A provincial agency to help prepare children with autism for school is changing its name to drop the reference to the developmental disorder.
Autism Intervention Services, which has a provincial contract to provide preschool autism services, is changing its name to Viva Therapeutic Services.
The organization’s CEO, Daniel Pelletier, said the change was made because of the stigma surrounding the words autism and intervention.
“We didn’t want people who were helped to be known by a label,” says Pelletier. “We wanted … to have a name that reflected our culture and the work we do.”
Pelletier said that while their service focuses on children with autism, it can also help other neurodiverse people. The company wanted others to feel comfortable finding their services.
What does the name represent?
In a press release, the company said the new name represents “life and growth, celebration and joy.”
The new name will allow the company’s branding to remain consistent in both French and English.
“That was one of my big criteria,” Pelletier said. “I really wanted something that we could easily say in French and English.”
Not everyone agrees with the change.
Aaron Bouma, a Woodstock autism advocate who was diagnosed with the disorder at age three, said he applauds the move toward more inclusive names but has concerns in this case.
He questioned the need to remove autism from the group’s name and said he had never been stigmatized by the term.
“Taking autism out of the word defeats the purpose of what they’re doing and their support, who they’re supporting,” Bouma said.
Bouma also worries that removing the word autism from the name could make it more difficult for parents looking for help to find the services they need.
While he appreciated removing the intervention from the name because it could be a trigger for some people, he said the word therapeutic could be seen the same way.
“Why couldn’t they use the words … inclusive support services,” Bouma said.
Pelletier said the name change fits with best practices in autism support services that are moving away from branding with labels such as autism and intervention.
He said pressure to change the name also came from people in his clan.
“We really wanted to be responsive to our community, [and] We felt that was a message we heard from the community,” Pelletier said.