Second annual event set for Saturday at Credit Union Place pool
SUMMERSIDE — Islanders will take the plunge Saturday in aid of the Autism Society of Prince Edward Island.
© Nancy MacPhee/Journal Pioneer
Barb McNeill, aquatics manager at Credit Union Place and the Autism Society, is once again organizing the annual Swim For Autism, which takes place this Saturday at the city pool.
The second annual Swim for Autism goes 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Summerside’s Credit Union Place Pool and will feature teams taking to the water in a fun event aimed at raising funds for the society and awareness of autism spectrum disorder.
The swim, the brainchild of the city’s aquatics manager, Barb McNeill, raised close to $8,000 in its first year, money used to support the society’s programs and services.
“We have partnered with Credit Union Place in hosting swims in the Summerside area and I think she just connected with the importance and saw how relative it is with our families, these swims,” the society's executive director Nathalie Walsh said of McNeill. “She was seeing more and more families affected by autism.”
Autism is a neurological disorder that causes developmental delays in areas of social development, communication and behaviour.
“You’re not reaching your development stages for communication or there is a regression in any of those areas, where you are reaching targeted areas and then losing those skills as the child gets older,” explained Walsh. “It is usually recognizable in the 12-to-18-months-of-age range. The best practice is for a child to be diagnosed as early as two-and-a-half to three-years-old and then to have the interventions in place ASAP.
“The earlier the diagnosis the better the interventions and the better the outcomes.”
She said each diagnosis and outcome is different, which is why the society’s symbol is a puzzle piece.
“One diagnosis is not the same for every child.”
The incidence rate of autism spectrum disorder in North America is one in 88 births.
On P.E.I., “hundreds” of families are dealing with autism, said Walsh.
“Official statistics would put it well into the four hundreds. We don’t have the official numbers; we have school-age numbers,” she added.
Over the past decade, the spotlight has been on autism spectrum disorder, thanks to better education, awareness and increased diagnosis.
“Pedestrians and doctors are better educated now. They are more familiar with the signs and better aware and able to diagnose what autism is,” said Walsh. “There is still the mysterious part, where it is a genetic factor. They’ve underlined that but it is triggered environmentally. That’s still the missing piece.”
The society’s job is to provide support to families dealing with autism, offering information and some programming.
But being a non-profit organization, with no government support, can make that difficult, which is why events like the Swim for Autism are so important.
“This event is definitely becoming a key fundraiser for us,” said Walsh. “It’s a great connecting piece in Summerside.”
Those interested in taking part in Saturday’s event can contact McNeill or Walsh. Teams should consist of between four and eight members and each team will spend a half hour in the pool with a member in the pool at all times for the 30 minutes.
Teams are encouraged to sign up early, collect pledges in support of the effort or make a donation as their registration feel.
The leisure pool will also be open to those who want to come out and support swimmers and their families.
For more information on autism, visit www.autismsociety.pe.ca.
A few facts
- Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder characterized by problems in social development, communication and behaviour.
- According to the North America Centre of Disease Control incidence of autism is one in every 88 births.
- Autism is four times more common in boys than girls and is more common than Down’s syndrome, childhood cancer and juvenile diabetes combined.
- Saturday’s fundraiser goes 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Credit Union Place pool.
- Teams must have a minimum of four participants and maximum of eight.
- To register, contact Barb at 432-1280 or Nathalie at 56-4844 or email Nathalie@autismsociety.pe.ca