Nfld. & Labrador

'It's maddening': MUN student urges party leaders to make autism a priority

A Memorial University student living with autism is speaking out about his experiences,ahead of the upcoming provincial election.
Zach Snow, a Memorial University student living with autism, says he thinks party leaders could be doing more to help those living with autism in Newfoundland and Labrador. (Andrew Sampson/CBC )

A Memorial University student living with autism is speaking out about his experiences, ahead of the upcoming provincial election.

Zach Snow, a second-year communications student, says he would like to see the party leaders focus more on support systems for people in the province who have autism during this election campaign.

Snow said he was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum as a child and growing up, he said he was lucky to have a strong support system in place.

"I really got to commend the support from my mother and father, who have been a huge help for me since I was young," said Snow.

With support from his family, Snow was able to work with a speech therapist to improve his communication skills.

He also had access to a student assistant while he was going through elementary and junior high school.

Snow said having these support systems in place from a young age helped him succeed in school and now as a student at Memorial University.

"Parents should really take into account getting real help as soon as they possibly can," he said.

"Take your kids to therapy and get them speaking and get them out there, and get them to succeed, because it really goes a long way."

He added that all he's asking for is that others living with autism are able to receive the same opportunities he did.

"You see two-year-olds not getting the help that they needed, and I am outraged by that," he said.

"There needs to be more done for people with autism — it's maddening."

Same resources aren't available to everybody

Snow said he's also conscious the support he's received isn't available to everyone.

According to Snow, some people living with autism in the province don't have the financial resources to receive treatment outside of schools.

"Seeing them and then looking at me, it puts the disability in a whole different perspective for me, to see how fortunate I am to get all this treatment, " he said.

It puts the disability in a whole different perspective for me, to see how fortunate I am.- Zach Snow

With the provincial election just about a week away, Snow said he would like to see party leaders expand on their commitments to those with autism.

"I commend what the government's doing with the mental health initiative, but I feel like the government should do more for that, especially with autism," he said.

Party leaders could do more

In October, the province announced it would cease to use IQ testing as a means of determining what services are available to those with autism.

But Snow thinks they can go further, by making sure that everyone with autism is able to get the help that they need.

"I want party leaders to fix more of that, and just remove all the barriers that surround autistic people." 

"Autism is classified as a mental health disorder, and they act like it's not a mental health disorder, it is," he said

Long road to get where he is today

Snow is a staff writer with Memorial University's student newspaper The Muse and is working towards a career in broadcasting.

Since arriving at Memorial University, Zach Snow has become a staff writer at The Muse, the school's student newspaper.

But he acknowledges that it was a long road to get where he is today and it involved a lot of hard work and determination.

That's mainly the mantra of all of us who are autistic, just proving people wrong.- Zach Snow

Snow says it wasn't until he started becoming involved with extracurricular clubs in high school and university that he began to come out of his shell.

"I wanted to join these extracurricular clubs so that way I can prove to people that I can do it, and I can prove people wrong," said Snow.

"That's mainly the mantra of all of us who are autistic, just proving people wrong and seeing that we can do it."

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