I have a major soft spot for the Toronto Star.
Ever since they brought autism to the front page (literally) with their awareness project, I've been smitten. Few major media players have deigned to talk openly about what individuals and families affected by autism experience every day, so I laud the Star for boldly going where no paper had gone before.
Is Autism The New ADHD?
Now, in conjunction with Toronto's Geneva Centre For Autism, the Star's Santa Claus Fund aims to throw a little light on what can often be an extremely dark time of year for families affected by autism. Geneva helps out more than 3,000 families, some of whom will receive a gift box come December.
Even though autism is one of the "fastest growing disorders in the world," few people are fully aware of the financial burdens that accompany diagnosis. Therapies and treatments costs can come with a price tag in the tens of thousands per year. That's money the average household just doesn't have.
I know a handful of kids with autism, and they come from all kinds of backgrounds and circumstances. Autism doesn't discriminate.
As Geneva's director Debbie Drewett points out: “Some may be single-parent families. Some may be newly landed immigrants to Toronto. Some families may have more children with autism. We’ve seen families that have twins or triplets.”
Many affected families are on social assistance, and may be reluctant to reach out and ask for SOS. Helping your kids shouldn't be a luxury; it should be a given, right? So in the true spirit of the season, a small gift from your family may mean the world of difference to another.
I can say from personal experience that I look forward to the Geneva's holiday party every year, because it is the one place where my little guy is guaranteed to experience warmth and acceptance.
He gets to partake in crafts on his own terms and hang with a Santa who 'gets' him. And at no point in the day will anyone bat an eyelid if my son says or does something out of turn. Geneva provides a wonderful sense of community. I can't tell you how good it feels to be among fellow parents who understand each other without having to utter a word.
"What could be more important than helping children?” asks Drewett in what is probably the most rhetorical of questions. ever.
Click here if you would like to donate to the Santa Claus Fund, or call 416-869-4847. Cheques can be mailed to the Toronto Star Santa Claus Fund, One Yonge St., Toronto, ON, M5E 1E6.
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Image credit: Flickr | Bart Fields