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Answers to your frequently asked questions about Autism Canada, the work that we do, Autism, resources available and more!

  • Who is Autism Canada?
    Autism Canada is the only Canadian organization with a national perspective on the issues currently facing those with Autism Spectrum Disorder, their families, caregivers, and allies. Autism Canada’s primary mandate is to increase the quality of life and well-being of people on the Autism Spectrum through education, advocacy, and support. Autism Canada is committed to delivering the highest quality programs and community resources like the national annual Au-Some Conference, our dedicated Family Support team, a first-of-its-kind Search and Rescue for Autism program, and an exceptional catalogue offering autism education to both the public and private sectors. Autism Canada is proud to have served the autism community in Canada since 1976.”
  • Actually Autistic input at Autism Canada
    For many years, the majority of the discourse around autism came from non-autistic voices. We acknowledge that it is important that Actually Autistic voices are heard and are a major part of what we do. Not only are Actually Autistics part of the staff, but we also have a group of ambassadors that allow us to hear from the autistic community and get their input. The ambassadors are also the main contributors to our “Sharing the Spectrum” newsletter
  • What is Autism
    Autism could mean that an individual may have some challenges with social communication and interaction or perhaps some restricted or repetitive behaviours or special interests. It is a different way of learning, moving, or paying attention. Autism is a neurodevelopmental difference that uniquely impacts each individual differently. Autism is not what an individual “has” but it is who they are.
  • Who can I talk to about autism support and resources?
    Please contact our Family Services Team at 1-800-983-1795 or
  • What are the first steps in getting diagnosed?
    We always suggest the place to start is with a family doctor. They would refer you or your child to either a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist for an autism assessment. In most provinces, nurse practitioners can also make a referral. This is the only way for an assessment to be covered under the provincial health plan should your province cover psychological assessments. A psychologist working in a hospital setting is often covered under the plan. When speaking to your doctor simply ask them for a referral to a psychologist for an autism assessment. If you are not comfortable speaking to your doctor, a clinical doctor/nurse practitioner can also make a referral in most provinces.   If you pay privately for an assessment, it is often a shorter wait time, but the fee can range between $2,000 to $5,000. To find a clinical psychologist in the area who specializes in autism, if your doctor does not know of one, you can use this search engine and select autism under “issue”. You would need to ask about their fees. Some may have a sliding scale if finances are an issue. The assessment cost may be fully or partially covered if your family has insurance benefits. You can refine the search criteria to (Postal code or region / Autism / Psychological Testing)  
  • Are there online resources on your website that I can access?
    Yes. Visit to find many resources including: Screening tools for toddlers, children, teens and adults ASD Central – Canada’s Forum for adults on the spectrum Autism Junction — Canada’s largest online Autism Service Document Provincial and Territorial Funding Document Newsletters / Sharing the spectrum Words Matter Guide Video library of past Au-Some Conference Presenters
  • What do the terms neurotypical, neurodivergent, neurodiversity, and allistic mean?
    Neurodiversity is a term that acknowledges that there are many neurological differences and that none of these differences are inherently better than any of the others. To learn more, please refer to our Words Matter guide on our publication page.
  • What are the levels of autism and how to they differ?
    Each person diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is further diagnosed with either ASD level 1, level 2, or level 3, depending on how much support they need in their daily life. The levels range from needing the least to most amount of support, with ASD level 3 describing an individual who needs a lot of support to get through their daily lives, and ASD level 1 describing someone who only needs support sometimes. We need to recognize that all Autistics require support and the levels of support can change daily.
  • What is ableism?
    It is the act of discriminating, consciously or not, against disabled people.
  • What is masking?
    Masking happens when an autistic person tries to emulate their neurotypical peers. They may, for example, copy speech patterns, pick uncomfortable yet socially preferable clothes despite their sensory issues, and avoid stimming in public. Masking may be a choice an autistic person makes to fit better with a group, but it may also be imposed by parents, peers and/or educators. Masking may prevent ostracization, but it may also lead to autistic burnout, as the person spends a lot of energy pretending to act in a neurotypical way. Masking is often non conscious.
  • What is an autistic burnout?
    It can happen at any age, usually, after an autistic person has made tremendous efforts to achieve expected neurotypical standards. Visit our friend, Kieran Rose’s website for more information.
  • Should we speak of autism awareness?
    Awareness is a good first step but we should aim for acceptance. Acceptance means that Autistic voices are being heard.
  • What does “stimming” mean?
    Stimming refers to a self-stimulatory behaviour that helps an autistic person regulate their emotions when they are feeling overwhelmed. Examples include rocking, hand flapping, pacing, and vocalizations, but could also involve self-harming, such as pulling skin, hair, or head banging. Autistic people may stim when they are processing negative emotions, such as anxiety, but also when they are happy or excited. Joyful stims are usually harmless. Additionally, stimming may be considered a form of communication as autistic people find it much more difficult to transmit information when they are feeling overwhelmed.
  • What are sensory issues?
    Our bodies and brains use specialized systems to register all the different sensory information in our environment and piece it together to build a complete picture of what is going on around us, with our bodies, within our bodies, where we are, and what time of day it is. Sensory processing shapes our experiences in the world and impacts our feelings. Touch, sight, sound, movement, body position, smell, taste, and internal sensation. Each of these senses comes together to build your conscious reality. Autistic people often have trouble with regulating their sensory inputs, or interpreting them in the same way that a neurotypical person would.
  • What is the ambassador program
    An ambassador program is a group of actually autistic people who give feedback to Autism Canada and to sometimes represent Autism Canada in the media. An Autism Ambassador for Autism Canada is an advocate for the autistic community, our organization, and our guiding principles. To advocate for and support individuals on the spectrum and their families living in Canada and to ensure that people on the Autism Spectrum have full, healthy, and happy lives. 
  • Is Autism Canada a treatment centre?
    Autism Canada is not a treatment centre.  We are a national, volunteer-led organization and we provide information to individuals on the autism spectrum and their families. Autism Canada is the only autism advocacy organization with a national perspective on the issues currently facing those on the spectrum, their families and other stakeholders. We work collaboratively to share expertise, build consensus and help inform public policy and research. In addition to encouraging the sharing of best practices across provincial and territorial boundaries, Autism Canada actively promotes national dialogue on the most effective strategies for building equitable access to funding and services.
  • What support for autism is there for those wanting to immigrate to Canada?
    Immigrating to Canada can be difficult and the assistance for children and adults on the spectrum is not easily accessed. Even those born and raised in Canada are being placed on long waitlists and the demand for services continues to grow. We suggest that you contact Immigration Canada to ask about autism services.
  • Can Autism Canada help bring our family to Canada by writing a letter of support or helping with a visa?
    Autism Canada cannot advocate on behalf of your family to Immigration Canada.  We are not able to send letters to help families immigrate to Canada or help with a visa.  Our mission is to provide information and support to individuals on the spectrum and their families who live in Canada. 
  • How can I donate?
    Autism Canada relies on the generous support from individuals, businesses, and organizations across Canada. Your generosity helps to sustain and grow our existing programs and services and allows us to respond to and address emerging needs or challenges facing the autistic community. Your donation inspires change and positively impacts the lives of individuals on the Autism Spectrum, their families, caregivers and allies. Whether large or small, all donations, create impact and support the autistic and autism communities. You have the option to direct your donation to one of our targeted programs or causes. Please see below for more information about these programs. Charitable tax receipts will be issued for all donations of $20 or more.
  • What does my donation support?
    Your donation supports Autism Canada’s national autism programs, initiatives and resources including, but not limited to: General Operating Support Family Support Centre Search And Rescue for Autism (SARA) project Educational information, tools and resources to support autistic individuals and their parents, families and caregivers. Au-Some Conference, informational and educational webinars and podcasts for ASD adults Specialized training programs that address Autism Awareness and Acceptance, Inclusivity in the Classroom or Workplace and Recognizing Behaviours.
  • How many children and youth in Canada have been diagnosed with autism?
    About 1 in every 50 (2%) Canadian children and adolescents is autistic, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. The rate of autism diagnosis has continued to increase over time. This updated data was provided the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. (2022). Autism in Canada: Considerations for future public policy development – Weaving together evidence and lived experience. Ottawa (ON): The Oversight Panel on the Assessment on Autism, CAHS. Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. (2022). Autism in Canada: Considerations for future public policy development – Weaving together evidence and lived experience. Ottawa (ON): The Oversight Panel on the Assessment on Autism, CAHS.
  • Can I post my logo/website on the Autism Canada website?
    The only logos/websites we feature on our website are conference sponsors and/or cause-related partnerships for a specified agreement time. Outside of those situations, we cannot post external logos nor websites on
  • What is the SARA program?
    SARA stands for Search & Rescue for Autism, and this program is the first of its kind! It provides both prevention tools (to prevent becoming lost due to bolting and wandering) and response tools in the form of technical training for Search and Rescue Responders. SARA is a project by Autism Canada funded through the federal government’s Search and Rescue New Initiatives Fund (SAR NIF) with many partners across Canada including Parks Canada. To learn more, please contact Autism Canada at 1-800-983-1795 or visit the SARA website
  • Where does the SARA program operate?
    SARA, like Autism Canada, is a national program. Through our unique delivery methods and training, we are able to reach across the country to any SAR Team or Responder Group.
  • Which service providers utilize the SARA program?
    SARA was developed primarily for Search & Rescue and the Autism Community. However, most SAR teams are made up from volunteer members who work in a wide variety of fields including emergency medicine, police, fire, EMS, dispatch and community members who care. So at the end of the day, everyone can benefit from SAR programming.
  • How can my company or organization support and/or get involved with the SARA program?
    Your company may choose to donate funds specifically towards SARA training. You may also sponsor a SARA training in your area for your volunteer responders. If your SAR or other responder group wishes to have SARA training, we can work with you on sponsoring that. If your community wishes to be involved in the prevention activities and support responder volunteers, please get in touch with us for tips, tools and ides for sensory friendly open houses and community events. Your support by following and sharing on social media broadens our audience.
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