Walking to Ottawa to raise awareness for autism

Spurred by the struggles of her child, a Toronto mother plans walk to Parliament Hill

A new ‘On To Ottawa’ trek is brewing in the home of a Toronto mother. This time, it’s to press the government to pay more attention to autism.

Dee Gordon will walk from Etobicoke, where she lives, to Parliament Hill in January in hopes of raising awareness for autism, spurred by her struggles with her son who she believes could flourish if he had enough support.

“The reason why I picked January is because Jacob’s struggle is like ploughing through the snow every single day,” Gordon said. “It’s difficult, it’s harsh, you have to plan ahead.”

Gordon says Jacob struggles in school. He has a hard time writing and can get aggressive when he hears a loud sound or feels something touching him, though it gets better when he has a child and youth worker beside him. But such assistance cannot be provided at all times.

Gordon is collecting signatures for her petition in hopes that Parliament Hill will investigate the problems autism causes and wants Ottawa to look into creating a nation-wide strategy that tackles autism.

“I think that Canada should become the leader and create the strategy for autism because there are too many children affected by it around the world,” she said. “With early diagnosis, I am very confident that we can make a difference.

“I’m hoping that the provinces and the territories will develop a pan-Canadian strategy for autism, and that it will also include awareness, education campaigns, child and adolescent intervention, funding, therapy, surveillance, respite care, community initiative and research.”

Right now, Gordon is busy preparing the logistics for her walk, which includes route planning, finding accommodations, finding funding, spreading the word, and getting signatures for her petition.

“We are working on a route right now, it’s not a 100 per cent complete, but it’s very close,” Gordon said. “We’re reaching out to all the police departments, the police chiefs and the OPP, and I have gotten an extraordinary response from all the people I’ve contacted so far.”

She says people will sometimes offer her money to fund her walk, but she decided to turn it down. She chooses to fund herself by collecting scrap metal left on curbs, brake rotors and donations of vehicles. So far, she has collected about $2,200 selling scrap metal.

She intends to arrive in Ottawa on Jan. 29, where she will meet other families with autism at a hotel. From there, they will walk the last seven kilometres to Parliament Hill with Jacob leading them.

Her campaign has some supporters in Ottawa, one of the most prominent being her own Etobicoke MP Kirsty Duncan, who brought her petition to the House of Commons on Oct. 29, asking for a pan-Canadian strategy. She is currently collecting signatures for this petition. Gordon says Sen. Jim Munson and Sen. Mobina Jaffer have also retweeted her tweets.

“People are starting to be aware that this is what I’m doing,” Gordon said.

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