April 2, 2019

Today is World Autism Awareness Day

Werklund’s Carly McMorris talks about UCalgary’s work to improve quality of life for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Dr. Micheil Innes, a member of the Department of Medical Genetics at the Cumming School of Medicine talks with his longtime patient Geoffrey Ondrich, who has autism, and Geoff’s dog Jersey Girl.

Dr. Micheil Innes with his longtime patient Geoffrey Ondrich, who has autism, and Geoff’s dog.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

In Canada, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects one in 66 Canadians. World Autism Awareness Day encourages a better understanding and acceptance of people with ASD, says Dr. Carly McMorris, PhD, assistant professor, Werklund School of Education.

Nearly two-thirds of children with autism between the ages of 6 and 15 have been bullied

The stigmatization and discrimination associated with neurological differences remains an issue that is being addressed through policy and research including research and programs developed by UCalgary faculty and staff. Appropriate support, accommodation and acceptance of ASD will allow those who have been diagnosed to enjoy equal opportunity, and full and effective participation in society.

The rate of autism in all regions of the world is high and the lack of understanding has a tremendous impact on the individuals, their families and communities. Increasing understanding and awareness for ASD is important.

Autism spectrum education, research and training

UCalgary has a group of researchers, clinicians and professionals who are working to understand ASD and helping to improve the lives of individuals with ASD.

“A large majority of children and youth with ASD experience mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and suicide. Importantly, these individuals often cannot access services to address mental health issues due to systemic barriers and lack of appropriate treatment options,” says McMorris.

UCalgary’s team is working toward understanding resilience in individuals with ASD.

"Work in my lab aims to understand who is at risk for mental health issues and how to effectively treat it in children and youth with ASD, filling a significant clinical and knowledge gap. One thing we do know is that mental health issues in ASD are very common, complex and not well understood, and we aim to shed light on these issues and raise awareness that mental health in this population is the norm rather than exception,” McMorris says.

Many individuals with ASD experience significant challenges in adapting to their environment, and UCalgary researchers believe that better understanding of those specific factors can promote resilience and positive development with individuals and families who have ASD.

Creating awareness for ASD and sharing the important work that UCalgary is doing is a great way to share in World Autism Awareness Day.

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