Aboriginal mom plans autism conference in Regina.

Jeanelle Mandes speaking at the autism conference she organized in April 2013.
Jeanelle Mandes speaking at the autism conference she organized in April 2013.

Jeanelle Mandes speaking at the autism conference she organized in April 2013.

By FORREST CHIEF-KEQUAHTOOWAY

Building on the success of a World Autism Awareness Day event she coordinated in April, Jeanelle Mandes is planning an autism conference August 23-25 at the First Nations University of Canada(FNUNiv). Mandes knows from experience that parents of autistic children need help from others who face the same challenges.

Mandes remembers wondering about her daughter’s behavior, especially the fact that she wasn’t talking like the other kids her age. When she asked her daycare, they brought in specialists who did 6 months of assessments, before Mandes got her daughters diagnosis– autism spectrum disorder. “When I first heard the diagnosis… I felt like the wind was knocked out of me,” said Mandes. “I was sad, I was angry at myself, because I thought I inflicted this.”. Then, she says, “It kind of hit me… this is the answer to my question: why is my daughter so different?”. Mandes knew she wanted to advocate and help parents like her, which is why she organized the event for World Autism Awareness Day.

Glenn Pratt and wife Meridee Sayer attended the event with their autistic son. “You know that there are other families out there with autistic children,” said Pratt. “Maybe an aboriginal support group could come out of this”. The conference in August is not just for Aboriginal families,” said Mandes.“ It is open to the public. Everyone can learn from this conference.”

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