals
ACT on Facebook
On ACT’s facebook page, we reach 9,300 people around the world with resources and important news. In 2023, ACT created more than 300 informative and engaging posts that reached 90,000 people. Now that Meta has banned Canadian news sources from Facebook, we are seeking new and creative ways to inform our followers on the latest Autism news and resources, such as through blogs and posting collections of news and resources to our email newsletter.
Autism Videos @ ACT (AVA)
- Offered 85 free online videos and edited versions of our live events, available on Autism Videos @ ACT.
- Added 5 new videos in 2023:
- Partnered with First Things First Behavioral Consulting to have 40-hours of video content captioned in English with American Sign Language (ASL) translations by Nigel Howard and Rhys McCormick. We anticipate completing this project in early 2024.
- All AVA videos are now available on the ACT – Autism Community Training YouTube channel.
Why is ACT committed to continuing as an independent voice for people with diverse abilities or disabilities?
ACT’s approach and the resources built over more than a decade, with the help of so many, are not duplicated by government or by other agencies. As a not-for-profit led by a committed Board of Directors, ACT engages in the creative, cost-effective use of web-based technology, online information databases and social media, with the support of a network of experts who volunteer their time.
ACT can play a role to support families and professionals internationally
We see ACT evolving to play an important role nationally and internationally – there is a vacuum of readily accessible evidence-based practice information and training world-wide, especially in languages other than English. For these reasons, ACT is committed to continuing to build our resources and expand our reach. To do so, we need to diversify our income, which is why we are appealing to the families and professionals who make use of our services, as well as to foundations and private companies.
Looking to the future
What we know about Autism and other neurodiversities is continually evolving, in part thanks to Autistic adults who offer valuable first-hand perspectives. As we work alongside and learn from people with lived experience, we are changing the way we talk about autism.
One key area that we are focusing our attention on is “diagnostic “labels and how those without a label treat those in receipt of a label, which in turn impacts how those with labels see themselves (McCrimmon et al., 2023). A related area for attention is “functioning” labels. The autism spectrum has often been thought of as a continuum with “high functioning” at one end and “low functioning” at the other. This type of conceptualization connotes a value judgment, is imprecise (e.g., two “high functioning” Autistic adults may have vastly different strengths and support needs), and draws attention away from the very challenges Autistic people face (Jaswal & Graham, 2023).
The use of the term “special needs”, which was originally “intended as a euphemism to refer to a disabled person or a person with a specific disability” (Jaswal & Graham, 2023, p. 16) is today viewed negatively in that it is “patronizing and condescending’ (Gernsbacher et al., 2016, as cited in Jaswal & Graham, 2023). Finally, we are aiming to describe and present Autistic people as they are without using deficit-based language that is potentially dehumanizing language.
What ACT provides cannot be duplicated by a government service. As a dynamic, community-based organization that respects families, self-advocates and professionals, ACT has earned the respect of the community. With your support we will continue this vital work and make it available to families across Canada and internationally.
Donate to become a ‘Friend of ACT’
ACT must continue to build independent sources of funding if we are to continue our work long-term. Please consider a monthly or one-time donation so that we can build a sustainable financial future for what is a unique information service. For ACT’s current fundraising priorities please visit Donate to ACT – Autism Community Training
Sponsorship & Partnerships
Thank you to POPARD (Provincial Outreach Program for Autism and Related Disorders) who sponsored ACT’S 2023 Training Opportunities and will continue this generous sponsorship in 2024.
Thank you to Simon Fraser University Autism and Developmental Disabilities Lab (ADDL) and the Provost and Vice President Academic’s 2023/2024 Conference Fund.
Thank you to St. Francis in the Wood Church in West Vancouver, for providing financial support through your legacy fund.
Thank you to First Things First Behavioral Consulting (FTF) for providing free access to video recordings that are being English captioned and translated into ASL. Once complete, FTF will permit free access to anyone accessing these videos through the ACT website.
Thank you to the Government of BC for providing funding through Gaming Grants.
Sponsorship allows ACT to provide more training opportunities. For more information on how you or your organization could be involved in sponsoring ACT’s online or live events, visit our sponsorship information page.
Other ways to support ACT’s Mission – Volunteer
ACT is a small organization with a large presence because of the support we receive from our volunteers, donors and sponsors. Collectively these efforts enrich our services immeasurably.
ACT recognizes the challenging work of all our volunteers who have dedicated their time to supporting our training and services.
To explore volunteer opportunities at ACT, visit Volunteering for ACT.
Support ACT by giving feedback
Get involved with ACT’s future by filling out this short survey. We are interested in the areas in which you note achievements, and more importantly, where, from your perspective, you would like us to focus more of our resources in the future.