Skip to content

Surrey First vows to expand city efforts to make kids with autism ‘feel at home’

Initiative would include staff and coach training, as well as a sensory room in Clayton Community Centre
From left to right: Katy Harandi (president of the Canucks Autism Network), Surrey First mayoral candidate Tom Gill and Dawn McKenna (executive director Pacific Autism Family Network) at a press conference announcing that if elected, Surrey First would expand city efforts to make kids with autism “feel at home.” (Submitted photo)

Surrey First is promising to expand city efforts to make children with autism “feel at home” in Surrey’s parks, pools, rinks and community centres, if elected.

“I want Surrey to lead the country in inclusivity, particularly for our children,” said the slate’s mayoral candidate Tom Gill in a release.

This past summer, the City of Surrey launched “Sensory Friendly Spaces,” at public events and has provided training to 100 of its recreational centre staff, a Surrey First release notes.

“Here in Surrey we’ve made a terrific start, but I want to take it further faster,” Gill added. “Our Surrey First team wants to see another 500 of our parks, rec and library staff trained by June of next year, offer training to the more than 3,500 soccer, baseball, hockey and football coaches in our city, and pilot a Snoezelen sensory room in our new Clayton Community Centre which is under construction and set to open in summer 2020.”

See also: SURREY ELECTION: 8 running for mayor, 48 council hopefuls, 30 trustee candidates

According to a Surrey First release, the Snoezelen sensory rooms — developed in Holland nearly 40 years ago — use sound, light, colour and texture to provide a multi-sensory experience for children with autism.

Gill said he wants the pilot room to be a template for other Snoezelen rooms and wants to work with organizations such as the Canucks Autism Network and Pacific Autism Family Network to become a “champion for inclusion.”

“Our parks, pools, rinks and community centres are second to none and that goes for our staff as well,” said Gill. “Training and awareness are key to making children feel included, so I want to make sure our city staff are trained, and I want to offer that same training and information to our city’s incredible volunteer coaches right across Surrey.”

Surrey First council candidate Trevor Halford said “building confidence and life skills” in children starts with feeling accepted and included.

“Feeling understood and accepted is important for these kids, but it’s equally important for their parents,” said Halford, a local soccer coach whose family has a personal connection to ASD. “Putting our pools, rinks, playing fields and community centres to work on behalf of these 1,600 Surrey children and their families is an important part of helping them feel included, and that starts by training as many of our city staff as possible about autism, removing the stigma, and making sure every child feels welcome. Including our city’s coaches is a terrific addition that will also help raise awareness right across our community.”

Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia, who founded the Pacific Autism Family Network with her husband Sergio Cocchia, said Gill’s commitment to making the city more inclusive says a lot about Surrey.

“For a city to step up and say they want to make sure every child is included is wonderful, and something Surrey should be proud of,” said Lisogar-Cocchia in a release. “Today, one in 66 children aged five to 17 is diagnosed with autism, and it is four times more common in boys than girls. It’s something that touches not just the 1,600 children in Surrey, but also their families and extended families.”

Katy Harandi, president of the Canucks Autism Network, said training city staff and local coaches will go a long way.

“We are proud of our partnership with the City of Surrey and look forward to building on our existing relationship by providing additional autism training to the sports and recreation sector and beyond,” said Harandi. “Our ultimate goal is for every individual with autism to be understood, accepted and supported in all community spaces and this training in Surrey will mark an important step in this direction.”

Carmen Zajac, president of the Zajac Ranch for Children, said “giving staff at the City of Surrey the training and coaching they need to make sure city facilities are as inclusive as possible is a wonderful idea and something every parent wants for their child.”

Click here to read more election news.

Other election news:

See also: Laurie Guerra to run with Safe Surrey Coalition again

See also: ELECTION QUESTIONS: What would happen if Surrey LRT was scrapped?

See also: Hayne wants answers after cancellation of two Surrey public safety meetings

See also: People First Surrey announces final three candidates

See also: Two-person ‘Progressive Sustainable Surrey’ slate joins election race

See also: New ‘Act NOW Surrey’ slate joins school board election race

See also: Cloverdale realtor Becky Zhou to run for Surrey council

See also: John Wolanski to run for Surrey mayor

See also: Surrey First promising free access to pools, rinks and gyms for Surrey youth

See also: Proudly Surrey says asbestos needs to be removed from all schools, now

See also: EXCLUSIVE: Why we left Surrey First

See also: VIDEO: Surrey First announces full slate of candidates

See also: Mayoral candidate Pauline Greaves joins Proudly Surrey slate

See also: Parshotam Goel joins Proudly Surrey slate

See also: Steven Pettigrew and Jack Hundial join McCallum’s Safe Surrey slate

See also: Proudly Surrey announces fourth school board candidate

See also: People First Surrey announces mayoral candidate, third council hopeful

See also: Brenda Locke, Mandeep Nagra join McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition

See also: BUCHOLTZ: Surrey First naysayer goes out with a bang

See also: Woods joins Hayne’s Integrity Now slate as Surrey council candidate

See also: Handgun ban issue fires up Surrey candidates

See also: Surrey Honeybee Centre founder to run for council with Integrity Now

See also: Councillor Dave Woods resigns from Surrey First

See also: New independent school board candidate in Surrey

See also: Dr. Allison Patton joins Safe Surrey Coalition slate

See also: Downtown Surrey BIA announces all-candidates meetings

See also: Retired teacher Julia Poole to run for Surrey school board

See also: Pauline Greaves joins mayoral race in Surrey

See also: Avi Dhaliwal joins Surrey Integrity Now as council candidate

See also: Proudly Surrey wants to build a Rita Johnston statue, rename the Pattullo to Bob Bose Bridge

See also: McCallum keeps ‘Safe Surrey Coalition’ name, announces new candidate

See also: Rina Gill joins Bruce Hayne’s ‘Surrey Integrity Now’ party

See also: Doug Elford resigns from his Surrey party to run with McCallum

See also: People First Surrey announces first two candidates

See also: Doug McCallum running for Surrey mayor

See also: Former Surrey First Councillor Bruce Hayne to run for mayor

See also: Tom Gill is Surrey First’s mayoral candidate

See also: Hayne splits from Surrey First: ‘It’s just not open and transparent the way I’d like it to be’

See also: Surrey First’s Mary Martin not seeking re-election this fall

See also: Surrey First Councillor Judy Villeneuve not seeking re-election this fall

See more: New civic slate Proudly Surrey aims to offer ‘sharp, strong, left-leaning’ candidates

See more: Proudly Surrey introduces two more candidates for Surrey council, schoolboard

See more: Surrey Community Alliance announces intention to challenge Surrey First in civic election

See more: Surrey Community Alliance unveils civic slate, but no mayoral candidate

See more: People First Surrey party reveals intention to run in upcoming civic election

See more: Five Surrey First councillors now reveal interest in mayor’s chair

See more: With Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner out, who is mulling a mayoral run?

See more: Hawthorne Park crusader to run for Surrey council

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Amy on Twitter