April 27, 2015

Living with Autism: One family's story

MP Mike Lake advocates for better understanding of ASD

Mike Lake is a busy man.  As the Member of Parliament for Edmonton- Mill-Woods-Beaumont, he travels regularly between his home in Alberta and Ottawa.  And as a member of the Queen’s Privy Council, as well as the Priorities and Planning Sub-Committee on Government Administration, Lake’s days are filled with meetings with colleagues and constituents on a range of issues both at home

As demanding as his schedule might be, Lake always makes time for the two things that matter most to him: his children, and his advocacy for a better understanding of autism.
Lake’s son Jaden was diagnosed with the disorder when he was two, and today, at 20, Jaden has grown into a young man who often travels with his father in support of autism organizations, as well as families and individuals with a connection to autism across the country and around the world.

“Adulthood is a challenging period for individuals with autism as they and their family transition out of childhood services and into a new phase of life,” explains Adam McCrimmon, assistant professor in the Werklund School of Education

“That transition is often difficult, and there is a lot of research being conducted to better understand how we can support them.”
With Jaden by his side, Mike Lake recently gave a talk to Werklund School of Education graduate students.

Lake says there are three things he’s learned about the disorder.  “First”, he says, “it’s important to know that early intervention is critical” in developing a program for someone diagnosed with autism. 

The second point he highlights is that change, or transitions, matter a lot to someone living with autism. He explains that Jaden went from 36 hours a week of individual therapy until age six, when he moved into the school system and was assigned a full time aide with little understanding of autism.  “It wasn’t a great fit, compared to five university students who loved him, and really cared about his success, and would do anything to help him.”  

Finally, Lake says that, as a society, we must learn to expect more from those with autism—that discovering what they do well and what makes them happy is key to helping them develop to their fullest potential.  “I think we miss a huge opportunity when we don’t take a look at everyone’s skills and abilities.”

This growth and development of resiliency is exactly what the Adam McCrimmon is researching.  As the Principal Investigator of the Autism Spectrum Education, Research and Training (ASERT) lab, which focuses  on looking for the positives in the individual with autism,  McCrimmon’ s work aligns directly with Lake’s philosophy about life with autism.

“Mike Lake’s message is simple and powerful,” says McCrimmon, “and his presentation was very helpful in allowing our students to understand his perspectives and views on this important issue.