It was one of the first classes of the session at Ausome Ottawa and families were welcomed by friendly staff, hot coffee and tasty treats – a delightful and unexpected surprise.
Among the excited parents and kids were mom Tori and her son, Finn – a curious, funny and music-loving 12-year-old who lives with autism.
“The world can be confusing [for kids with autism],” says Tori. “Finn’s mind is always in a state of decoding and that can be challenging when introducing new things.”
Since 2016, Ausome has been providing programs for children with autism, giving them an opportunity to try sports and recreation activities tailored to their individual needs – something that is not always accessible.
“There is nothing else like Ausome,” says Liisa Vexler, Executive Director at Ausome Ottawa. “Most kids who come to our programs have never successfully participated in sports or recreational activities before this.”
For kids like Finn, Ausome is vital in reducing barriers to participation, which they do through one-to-one support with highly trained volunteers and staff. Most importantly, they give kids a place to be welcomed and accepted as they are.
“Ausome takes you as you are,” says Tori. “If it’s a bad day, they work through it. It’s not about compliance. It’s about working with the child and finding a way to the other side.”
Programs at Ausome aim to help participants build interest in and have fun with physical activity by slowing down the pace of instruction and setting achievable goals – something that fast-paced, traditional programming isn’t always able to do.
“Ausome provides that launch pad,” says Tori. “They teach basic skills so the kids can learn the rules, move into other programming and work on other skills.”
One of Finn’s favourite programs, Fitness Pairs, does just that. By focusing specifically on sport conditioning, participants work on improving balance, agility and reactivity to build confidence and total body control through specialized training.
It’s this level of instruction and support that has helped increase Finn’s level of confidence outside of programming. He even tried out (and made!) the basketball team at his school, something he never would have felt comfortable doing prior to his experiences at Ausome.
Thanks to grant funding from GoodLife Kids Foundation, Ausome is able to begin offering Fitness Pairs as part of regular programming, increasing access for more kids like Finn.
“These kids couldn’t be active without organizations like GoodLife Kids Foundation,” says Liisa. “Their grant was instrumental in getting the program up and running, and also maintaining it.”
Says Tori: “Ausome is a constant and it’s celebrating our kids, not trying to change who they are. It encourages them to be part of the world and I can’t say enough about them.”
Because when our kids are active, their lives are changed and their worlds open up.