British Columbia

$28M autism centre supporting families breaks ground in Richmond, B.C.

Pacific Autism Family Centre will feature a library with resources and research on autism, and offer families services like assessment, intervention and support.

Plan for new centre was driven by families to provide comprehensive approach for individuals with autism

Construction on the $28-million Pacific Autism Family Centre breaks ground Tuesday in Richmond, B.C.. (Pacific Autism Family Centre)

Ground is set to break on Tuesday on construction of a new facility in Richmond, B.C. that aims to provide a one-stop shop for autism support, after six years of campaigning by parents of children with autism.

The Pacific Autism Family Centre, which will cost $28 million, received $20 million from the B.C. government in 2012 and aims to provide support to children, adults and seniors on the autism spectrum.

The facility will also feature a library with resources and research on autism, and offer families services such as assessment, intervention and support.

President of the Autism Society of B.C. John Esson told The Early Edition other parents were his biggest resource when his own son was first diagnosed with autism. 

"When you get over the initial shock, you think the system will be in place to help me with a challenge like this. It was at least my experience it really wasn't," he said.

"Back then, really the best information and help … came to me initially through word of mouth from the other families that had gone through it and were still going through it. It was just this amazing network of parents."

Esson, who has been involved with the new centre since its conception, said he relied on a network of parents who were willing to spend long hours on the phone with him to help him navigate the resources that were available to him.

"You'd never know these people with their own challenges and lives had anything better than to just keep talking to me until they thought I'd found my feet."

Centre will have 8 more 'spokes' around B.C.

Esson said while won't be able to treat every child with autism, one goal is to create dialogue between the specialists who see individuals with autism.

"One of the things we find here is that there are a lot of really good and dedicated practitioners doing good work in their fields.

"But if I can say so, at least our experience is that the landscape is somewhat decentralized, with not enough interplay or collaboration between the disciplines. I think the centre has the potential to really foster that."

While the main facility, or "hub," is in Richmond, eight other "spokes" will be located throughout B.C.

"Being a provincial society, we're really excited about the focus and the goal of the centre in providing province-wide support," said Esson.

For more information about the Pacific Autism Family Centre click the audio clip labelled: Pacific Autism Family Centre breaks ground in Richmond.