Joan Chais­son; in her own words

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - Front page -

Joan Chaiss­son was cho­sen to be this year’s pa­tron of the Lions Club Win­ter Car­ni­val in Port aux Basques.

This life-long res­i­dent of the town has had an in­ter­est­ing life, one of chal­lenges as well as suc­cess.

She was just a year old when she suf­fered se­vere burns in a house fire in 1958; an event that left her with scarred hands and other resid­ual ef­fects, in­clud­ing a di­ag­no­sis of fi­bromyal­gia 20 years ago.

Orig­i­nally, she never in­tended to pur­sue a univer­sity de­gree. She had planned to take over her fa­ther’s bussing busi­ness. But she ended up with two de­grees from MUN: Bach­e­lor of Arts and Ed­u­ca­tion and Bach­e­lor of Spe­cial Ed­u­ca­tion, and spent 30 years in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem as a teacher.

Even af­ter re­tire­ment in 2009 she con­tin­ued to work as a sub­sti­tute teacher, and be­gan work­ing with chil­dren with autism as a Home Ther­a­pist us­ing the Ap­plied Be­hav­iour Anal­y­sis pro­gram.

Five years ago she con­founded the AIM ( Autism In­volves Me) Group with a par­ent of chil­dren with autism, to sup­port lo­cal fam­i­lies and chil­dren, and ed­u­cate oth­ers about Autism.

She also vol­un­teers with her lo­cal church, and is chair of the Wesley United Church Board.

She and her hus­band, Tony, have one son, An­drew, who lives in Al­berta.

In her speech to the au­di­ence on the open­ing night of the win­ter car­ni­val, Chais­son gave fur­ther in­sight into what mo­ti­vates her.

Here then, in her own words, is Joan Chais­son:

It is in­deed an hon­our and a plea­sure to ac­cept the Po­si­tion of Hon­orary Pa­tron for our Win­ter Car­ni­val.

When Brian (But­ton) called me, he said he was calling on be­half of the Win­ter Car­ni­val but since I was asked just the day be­fore to be on the Come Home Year Com­mit­tee, I did as I do so of­ten — I jumped to the wrong con­clu­sion and told him I was al­ready asked and I was not able to do it at this time since I was so busy with the AIM group, my church and work­ing each af­ter­noon.

Brian went quiet and then he asked me what I was asked to do. I told him about the Come Home Com­mit­tee. He said, “No, I am calling to ask you to be our hon­orary Pa­tron for Win­ter Car­ni­val.”

For the first time in many months, I was speech­less! This was the fur­thest thing in my mind.

I have to be hon­est, I feel that I am a rep­re­sen­ta­tive for many peo­ple.

Our AIM (Autism In­volves Me) has be­come very suc­cess­ful but it is be­cause of you, our towns­peo­ple.

When­ever we dream of a new pro­ject to help our chil­dren with autism, the cit­i­zens, busi­nesses and Town Coun­cil is right there to part­ner with us. As most of you may know, we have worked to­gether with our coun­cil and Bruce 11 so we could cre­ate a sen­sory gym, a spe­cial­ized swimming pro­gram and a part­ner­ship in the Sun­shine Bowl­ing pro­gram at the Bruce 11 Com­plex. We are now work­ing on de­vel­op­ing a Sledge Hockey pro­gram.

We worked with Cathy Lomond and her staff at Ho­tel Port aux Basques so we could

de­velop a sen­sory room at her ho­tel, ed­u­cate her staff on Autism. Mrs. Lomond ren­o­vated sev­eral rooms in her ho­tel as well as spe­cial­ized her menu and reg­is­tra­tion process, re­sult­ing in her ho­tel be­com­ing the first Autism Friendly Ho­tel in Canada.

She started with ren­o­vat­ing a cou­ple of rooms but now she re­al­izes, she may have to do all the rooms on the first floor.

Last sum­mer I pre­sented our Town Coun­cil with a doc­u­ment that ex­plained 17 dif­fer­ent cit­i­zens and busi­nesses in our town go­ing above and be­yond to help our autis­tic com­mu­nity.

I do not have the time here to dis­cuss all 17 but there were peo­ple such as Jeanette and Shawn Tobin who do­nated a large por­tion of their build­ing to our group so we could have a meet­ing room and Re­source Cen­ter. This area is to­tally rent free and it is a dream to us and the chil­dren.

We have hair­dressers and bar­bers who make spe­cial times for our chil­dren to visit.

The staff at Pizza De­light work with us so our chil­dren can learn how to or­der, eat and be­have in a restau­rant.

We also have the cit­i­zens of our town who sup­port us when we sell our puz­zle pieces or when we ask for time or do­na­tions.

Just last month I asked if peo­ple would do­nate their re­cy­clables to our ac­count so that we could buy some weighted blan­kets, cost­ing ap­prox­i­mately $200 each. Within a week, peo­ple were mes­sag­ing me and there was enough money do­nated to or­der four blan­kets. I had not even asked for money but this is how sup­port­ive our town is.

We were so proud in July when the Town Coun­cil pro­claimed our town as an Autism Friendly Town.

Our AIM group is cur­rently work­ing to in­creas our Re­source Li­brary so that ed­u­ca­tors, ther­a­pists, par­ents of all chil­dren — not just the chil­dren with autism — may be able to bor­row these ma­te­ri­als. We are also in the early stages of try­ing to bring the MedicAlert Con­nect Pro­tect Bracelet pro­gram to our town so RCMP of­fi­cers can iden­tify wan­der­ing or lost chil­dren or adults.

We have been told many times by peo­ple from large cities, such as St. John’s, Mon­treal and Toronto that they can­not be­lieve what we have ac­com­plished in a town of this size.

This could not hap­pen by one per­son or one group.

So, I may be the Hon­orary Pa­tron but I am rep­re­sent­ing all of you since each one of you are Hon­orary pa­trons in the eyes of our group.


Joan Chais­son is hon­orary pa­tron of the an­nual Lions Club Win­ter Car­ni­val.

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