Workshop helps parents navigate life with autism

Diane Crocker
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Corey and Vanessa Ivany travelled to Corner Brook from their Port au Port East home on Saturday to do some networking they hope will help them as they navigate life with an autistic child.

Vanessa and Corey Ivany listen in during a presentation at the Autism Society Newfoundland and Labrador — Western Chapter’s “Navigating the ABCs of ASD” workshop in Corner Brook on Saturday.
— Photos by Diane Crocker/The Western Star

The Ivanys were among about 60 people to participate in “Navigating the ABCs of ASD,” a one-day workshop organized by the Autism Society Newfoundland and Labrador — Western Chapter. While aimed at parents and caregivers, the workshop also attracted teachers and health professionals from around the region.

During a lunch break at the Blomidon Golf and Country Club Vanessa said their four-year-old son, Cohen, was diagnosed with autism two years ago.

“Cohen was a preemie, so he was followed by all these developmental psychologists and perinatal teams anyway,” said Vanessa. “So, of course, we were really aware of his milestones.”

Around 18 months, Vanessa said, they started to realize their son was missing those developmental milestones. She said it was his pediatrician at the time who suggested he may be autistic.

“We knew there was something, but we weren’t sure,” said Corey.

It took about eight months before the Ivanys could get Cohen an appointment to be assessed at the Janeway Children’s Hospital in St. John’s. Following that came the official diagnosis and what Corey said was a sense of relief.

Vanessa agreed.

“Because we knew there was something wrong, but this gave us a game plan. ... We had an idea of what we could do to help him,” she said.

Being educators, the Ivanys had some experience with autism, so Vanessa said they had an idea of what lay ahead.

Cohen receives applied behavioural analysis (ABA) treatment and Corey said he is now starting to talk.

He believes his “sweet little boy,” who is very intelligent, is on track to be classed as higher functioning.

Vanessa said in the Stephenville area they hear a lot about events the Autism Society holds, but not living in Corner Brook has made it difficult for them to take part in all activities. She said the workshop was an opportunity to get involved and helped give them an awareness of what’s available through the society.

And of course they felt the workshop sessions, which covered things like applied behavioural analysis treatment, occupational therapy, supports in the school system, assisted living and transitioning to post-secondary education would provide them with some valuable information.

The Western Star

Organizations: Autism Society Newfoundland and Labrador, Blomidon Golf and Country Club Vanessa, ABA

Geographic location: Janeway Children, Stephenville, Corner Brook Western Star

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