January’s Awesome Ottawa award goes to Suzanne Allen, to support the establishment of a weekly drop-in program for girls on the autism spectrum.
“My daughter Miriam was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in May 2017,” explains Suzanne. “Since then, I have been trying to access resources to help her. While there are many great programs for kids on the spectrum here in Ottawa, there are very few programs geared specifically towards girls.”
“Boys tend to be diagnosed more often with autism than girls – a ratio of four to one,” Suzanne continues, “and girls who are diagnosed are often not reached until their tween and teen years – boys are usually diagnosed around the age of five. Because of this, programs offered for kids tend to be planned more around things that boys are interested in.”
“I did find one program for tween girls,” Suzanne explains, “but there was limited space and my daughter wound up on a waiting list. I realized that there must be other parents who have also come up against this and I thought that instead of complaining about the problem I would try to do something about it.”
This past fall, Suzanne started Girls on the Spectrum Ottawa – a weekly drop-in for girls of all ages and their parents, grandparents, or caregivers. It provides a safe place for girls to make friends and participate in activities such as arts and crafts, baking, playing games, and building with Lego. It also offers an opportunity for their parents and grandparents to provide each other support, as well as on occasion listen to a guest speaker.
The drop-in has so far been featured on Rogers TV and CBC’s Ottawa Morning. The award from Awesome Ottawa will support the purchase of supplies and snacks.
Suzanne is a mother of three, and works with the federal government’s New Horizons for Seniors program.
Funded by Ottawa, ON (January 2018)