Next week the Coast will welcome hundreds of visitors from around the world to celebrate accomplishments of those in the autistic community.
Oct. 1 to 6 marks the fourth annual International Naturally Autistic People Awards convention and festival (INAPA), although it’s the first year the event will be held on the Coast.
Organizers Charlie Collura and Leonora Greg-ory-Collura live in Langdale, but have held the international event in the Lower Mainland in the past, partially due to the ease of getting international visitors to Vancouver.
“We wanted to move it to the Coast this year because we live here and our community has a lot to offer,” Collura said, noting they plan to keep the awards on the Coast from now on.
INAPA are the only awards specifically for autistic people. The awards were developed by Collura and Gregory-Collura through their business, ANCA Consulting Inc., which supports people with autism.
When Gregory-Collura started researching the idea she was “amazed to find out there weren’t any awards for people on the autism spectrum. So we needed to change that.”
The first year of INAPA saw around a dozen nominations from three countries come in, and the next year there were 36 nominations from seven countries.
“Every year it gets bigger as more people find out about it,” Gregory-Collura said.
This year almost 100 nominations have come in from 17 countries: Canada, Romania, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, U.S.A., India, Scotland, England, Malaysia, Italy, Pakistan, Turkey, Zimbabwe, Greece and South Africa.
Nominees are vying for the win in categories like visual, performing and literary arts, entrepreneur, technology, sports, community achievement, community mentor and community leadership.
The huge international response is exciting, yet not unexpected.
“People want to get involved because it’s empowering for everybody,” Collura said, adding Gregory-Collura also spends much time promoting the awards with governments in various countries.
By raising the profile of the international awards, Gregory-Collura hopes to shine a light on people with autism and their incredible talents worldwide.
The theme of this year’s event is “Moving out of the Shadows,” which is also the title of former award winner Samantha E’s original song. She will be performing at the opening ceremony at the Raven’s Cry Theatre on Oct. 1 at 6 p.m.
The awards ceremony will be held on Oct. 4 at 6 p.m. at the theatre.
During the rest of the convention and festival (running until Oct. 6) guests can take part in a number of workshops led by guest presenters including Janet Panic, who will teach participants how to create a song, and Dr. Benjamin Schogler, who invented the Skoog, a new kind of hands-on musical instrument.
Find out more about the workshops at www.naturallyautistic.com.
Between Oct. 2 and 5 there will also be a festival at Sunnycrest Mall to encourage the public to get to know more about autism and the amazing people affected by it.
Autism affects people in varying degrees and is characterized by difficulties in social interaction and verbal and non-verbal communication, as well as repetitive behaviours.