NEWS RELEASE For Immediate Release March 30, 2015
First Nations University Student to host third Autism Awareness Day Event
April 2, 2015 is World Autism Awareness Day, also known as “Light It Up Blue.”
First Nations University student and mom, Jeanelle Mandes, is organizing the third annual “Light it up Blue – World Autism Awareness” event in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Mandes is a full-time student at the First Nations University of Canada at the University of Regina, and his in her final semester of a BA Journalism. She comes from the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation near Duck Lake in northern Saskatchewan, and is the mother of 6-year-old Sharlize.
“When my daughter was diagnosed with autism in June 2012, I didn’t know anything about it,” says Mandes. “I realize now how important it is for parents and others to have information and support so they know how to help their kids.”
The “Light It Up Blue” theme was developed by Autism Speaks, a non-profit organization based in the US. “When I learned about my daughter’s diagnosis, I Googled and researched to learn as much as I could”, says Mandes. “I found Autism Speaks and many other organizations.
The Regina event will be held at the First Nations University of Canada, Regina campus Atrium on Thursday, April 2, 2015 from 10 am to 12 noon.
Guest speakers include representatives on behalf of the Minister of Health, a representative from the Ministry of Education, Ashley Bakken and Amy Ewart from the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region, and family members from the autism community.
“I want people to learn what autism is,” says Mandes. “If they know someone on the autism spectrum, I want them to understand what autistic people and their families are experiencing and what their needs are.”
“I especially want to call attention to the lack of resources for people who are living on reserve,” says Mandes. “A friend of mine who was a teacher on reserve told me she had no training to help her understand what the autistic students need and not enough money to hire people with that expertise and training. So the children are delayed in their learning and development.”
“Also, for some parents in the cities, they don’t know what services and resources are available to them and their kids,” says Mandes. “I was able to get respite services and my daughter is in Discovery Pre-School and she has a learning assistant in day care and utilizes a respite care worker provided from Autism Services – Child and Youth. Other parents need to know about these supports.”
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