Statement Article from  Public Health Agency of Canada

Archived - Autism Awareness Month

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October 15, 2014

October is Autism Awareness Month, representing a time to reflect on a continuum of complex conditions that can affect individuals from all walks of life. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) develops differently from person to person, and the effects can range from relatively mild to debilitating.

Signs of ASD are usually detected in early childhood, with boys almost five times more likely to be diagnosed with the condition than girls. While we don’t yet fully understand what causes ASD, we do know that many children benefit from early diagnosis and treatment. The earlier children with ASD are diagnosed and able to receive appropriate intervention, the more likely their developmental path will improve.

Caring for a child with special needs can bring a host of challenges, some of which may require additional support.

Addressing these challenges requires of all levels of government, health professionals, communities, workplaces and individuals – to work together. The Government of Canada is taking action in several ways: in 2011, the Government of Canada created the Canada Brain Research Fund and is providing up to $100 million in matched funds over six years (2011-2017) to support Canadian neuroscience research to advance knowledge and treatment of brain disease and mental disorders, including autism. In May 2014, in partnership with Brain Canada and the Azrieli Neurodevelopmental Research Program, the Government of Canada announced that four new research projects with a special focus on ASD and Fragile X syndrome would be supported through this fund.

Through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, we support research projects to better characterize the genetic components and treatments of autism. To better understand children with ASD, CIHR is focussing, for example, on the critical transition between initial diagnosis and starting school. We have also provided support to the Autism Genome Project, bringing us closer to understanding the genetics of autism which could eventually lead to earlier diagnoses.

CIHR and its partners – the Canadian ASD Alliance, Autism Speaks Canada, Health Canada, NeuroDevNet, and the Sinneave Foundation – are also contributing a combined $1 million over five years to a Research Chair in ASD treatment. The research under this initiative focuses on the prevention and treatment of mental health problems in people with ASD and/or intellectual disabilities across the lifespan.

The Government supports organizations such as Autism Canada Foundation and the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance to help ensure Canadians with ASD are able to fulfill their potential. In Budget 2014, $26.4 million was provided to support vocational training and opportunities for persons with developmental disabilities.

It is important to keep building the foundation to gain a better understanding of this complex spectrum of disorders. In that regard, the Public Health Agency of Canada is currently leading the coordination of a system to track ASD across Canada. This system will provide vital information to help inform the policies, programs, services and research that support individuals with ASD and their families.

The impact of ASD, felt by so many families in Canada is understandable. I am confident that through our collective efforts, we can improve the lives of countless Canadian families for generations to come.


The Honourable Rona Ambrose
Minister of Health

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