Toronto is getting a new autism centre that organizers say will the first Canadian institution to house researchers and youth with autism under one roof.
At the $40-million Kae Martin Campus (KMC), researchers will work alongside 520 young people with autism who will live there and be educated in becoming self-sufficient independent adults, organizers announced Thursday.
“Autism is a growing burden on society in Ontario,” said Steve Hudson, co-chair of the Spectrum of Hope Autism Foundation, the group behind the idea, which is also raising funds to build it. “There is really nothing like this model anywhere else in Canada. When our students graduate, we hope they are self-sufficient and have the life skills – like cooking, for example – that they need.”
Autism is neurological disorder that affects individuals’ ability to communicate, form relationships and respond appropriately to their environment. In Ontario, research indicates an estimated 110,000 people are living with autism and about a quarter of them are younger than 20, Mr. Hudson said.
Organizers are considering two sites in north Toronto for the centre. The KMC is named for an advocate of autism research, the late Kae Martin, whose grandchild was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
Mr. Hudson said he hopes the KMC will be a template for future autism centres throughout the province. He said $22-million has already been raised, and organizers hope to break ground by 2013, with the centre opening a year later.
Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, wife of the Queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward, attended Thursday’s announcement. She is a patron of several causes, including the New Haven Learning Centre in Etobicoke, an education facility for autistic children that receives support from a foundation established by Ms. Martin and her husband, Les. The idea for the new facility began at the New Haven centre.
“It is inspiring to see such a visionary model begin to come together,” the Countess said in a statement.