Ottawa

Ottawa to create city autism registry

Ottawa is set to become just the second Canadian municipality to create an autism registry, a tool that police hope will help first-responders locate and assist autistic children and adults.

Miramichi, N.B., was 1st with autism list

Ottawa is set to become just the second Canadian municipality to create an autism registry, a tool that police hope will help first-responders locate and assist autistic children and adults.

The registry, to be launched Thursday on World Autism Awareness Day, will allow parents to enter the name, address and a photo of their autistic child, as well any other information that would be useful for fire, police and medical personnel.

Ottawa Police Services are running the registry with help from Autism Ontario and local school boards.

Miramichi, N.B., launched an autism registry in December last year, becoming the first Canadian municipality to do so.

Ottawa Sgt. Norm Sandre says the new registry will include basic personal information as well as potential triggers that might set off a normally approachable person.

Ottawa police say more information would not be available until Thursday's launch, but the registry is believed to be for people of all ages, just as Miramichi's registry is.

Autism may affect interaction

Autism is a common neurological disorder that affects the way the brain functions and results in difficulties with communication and social interaction. People with the disorder also exhibit unusual patterns of behaviour, activities and interests.

An estimated 190,000 Canadian children have the disorder. The most recent studies suggest the rate of autism has increased to 60 cases per 10,000 people, from 40 cases.

Marie Lemaire says she plans to register her 12-year-old son, Charles, when the database is available.

She says he got into a fight at a schoolyard last year and police were called in, but didn't press charges once they assessed the situation. She worries that her son, who has worked to get better at social interaction since being diagnosed, may not be as lucky if another incident occurs.

"Sometimes autistics don't like to look at you in the eyes," says Lemaire. "So imagine you're a police officer and you say, 'At least look at me in the eye,' and the boy doesn't do that?"

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said studies had suggested the rate of autism was 60 cases per 100,000 people. The actual rate is 60 cases per 10,000 people.
    Mar 30, 2010 7:46 AM ET

With files from Rebecca Zandbergen