Our History

The beginnings of the Autism Society, Newfoundland Labrador, were in 1982  when Autism Society Canada (ASC) held a meeting in St. John’s with the purpose of starting a chapter. At that time, Barbara Hopkins, professor of education at Memorial University, was invited to join ASC’s Board of Directors in 1983. She had a mission to create a chapter in St. John’s. In 1987, a constitution and bylaws were drafted and Autism Society, Newfoundland Labrador (ASNL), was both formally incorporated under the NL Companies Act and registered as a charity under the Income Tax Act.

From there, a capital campaign to build a provincial autism centre officially began in 2003. Local champions saw the need for a Centre that would provide services and supports for individuals and families living with Autism Spectrum Disorder. With Craig and Elaine Dobbin as major benefactors, the doors opened in late 2005. The Elaine Dobbin Centre for Autism officially opened in June 2006, and served the Avalon Region. Regional centres soon followed: in 2009 the first Regional Office in Grand Falls-Windsor served the South Central Region; the second Regional Office in Clarenville-Shoal Harbour, serving the Eastern Region, opened in 2010; and the third opened in 2011, in Corner Brook, and served the Western Region.

1982
Autism Society Canada comes to Newfoundland

1984
Autism Parent Group formed

1985
Parent Support Meetings begin

1986
First brochure and media materials developed

1987
The Autism Society, Newfoundland Labrador, formally incorporated

1993
A parent chapter in Marystown began

1994
ASNL developed its first Board of Directors & ASNL supported a research project conducted at the Janeway Hospital

1996
The Elks Club provided an office space & An Asperger’s Parent Group was formed

1997
Annual retreat set a priority of having a centre that would serve persons affected by autism throughout their lifespan

1999
ASNL website begins, Provincial Committee on Autism created, Grand Falls Chapter is formed, Early Intervention Program Pilot starts, ASNL receives some government funding

2006
The provincial office moved to Shamrock Farm and the Elaine Dobbin Centre for Autism was opened

2007
Daily programming begins with Adults

2009
Daily programming expanded to adolescents & ASNL opened its first Regional Office in Grand Falls to serve the South Central Chapter

2010
ASNL opened the second Regional Office in Clarenville to server the Eastern Chapter

2011
Intervention Services were extended to grade 2 and ASNL opened its third Regional Office to serve the Western Chapter

2012
Intervention Services were extended to grade 3, Targa Technical Centres opened across the province 

2013
ASNL board established as a policy board
Position Statement Booklets and Family Resource Kits distributed
A Program Assistant was added to the paid staff at Eastern Regional Office 

2014 
Service delivery Model in rural regions changed to outreach; no programming

2015
Provincial election advocacy campaign (Raise Your Hand) 

2016 
Provincial Needs Assessment Survey Report launched in March
Feasibility Study into Onsite Expansion of Facilities at Shamrock Farm completed
Elaine Dobbin Centre celebrated 10-year anniversary

The Natural and Cultural Heritage of Shamrock Farm

In 2015, Autism Society Newfoundland Labrador were lucky to have an intern in partnership with Conservation Corps Newfoundland and Labrador research the cultural and natural heritage of the property that is now home to the Elaine Dobbin Centre for Autism. That full report is available here