Autism support group changing name to remove reference to autism

Autism Intervention Services, which has the provincial contract to provide preschool autism services, is changing its name to Viva Therapeutic Services. (Ivanoh Demers/CBC/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Autism Intervention Services, which has the provincial contract to provide preschool autism services, is changing its name to Viva Therapeutic Services. (Ivanoh Demers/CBC/Radio-Canada - image credit)

A provincial organization tasked with helping children with autism prepare for school is changing its name to remove the reference to the developmental disorder.

Autism Intervention Services, which has the provincial contract to provide preschool autism services, is changing its name to Viva Therapeutic Services.

Danielle Pelletier, the organization's CEO, said the change was made in part because of stigma around the words  autism and intervention.

"We did not want people … that get help to be known by a label," said Pelletier. "We wanted … to have a name that would reflect our culture and the work that we do."

Pelletier said while their service focuses on children with autism, it can also help other neurodiverse people. The organization wanted others to feel comfortable seeking out their services.

What the name represents

In a press release, the organization said the new name represents "life and growth, celebration and joy."

The new name will also allow the organization's branding to remain consistent in both French and English.

VIVA Therapeutic Services
VIVA Therapeutic Services

"That was one of my big criteria," said Pelletier. "I really wanted something that we could easily say in French and in English."

Not everyone agrees with the change.

Aaron Bouma, a Woodstock autism advocate who was diagnosed with the disorder when he was three, said he applauds the spirit of moving to a more inclusive name but has concerns in this case.

He questions the need to remove autism from the group's name and said he has never been stigmatized by the word.

"Taking the word autism out of it kind of defeats the purpose of what they're doing and their support, who they're supporting," said Bouma.

Catherine Harrop/CBC
Catherine Harrop/CBC

Bouma is also concerned that removing the word autism from the name may make it more difficult for parents who are looking for support to find the services they need.

While he applauded removing intervention from the name as it could be triggering to some people, he said the word therapeutic could also be seen the same way.

"Why couldn't they use the words … inclusive support services," said Bouma.

Best practices

Pelletier said the name change fits in with best practices in the field of autism support services that are moving away from branding with labels like autism and intervention.

She said the push for the name change also came from the people her group serves.

"We really wanted to be responsive to our community, [and] we did feel that it was a message that we heard from the community," said Pelletier.