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Connecting families in Queens

Debbie Wamboldt is one of the people helping to organize Sip and Connect in Queens County. Sip and Connect is an Autism Nova Scotia program.
Debbie Wamboldt is one of the people helping to organize Sip and Connect in Queens County. Sip and Connect is an Autism Nova Scotia program. - Aethne Hinchliffe

Local autism chapter holding Sip and Connect session Jan. 28

BROOKLYN - The whole idea behind bringing a program called Sip and Connect to Queens County was to build a sense of community.
Debbie Wamboldt sits on the board for Autism Nova Scotia’s South Shore chapter and was involved with bringing Sip and Connect to Brooklyn. She’s been a member on the board for about two years.  
Sip and Connect is a program offered through Autism Nova Scotia.
“It started off with offering it to military families who had children on the autism spectrum, and then it grew to offering it to all families,” explained Wamboldt.
The Milton resident describes Sip and Connect as a support group, but says it’s much more as well. It’s about knowledge sharing and connecting
“Anybody is welcome to come if they have an interest in the autism community,” said Wamboldt.
Queens County’s Sip and Connect started in November and is scheduled to take place on the last Sunday of each month from 1-3 p.m. at the Brooklyn Community Hall. The next session is set for Jan. 28, and the plan is for the sessions to continue until the end of May. After that, there will be a break for the summer.
Each month, sessions have topics, and sometimes there is a guest speaker. In November, the topic focused on how to get through the holidays. Another future topic could be tips for picky eaters, Wamboldt says. Whatever is discussed at the sessions is confidential, which helps to provide a safe space for people.   
Wamboldt says numbers have been pretty good thus far, but adds that it would be great to see more people as well.
Getting involved with the South Shore chapter was something Wamboldt did when she began to advocate for more community support and awareness for autism in Queens County.
During the municipal election in October 2016, Wamboldt wrote an open letter to candidates.
“And it just kind of bloomed from there, and I realized that I needed to partner with the South Shore chapter to both gain knowledge for myself and try to bring some of the things they do to Queens County,” she said.
One of those things was Sip and Connect, which Wamboldt says is important to have in Queens because autism can be isolating for those who have it and families.
As time goes on, Wamboldt would love to see a more accepting and knowledgeable community concerning the challenges autism can present. Some challenges can include employment and adult life skills, so she would like to see more support in those areas.

Queens’ autism committee
A group of people in Queens is working on more than just Sip and Connect. The committee has other plans too.
“We’re really working hard to figure out what programs would be best suited for Queens,” said Wamboldt.
Yoga for Students with Autism is set to take place from Jan. 10-Feb. 14. The classes are for children aged eight to 13 and will take place at Dr. John C. Wickwire Academy.
A learn-to-curl program designed for children on the spectrum is set to happen in February. Liverpool Curling Club coaches will be trained to teach the five-week program.
“(The coaches) are taking their autism 101,” said Wamboldt.
The PowerPoint presentation provides information people need to know about how to support someone who’s on the spectrum.    
“Members of our municipal staff have already taken autism 101,” Wamboldt said.
In April the group hopes to have an autism awareness campaign.
A more long-term project the committee is working on is opening an autism centre in Queens. There’s already a centre in the Annapolis Valley, and the Queens’ committee would hope to have a similar model here at home.
Committee members include Raymond Fiske, Allison Hawkins, Tanya Long, Susan MacLeod, Vernon Oickle, Sheila Redden-Smith, Debbie J. Wamboldt and Debbie L. Wamboldt.
The South Shore Chapter runs out of the Autism Centre behind Hebville Academy.
Go online: Visit http://www.autismnovascotia.ca/event/383 to find out about Autism Nova Scotia. To learn more about the south shore chapter, go to http://www.autismsouthshore.ca/.


Did you know?
No one person on the autism spectrum is the same.
Autistic children are prone to wandering. They are often drawn to water when they run or wander.
Early diagnoses are key.

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