The Pacific Autism Family Centre received two major boosts from financial institutions this month.
On Thursday, TD Canada Trust donated $75,000 to the centre’s foundation, while BMO Financial Group presented a $100,000 cheque to the Sea Island facility which is slated to begin construction any day and be completed by May of 2016.
Sergio Cocchia, CEO and co-founder of the Pacific Autism Family Foundation, said the project is “being developed as a spoke model with the hub being in Richmond, but ultimately each spoke being established around the province.” Cocchia said the foundation envisions the centre will provide access to information and services for people with autism throughout the course of their lives.
“Autism, we have to understand, does not go away,” said Cocchia.
“There are going to be many more senior citizens with autism in the future, so the centre is a resource centre for many, it’s a place to come to access resources to try to help them. We envision that people across their lifespan for both themselves and their families, they’ll be able to access those programs and access proper information from the centre.”
Cocchia believes “our society should definitely be interested in autism and how we as a society address this growing population,” saying that the number of people being diagnosed with autism is increasing. Today, one in 68 children in the province of British Columbia is being diagnosed as being on the spectrum and there are 69,000 individuals in the province that are recognized as being on the spectrum.
“It’s an issue that’s of incredible relevance in today’s world,” Cocchia said.
“And that’s why we’re hearing more and more about it, so many new stories are coming out about autism. I think that maybe people are starting to realize that this is a problem of epidemic proportions.
“It doesn’t seem to be getting any better, which leads to the question of why are these numbers getting higher, why is it costing so much, what are the proper treatment methods. I think we as a society, and this is happening across the world, are starting to struggle with trying to find some of the answers.”
Cocchia has a 20-year-old son with autism, so together with his wife and co-founder Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia, they know what families go through and the challenges they face.
“It really is a spectrum,” said Cocchia. “We’re all individuals. I think it’s true also with autism. I love the saying that people say that when you meet a child with autism, you meet a child with autism. You haven’t met every child with autism because they’re all completely different. Just like atypical people are all individuals, so are people on the spectrum.
“Their autism presents often times in very individualistic ways, so we struggle with the idea. I don’t think there’s a voice for autism. There has to be many, many, many voices for autism because there’s many, many, many different individuals that need to be represented and thought of in the conversation.”
Originally published in the Apr. 24, 2015 issue.