National Autism Strategy Consultations – How to Participate

The consultation process for the National Autism Strategy is underway, and I’m going to take you through what’s happening, and how you can get involved.

Background

It was in late 2019 that the federal government officially committed to developing and implementing a National Autism Strategy.

In Minister of Health Patty Hajdu’s mandate letter we saw the following:

“Work collaboratively with provinces, territories, families and stakeholders toward the creation of a national autism strategy”

The Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, also had this in hers:

“Support the Minister of Health toward the creation of a national autism strategy”

A few months later the pandemic hit, and we saw the autism strategy move to the back-burner. The Public Health Agency of Canada certainly had more pressing matters to attend to at the time.

PHAC finally showed some progress in the process late last year by announcing their partnership with CAHS to lead the consultation process.

CAHS then quickly formed an Oversight Panel and several working groups to “steer academic, scientific and knowledge-sharing within the Autism Assessment.”

The first phase of consultation was directed at stakeholder organizations, inviting them to forward written submissions.

They also announced other planned forms of engagement with the public:

Once all the information is collected,

“The Oversight Panel and Working Groups will write and submit a report of findings that will inform policy makers tasked with developing the National Strategy on Autism.”

Public consultation

Just a few weeks ago CAHS launched the public phase of consultation:

The “two new ways” to share your views on autism supports were:

  1. An Engagement Hub, providing a survey to complete, as well as a posting board and chat forum.
  2. Planned Community Conversations with different groups through late April and early May, to take place on Zoom.

The Survey

Access to the survey is broken down into 3 groups:

I’m not sure if the questions are different for the different groups, but I suspect they will cover the same topics, perhaps just with some different wording.

I completed the survey recently (as a parent to two autistic children), and it was a combination of multiple choice / drop-down answers, as well as open text boxes to provide more elaborate responses.

You have to register before you can take the survey, which also allows you to do the it a little at a time if you choose (as your progress would be saved to you profile). It’s very easy to register.

Here’s a selection of some of the questions included:

Some are very quick, while others (like the last few questions shown below) may take you longer to answer should you have a lot to share:

Overall, the questions were straightforward, covering a wide variety of topics, while also being open-ended enough that if you feel some important points were not addressed, you will have an opportunity to provide further discussion of your opinions.

Community Conversations

If you want to get in on these, you’ll need to move quickly, as some have already happened, and the rest are happening in the coming weeks.

The conversations look to address two main questions:

How can services and programs better meet the needs of Autistic people?

How can we promote inclusion of Autistic people?

You can register here:

More to Say?

If you don’t feel your opinions were properly conveyed by the survey or conversations, CAHS has a general email set up for any questions/feedback related to the National Autism Strategy engagement process:

We appreciate the contributions of individuals and stakeholder organizations to achieving this goal. Please contact us if you have questions or feedback at autism@cahs-acss.ca.

The final report from this assessment will be delivered to the Public Health Agency of Canada and made publicly available in early 2022.

Here’s an infographic about the timeline/process:

Final thoughts

If you have a connection to someone with autism, I encourage you to take the time to contribute to this process.

It’s easy, and it’s important.

The creation of this report is not the end of the road, though.

Once the government receives the recommendations, the advocacy will need to continue to ensure the report is turned into meaningful action in order to see real change.

Let’s all work together to move towards a more inclusive and accessible life for all autistics across Canada.

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Patrick Monaghan

Patrick Monaghan

Dad to 2 kids on the spectrum. Autism Advocate.