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Port aux Basques autism resources entice new families


Kayla & Koston, Gerry McDow.

This spring, Port aux Basques welcomed two families who moved here thanks to its reputation for being autism friendly.

Kayla MacDonald arrived with her partner Gerry McDow and their child Kosten (pictured above left), who is on the autism spectrum, on March 2.

Also newly arrived are Nick and Melissa Barr, who came in two stages with their family. Nick and his oldest daughter, Ryleigh, arrived in April and had to isolate in a house they had bought. They drove from Toronto in a U-Haul with their two cats and everything that they needed. They then had to self-isolate without hydro for two weeks.

Then in June Melissa came with their three other children, Abbie, Nicholas and Ava (pictured above right). Both Nicholas and Ava are on the autism spectrum.

Both families came because they felt Port aux Basques would provide a better life for their children.

“We left Ontario because of our loss of interest living in a big city as well as the cuts the Ontario government made to autism funding. We knew the cuts would severely impact our son‚Äôs future and cause a lot of unneeded stress on our family. We were also growing tired of living in a busy city and were seeking to find a slow paced town close to nature to call our own. Port aux Basques was the perfect fit for all of our family needs,” said MacDonald.

Melissa Barr, who did not know MacDonald previously, was of a similar opinion.

“Our two youngest children were languishing on a wait list for autism services in Ontario with no end in sight and we also wanted a safer place to live. We knew our children would be safer,happier and would thrive here.”

Both families conducted significant research before they arrived. The MacDonald family did have relatives here but the Barrs did not. Melissa Barr also had to leave her three oldest adult daughters in Toronto. However, their research made the decision much easier to make.

“Other then our family that lives in Port aux Basques, we found out that the town was an autism friendly town from some videos and news clips that were online created by Autism Involves Me (AIM). After watching these videos over and over and contemplating our current lifestyle, we made our decision. It was an easy one considering how involved the whole community is in helping kids on the spectrum. We knew that this was definitely the place we wanted to raise our family,” said MacDonald.

Barr agreed, saying “When we decided to leave Ontario I Googled ‘best places in Canada to live for children with autism’ and multiple articles came up about Port aux Basques.”

Both maintain that the new reality of COVID-19 has definitely hampered some of their expectations of the town.


The Barr family.

“We wanted to make sure that we had the proper resources in place when we got here, so we contacted the school and coordinators of therapy to let them know we were coming so we could continue with our sons therapy shortly after we got there. Unfortunately, the pandemic was two weeks behind us and everything shut down shortly after we arrived. We were unable to start any type of treatments and get out in the community until now,” explained MacDonald.

However, the citizens of the town are making up for whats been lost due to the pandemic.

“Everyone has been amazing! When I first was researching I found AIM on Facebook and I was helped a lot. Then when my husband came, the mayor dropped off food for them and so many people checked in and made them feel welcome. When the rest of us came, it was the same – my amazing neighbors, Julie Ingram and Erica have been welcoming and so supportive and become great friends to us,” said Barr.

All the children with autism will continue with the resources that they need such as ABA therapy, one on one academic help in school, student assistant aid in school, occupational therapy and social interaction with other peers.

Both families say that they are feeling encouraged when contemplating the future.

Barr imagines, “An amazing future where they will be able to do daily things on their own and maybe one day live on their own with some help. But no matter what, I know they will have a way better future than before.”

MacDonald is already seeing positive changes.

“We see our son growing up being accepted, not bullied, happy, well supported and loved by the community. We’ve already seen that in the little time we’ve been here.”

Both clans are also eager to participate in AIM’s meetings, both private and public. They are eager to share with the community their experiences and to learn from other parents here. They are also telling their friends back in Ontario how much this town has already welcomed them.

MacDonald says of her experience to date, “The best decision we’ve ever made was coming here to Port aux Basques. I strongly support and encourage all my friends and family to take the step and move somewhere where they can live a happy, peaceful and fulfilled life with their family.”

Barr is already encouraging others to take advantage of her new community.

“I already have a longtime friend who is making the trip soon with her daughter with autism and if anyone else can find a way they should just do it. They will not regret it.”

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