Chapter 2: Getting Started

It was like a tipping point - everyone recognized
the gap all at once.

— Executive Director of an agency serving children and youth
on the ASD spectrum and their families.

The growing need for support

In 2006 the public and Catholic school boards in York Region were struggling to figure out how they could best serve a growing number of students with the dual diagnosis of developmental disabilities and mental health issues. The existing supports and programs for children and youth on the ASD spectrum throughout York Region were failing to meet the growing need.

This increased need was due to 2 factors:

1. As an affordable, suburban municipality north of Toronto, many young families were moving to York Region at such a rate that over the past decade it had become one of the fastest growing regions in all of North America.

2. Greater education and awareness of complex developmental disabilities combined with stronger parental advocacy meant that the meagre level of service provided in the last century to families with children who needed special supports was no longer acceptable.

Starting to work together

Parents, school boards, and several collaborative service provider tables started to talk about and explore the possibilities of working together.

Lynda Beedham, parent and chapter representative of the York Region Chapter of Autism Ontario, joined up with a trio of leaders from the service provider community:

• Sylvia Pivko, Executive Director of Blue Hills Child and Family Centre
• Sandy Thurston, Director of Network Development and Planning for Children’s Treatment Network
• Jacquie Brown, Director of Programme Services at Kinark Child and Family Services

Autism Ontario – York Region ChapterBlue Hills Child and Family CentreKinark Child and Family ServicesChildren’s Treatment Network


Listen to a conversation between Lynda Beedham, Sylvia Pivko, Jacquie Brown and Sandy Thurston where they discuss what it took to pull things together in those early days.

Listen to the conversation

Stepping into the future

Community Planning days

The first bold step into the future began when everyone came together for two Community Planning days.

Parents, service providers, educators, and community partners were bound together by the shared vision that children and youth with ASD should have the necessary supports to live their lives to the fullest. There began the long journey of discovering each other’s aspirations, challenges, and hopes for the future.

Click on the images below to download the Community Planning Days flyer, registration form and agenda.


Community Planning Days FlyerCommunity Planning Days Registration FormCommunity Planning Days Agenda

The need for support for both children and adults

The value of having parents and families at the centre of the planning effort was underlined when they quickly made it clear that any plans to improve the system of supports for ASD had to extend beyond the childhood years and address adult needs as well. From this point forward, all strategic planning efforts would include the needs of adults with ASD and adult service providers.

The two days of sharing and planning together were a giant step forward. People saw possibilities they hadn’t dared to hope for in the past. They came to understand that they had more in common than they had differences and they realized that acting together they were a greater force for change than any one of them could be acting on their own.

But it soon became painfully clear just how difficult it was going to be to co-create and build the system of supports they dreamed of when they realized there were many different understandings of how the current system worked. Job number one was to get everyone on the same page so that they could all pull together in the same direction.