It was a pleasure and fun to be a part of the opening of the new Autism wing at the Child Development Centre on May 20.
In 1972 there were 11 to 13 children with autism waiting to visit a “house,” an old house, in downtown Vancouver for their schooling.
Meanwhile, at Merry Andrew Day Care Centre in Courtenay, B.C., the caregivers cared for a little boy with autism two days a week. We worked one-on-one for an hour and a half at a time.
We were in a semi-darkened quiet room. None of the teachers at the school in 1972 had training in autism so we created our own programs. We used music and reading. The music soothed and the oral reading intrigued. The program worked!
The new centre in Williams Lake is beautifully designed with not too many lines on the floor of the big room, as too many can be distracting.
The small child-sized toilet makes potty training easy. The bathtub is ideal for bathing of little children. Water and water play is soothing and relaxing to some children.
The self-help skills of learning how to wash, dry, sort and fold clothes is present with the new washer and dryer.
The classroom is in the shade when the sun is at its highest at noon. The large picture windows bring the outdoors inside and there are still many natural trees on the property. The kitchen is impressive with its recycling bins for learning how to separate tins, cardboard, plastics and compost.
The pots, pans, cutlery, all have their proper height and place for the children to learn cooking and foods. There are two stoves and ovens for teaching. The kitchen is white and bright! There is a quiet one-on-one room. The flat screen TV in the big room is connected to systems out of town and used to help with teaching staff and programs.
The Cariboo-Chilcotin is now blessed with a state-of-the-art Autism Centre for children and families. A far cry from the “old house” in downtown Vancouver (1972) which housed/schooled the only 11 to 13 children in all of B.C. diagnosed with autism.
One of the first Child Development Centres in Williams Lake was located on B.C. Rail property near the tracks in a long wooden building in 1976.
Eileen Hewitt was on the board then. Eileen is 97 years old now.
Laurie Wannop was the supervisor, Irene Mathers, assistant, Barb Chapman, director. Barb’s husband Bud worked for B.C. Rail. Irene is retired in Armstrong with her husband, John (Wayne) who also worked for B.C. Rail.
A special thank-you-to chant: for leading the music and movement song. We Are Family!