Photo caption Branch Out Staff (L-R) Brad Brosnan, Cari Munro, Tabitha Simson, Simone Bourassa, Brenna Traverse, Heather Senior (missing Krista Barrault). Submitted

Program for autistic children survives thanks to dedicated staff

Fernie mother grateful that Branch Out Learning has filled the void

Ashley Kowalewski

Contributor, The Free Press

Branch Out Learning and Behaviour Therapy started up in June to fill the void in support for families with children with autism in the Elk Valley when the previous program funding was cut.

Look back: Fernie women step in to save autism program

The private centre replaced Community Connections and supports families and children with developmental disabilities, autism, or challenges in learning or behaviour.

They provide schooling, therapy and summer camps to help meet the wide ranging needs of families in this region.

Some of the team from Branch Out had worked with several of the long standing program participants of Community Connections, since they were toddlers.

Nicole Attalla, a mother of three, believes that the staff and the program have significantly enhanced her daughter Amber’s quality of life and have made a monumental difference in her child’s life.

Her daughter Amber attends Branch Out as a full-time student, where she also receives therapy. Nicole believes that her daughter’s world would have been very different without the program and the staff.

“She was affected in all ways when the hold happened; before the ladies filled the niche for support,” said Nicole.

At six years old, Nicole’s daughter could not learn her ABC’s. Her mother would wonder – how could she ever be in a normal class with a learning challenge like this.

“She learns only in ways that appeal to her,” explained Nicole.

“She has more behaviour challenges if there is too much stimulation for instance. The staff and school program helps to reduce her challenges and increase her comfort and interest. The program streamlined her back into life. The staff even Skype with her when she needs that support; they really care.

“One thing that has been consistent in having Branch Out staff in our lives is that Amber has amazing, positive, patient and caring individuals that know how to listen and pay attention to her needs. Because of this, she has had success,” continued Nicole.

“They help make her world attainable and accessible. Amber feels comfortable and confident. She takes risks because she is supported regardless of the outcome.”

Simone Bourassa and Tabitha Simpson, cofounders of Branch Out Learning, are happy that they can continue to provide support to Amber and her family.

They are experts in the fields of behavioral analysis and applied behavior analysis; combined they have over 20 years of professional experience.

The pair have recruited qualified staff with credentials such as; undergraduate degrees in education, child development, and psychology.

Staff receive ongoing training and are also registered as a behaviour technician, a designation through the behaviour analyst certification board (BACB).

“In cities you have choices as a parents; but here you are limited,” said Bourassa, adding that she’s extremely grateful for the level of qualifications of the staff.

“They are qualified and experts and they provide the community interaction and support we need here and now. They dive into our kids’ lives with smiles. Our kids love them. For us as parents, that means the most,” she said.

The Branch Out Team is grateful to the community for their support. “We could not have done it without the support of the community and the fundraising efforts,” said Bourassa.

The next fundraiser is a yoga fundraiser, “Conscious Exploration”, which will run from September 27 at 5:00 p.m. until September 29 at 4 p.m.

The event is open to all ability levels and all proceeds will be donated to Branch Out.

Visit Livingyogadventures.ca to register or for more information.

 

Just Posted

Cycling Without Ages Launches on Sunday at The Arts Station

‘Did you ever want to do a biking Miss Daisy cruise around town with community leaders?’

Fernie teen strikes high note with the Royal Conservatory

The musical journey has been a steady effort for Longo, who has had the same teacher, Sophia Hoffman, since childhood.

Kootenay-Columbia candidate cautious after getting threats

Trev Miller of the Animal Protection Party carries on campaigning under shadow of threats, abusive emails

Feud with Canada Post causes post office to close its doors

Grasmere Post Office will close Oct. 31, building owners unable to reach agreement with Canada Post

Kootenay-Columbia riding candidates have Canada’s highest expense limit

Facebook data also shows who is buying ads on the social media website

YouTube video of Revelstoke grizzly bear goes viral

Why did the grizzly bear cross the railway tracks?

Japanese buyer expands wood pellet contract with B.C.’s Pinnacle

Mitsui and Co. increases contract with Interior energy producer

ELECTION 2019: Have Justin Trudeau’s Liberals really cut middle-class taxes?

Conservative Andrew Scheer vows to cut bottom bracket, NDP’s Jagmeet Singh targets wealth tax

B.C. RCMP officer suing the force for malicious prosecution

Cpl. Tammy Hollingsworth cleared of wrongdoing after misconduct hearing

Talk to your kids about vaping, B.C.’s top doctor says

B.C. health officials have discovered the first vaping-related illness in the province

Alberta truck convoy plans counter-protest at climate rally with Greta Thunberg

United We Roll organizer says similar protest planned for Swedish teen’s event in Edmonton

Scheer, Trudeau, Singh haggle over potential minority government outcome

If you believe the polls, it appears the Liberals and Conservatives are neck-and-neck

British family deported after ‘accidental’ U.S. border crossing

U.S. officials deny it was mistake, release video of vehicle crossing into Washington from Langley

Kamloops man hangs on to back of stolen truck as suspect speeds away, crashes

The pickup truck was seen leaving the roadway before bursting into flames

Most Read