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Autism Arts Program 

The Autism Arts Program was piloted last February and officially launched this past October, says Michael Price, program director at the non-profit Provincial Autism Centre ( Price and Dale Sheppard, AGNS curator of education and public programs, together run the AAP. A winter class is just wrapping up its eight-week run and a spring group with a full enrolment of 14 is set to begin. Participants---aged six and up---attend a weekly 90-minute class on Saturday mornings in the gallery’s studios, experiencing every kind of visual art. “It’s an alternate form of expression and for some it’s calming,” says Price of the role of art in the lives of people with autism. An occupational therapist from PAC first meets with participants and their families before the program gets underway to determine interests and needs and then works with the students, along with gallery artists and volunteers from the AGNS and PAC. This assessment, or evaluation makes for a better---more fulfilling---experience for students and parents. Sometimes, Price says, people with autism are welcomed into a recreational program designed by people with good intentions but a lack of foresight. “They might get through it, but they don’t have fun,” he says. Or they may not be welcomed at all. “It can be really devastating when it doesn’t work out,” Price says. “Maybe their children’s needs aren’t going to be well-served by recreation programs.” While he expects demand for the program to grow---at least to hold steady---it’s not due to an “autism epidemic,” says Price. 

Rather, he adds, it’s because we’re understanding autism more deeply as a society and “because more people, such as the gallery, are interested in supporting people with autism.” Call 446-4995 to register.

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