R Jeff introduced our virtual guests:
Ramela Garcia is the Fund and Volunteer Coordinator for Autism Ontario – Central East Region. She joined in August 2023 and collaborates with the Program and Volunteer Coordinator to support nine areas in Central East – Grey/Bruce Counties, Simcoe County, York Region, Durham Region, Kawartha Lakes, Haliburton County, Peterborough County and Northumberland County.
Ramela has a profound passion supporting the vulnerable sector with extensive experience in non-profit charitable community-based services.
She lives in Durham Region and has worked with Footprints 4 Autism that provides respite programs to families with autistic children and youth; Victim Services of Durham Region supporting victims of crime and tragic circumstance; and Durham Region Intimate-Violence Empowerment Network (DRIVEN) which is a one-stop hub that supports women and their children fleeing abuse.
Autism Ontario provides the opportunity for Ramela to connect and learn about the communities in Central East Region. Our region is supported by 2 staff and a team of dedicated volunteers. Our mission is to create a supportive and inclusive Ontario for autism. Central East Region does that by understanding our communities and aligning their needs through meaningful and memorable programs, offering safe spaces to connect, advocacy and awareness, and sharing resources to support their journey.
Tahseen Ali is the Fund and Volunteer Coordinator for Autism Ontario – East Region. She is one of two regional staff in Eastern Ontario and has been with the organization since October 2023. 
In 2017, she became a regular volunteer at a children’s palliative care hospice in Ottawa, and since then has had a special interest in the charitable and non-profit sectors. 
Graduating in 2020 with an Honours bachelor's degree in Cognitive Science, she finds meaningful work and much enjoyment within the non-profit sector, especially where she can impact the lives of equity-deserving groups, children in-need, and neurodiverse populations.
At Autism Ontario, she learns about and identifies the unique needs of autism families in the East region and works with program staff to sustain regional funding and maintain impactful programs that support education, wellness, and inclusivity. She also assists in volunteer recruitment and coordinates fundraising initiatives to ensure regional programs can continue to benefit autism families in the years to come. 
Autism Ontario work to support families and support persons as well as individuals with Autism, including fundraising.Tahseen focuses on eastern Ontario while Ramela focuses on the Central East region.
Autism Ontario was founded in 1973.  They advocate for all autistic people and work to address issues dealt with by the autistic and their families and supporters. Being Autistic means that their brains process differently.  Neurological condition is the preferred reference.  People who have these conditions also have certain strengths.  People with autism are often overwhelmed with sensory stimulus. Their objective to better understand and educate what Autism is and what it is not. They advocate for support for families and core care givers. They have a board of 12 including individuals on the spectrum, parents, care givers and professionals.
Autism is a life long condition. It is a neurological diversity. Everyone can thrive under the right conditions.
Based on a 2018 report, 1 in 66 are diagnosed on the spectrum, males are 4 times more than women.  The condition is diagnosed later and looks different in girls. 
1 in 50 children in Canada have ASD. 
The cause of Autism is not understood, although research is ongoing.  It is not an illness or disease.  It is not caused by vaccines, or parenting style. 
The organization relies on volunteers. They have fitness classes for kids, yoga, cookie decorating, pizza kits, game nights, peer support groups, caregiver support groups,
AO serves anyone who is waiting to be diagnoses, being diagnosed, or has been diagnoses. They work with anyone including those waiting for a diagnosis, they turn no one away.
They are looking for support in funding, and partnerships. They want to create greater awareness. Meetings are held in public buildings, to collaborate with the community. Brighton is under served.
AO has a website with lots of resources. They are trying to grow into smaller communities, but is dependent on funding.  Otherwise, people travel to the larger communities to access the events and assistance.
AO hopes that the Brighton Rotary will assist in building AO in the Brighton community.  People can subscribe to AO newsletters.  AO also has Facebook pages.
AO clients say that their children have fun and more confidence to go out in public and explore.
At the presentation, I discussed some of what we have offered in Northumberland. Our programs are fun, social and recreational that incorporate skill-based activities. For Brighton, we partnered with Ontario Parks to provide an educational morning discovering biodiversity at Presqu’ile Provincial Park. Activities included a nature walk, scavenger hunt, and catching/releasing butterflies, and exploring animal pelts and skulls. Families were invited to spend the day and explore the park at their leisure. We also had a family day of fun at Cricklewood Farm where they enjoyed a hunt through the orchard, packed a lunch to have a picnic and a walk in the corn mazes.
As mentioned, we have social peer support for moms (Ausome Moms group), dads (Rad Dads group), siblings (Sibshop) and caregivers (CARES program). The groups are extremely popular – they support, learn, and laugh together. It is a positive and supportive outlet for them that continues to grow.
Workshops are offered such as OAP Information Meet and Greet which is for the Ontario Autism Program that has undergone changes. It provides information on the program and assistance to navigate the system – information on funding options, programs available, resources and answers their questions. This workshop is open to caregivers and professionals that support families that have an autistic child(ren). We also offer ABA Principles for Parents and Caregivers to learn about Applied Behaviour Analysis which is an essential piece of any treatment plan (for children and adolescents). This workshop is in partnership with Autism Ontario, Tri-County Community Support Services and EarlyON.
We continue to enhance our offerings and you can find more information on  website pages below.
Programs and Services: List is on the left side menu  https://www.autismontario.com/programs-services
Events: Select which region you would like to see list their events/program/activities/etc. https://www.autismontario.com/events
Newsletter: Subscribe to any region https://www.autismontario.com/newsletter
World Autism Month: April 2, 2024 is World Autism Awareness Day that Autism Ontario proudly celebrates throughout the month for the improvement of our communities to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment for autistic individuals and their families.  https://celebratethespectrum.com/
We would love the opportunity to expand our program offerings in Brighton. Our local programs are all funded through fundraising dollars. Please let us know if there’s a funding application we can complete and/or the process we should follow. Any assistance for us to continue serving Brighton is greatly appreciated.