FREDERICTON (GNB) – The legislature will be lit up in blue on Monday night to mark World Autism Awareness Day, held annually on April 2.

“As autism spectrum disorder is one of the most common developmental disorders, public awareness is the best way to ensure an early diagnosis and intervention for children affected,” said Speaker of the legislative assembly Chris Collins. ‟I invite New Brunswickers to learn more about autism and to show their support to the families affected.”

The social and communication disorder becomes noticeable in childhood, usually before a child turns two years old. Differences in the nervous system and brain make a person act or communicate differently than others. These behaviours can happen in various settings, such as school, home or work, and continue from childhood into adulthood.

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development administers the Preschool Autism Program, which provides early intensive behaviour intervention. Each child’s behaviour, learning and development are assessed to develop a personalized learning plan.

In 2017, the government introduced an enhanced model for the program that increased per-child funding from $27,500 to almost $33,000, standardized services across the province, and incorporated new evidence-based practices.

‟Your government knows the importance of providing the right services to all preschool-aged children who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder,ˮ said Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Brian Kenny. ‟Our intervention program is unique in Canada because it provides up to 20 hours a week of intensive behavioural intervention as soon as a child is diagnosed.”

The program serves more than 700 children per year.

In addition, the government continues to invest in training for people working with children with autism. A team supports training for preschool autism agency personnel and school professionals across the seven school districts as part of the Provincial Autism Training Framework.

An introductory online training program for school personnel, which was developed by New Brunswick professionals and is endorsed by international experts in the field, is also available across the Atlantic provinces.