FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Mayor Lori Ackerman proclaimed April as Autism Acceptance and Awareness Month and May as MS Awareness Month during a council meeting on Monday.

Coral Pimm, a parent to a child with autism; Nicole Inglehart, an aboriginal infant development consultant; Crystal Kalas, a special services supervisor; and Susan Cross, a family services coordinator, made a presentation on autism to council before the proclamation.

Autism is described as a complex lifelong neurological diversity that affects verbal and non-verbal social interactions, said the proclamation. Symptoms include hyperactivity issues, language difficulties, sensory problems, troubles with sleep, obsessive compulsions, depression, and anxiety.

Autism is named a spectrum because each person will have different symptoms, abilities, and characteristics, therefore, their needs may range from none at all to very substantial.

The proclamation stated that early detection and intervention can significantly improve a child’s life, and approximately one in 66 children and youth are diagnosed with autism in Canada.

“During the month of April, we strive to promote autism awareness, acceptance, inclusion, and self-advocacy for all, and that each person with autism has the opportunity to achieve the highest possible quality of life,” the proclamation said.

In March, Sherri Mytopher, a Fort St. John resident and a council member of the Northern Regional Chapter of the MS Society of Canada, penned a letter to the mayor asking for May to officially be declared MS Awareness Month.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic neurological disease with symptoms including numbness, coordination issues, extreme fatigue, and even paralysis, which affects about 90,000 Canadians.

There is no known cause of, prevention of, or cure for MS, and the MS Society of Canada is the only national organization in Canada that supports MS research and services for people with MS through annual fundraising events, said the proclamation.

The society has contributed $200 million towards MS research since 1948.

“Together, we will find ways to connect and empower the MS community to create positive change and see a world free of multiple sclerosis,” said the proclamation.