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Northern Ont. public school holds flag raising ceremony on World Autism Awareness Day

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On World Autism Awareness Day, a flag-raising ceremony with Mayor Michelle Boileau at Golden Avenue Public School in South Porcupine is meant to demonstrate to the community that it is a place to thrive.

Golden Avenue Public School hopes its annual community walk will encourage the general public to become more welcoming to anyone who is autistic. (Lydia Chubak/CTV News Northern Ontario)

“I think it's really about moving beyond awareness and approaching acceptance,” said Andrew Wray, a teacher at Golden Avenue Public School.

“So it's great to see all these people out here today and supporting our school and our students,” he said.

The Ontario Autism Coalition said approximately 1 in 50 Canadian youth are autistic and Golden Avenue Public School has six high support autism classes, supporting 40 students.

“We have an inclusive model where we have students who are in and out of the mainstream classroom, but also have support from a homeroom classroom,” said Wray.

“Our students have the opportunity to show their strengths academically, socially and then also are supported in the areas of need in their homeroom classrooms.”

One of the students told CTV News that she loves creating art among other subjects.

“My favourite activity is playing like reading a book,” said student Leah Tiffeault.

According to the Ontario Autism Coalition, there are 50,000 children in the province waiting for core services including speech and occupational therapy; and behavioural analysis.

“You know, when this government took over in 2018, the waitlist was only 23,005 and now it's 50,000 kids,” said Bruce McIntosh director and founding president of Ontario Autism Coalition.

“You know, they've more than doubled it just by being slow and underfunding it... Sooner or later, they're just going to have to recognize that they've got to do better.”

McIntosh said even with and 18 per cent increase in funding in the 2024 provincial budget, it’s not enough.

He said the Ontario Autism Coalition will be holding as many meetings as possible with politicians, including a lobbying day at Queen’s Park on April 24.

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