Autism Walk Partnership with Trait d’Union

Autism Walk attendees walking up Alexandre-Tache

Across the Western Québec School Board, schools and centres proudly educate and support hundreds of autistic students. The work to incorporate effective strategies, inclusive practices and programs to support them is never-ending.

Beyond inclusive school practices, acceptance, and appreciation, it is important to celebrate neurodiversity within our student body whenever possible!

This year, Pierre Elliott Trudeau Elementary School (PETES) partnered with the non-profit organization Trait d’Union Outaouais Inc. (TUOI) to host the largest Autism Walk in the neighborhood to date.  This organization supports the social integration of autistic individuals as well as their families.

Though past Autism Walks at the school have been successful, Project Development Officer Jennifer McNeil thought a joint walk with TUOI might enhance the event. She was right.  The partnership created greater participation for the event and greater presence in the community.

The WQSB’s Re-Adaptation Officers, Michele Elstone, Janet Sauvé and Carlee St. Denis were also in attendance. Their job title is “à propos” referring to their support of school and centre staff with strategies that need constant re-adaptation to meet the unique needs of each autistic student. The three are part of the Complementary Services department, and each officer has designated schools and students they support throughout the school year. They work fully in service of supporting, listening to and amplifying the voices and perspectives of autistic students. This year, Carlee St. Denis and Janet Sauvé prepared older autistic students from Hadley Junior High School to speak at the Autism Walk. Their speeches educated and inspired all in attendance but especially the younger autistic students in the crowd.

It takes a host of people to put on a walk of this scale. “The biggest challenge is always finding volunteers who will be available to help, especially since it is on a weekend,” shares Mr. Patricio, the walk’s lead organizer and current Project Development Officer at PETES. In addition to the crew of their dedicated (PETES) members of staff, and members of the Complementary Services department, they also had parent volunteers and a Chelsea Elementary staff member volunteering. Several grade 6 students, who are part of the Citizenship Club, also gave their time to volunteer for the walk.

This year’s Autism Walk was a hit, with several hundred people taking part! There were many activities and resources set up for the attendees to enjoy. Outside, there was live music, horse carriage rides, a bouncy castle, speeches by autistic students and allies, a Zumba session led by Trait d’Union, and of course, the walk itself! Inside, the hallways were lined with tables. Connexions Resource Centre and the provincially run organization for autistic people, Le comité des usagers (DI-TSA), had resource tables set up. There were also stations for temporary tattoos and sensory bins for the students to enjoy. In the gymnasium, tables were set up with colouring activities, along with a mini sports area, a photobooth, and more.

After the walk, Trait d’Union and PETES treated hundreds of attendees to a free lunch in the gymnasium. While everyone ate, TUOI drew raffle prizes. The Autism Walk went smoothly, and the atmosphere throughout the event was warm, exciting, full of smiles, and laughter. The community showed up in full force to celebrate Autism together.

Special thank you to PETES’ Project Development Officer Rick Patricio and the school board Re-Adaptation Officers for providing the information for this article.

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