About us

The Lennox & Addington County Autism Network is a volunteer, parent-led support group for individuals and their loved ones with exceptionalities.

We support our local community and agencies to provide resources, support and information for those who need it. 

Our goal is to provide opportunities for people living with autism to achieve their full potential.

Board of Directors

Mandy Stapley:

Founder/President

My name is Mandy Stapley, I reside in the Town of Greater Napanee. I am a single mother to my son, Hank, who lives with severe autism (non-verbal) or otherwise known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Hank’s birth was “normal,” full-term no complications, and considered natural.

I quickly sought a referral to a Paediatric doctor when Hank was nearing 18-months old. I had a strong feeling he wasn’t meeting typical milestones for children of his age.

It was a long and difficult journey, that left me feeling like I was navigating blindly. I felt helpless, scared, alone, defeated and like a failure as a mother. I found myself reaching for any and all information about autism I could get my hands on. I had to put trust into the professionals in their field and I began to trust my “gut” feelings when it came to mothering a non-verbal child.

Hank required tubes at 24-months, after an Audiologist specialist determined Hank was hearing impaired. 

Hank received surgery for tubes, and was diagnosed with ASD shortly thereafter.

Hank began an intense behavioural intervention (IBI) program with the Maltby Centre located in Kingston, Ontario at the age of 5 years old. Hank, like many children, waited on a list for nearly 3 years for this therapy.

During Hank’s treatment, he began using Picture Exchange Symbols (PECS) as a form of communication. Hank’s communication flourished and he upgraded to an iPad with a Proloquo2go app, known as an augmentative communication device.

It was during this time, I was able to connect with a group of women, with unique yet similar situations. Kristy Blais, Ashley Piontek and Laura Ross befriended me during this difficult journey.

They befriended me, during a time I really needed someone. Anyone, to understand what I was going through as a parent of a child with exceptionalities.

It wasn’t known to me at this time, but these friendships grew into something greater than I could have even imagined.

It grew into a grassroots organization called: The Lennox & Addington County Autism Network.

We began networking to build; acceptance, awareness and support among ourselves as well as within our community.

Kristy Blais:

Co-Founder/Director

Hello, my name is Kristy Blais, I have two beautifully autistic daughters; Arianna (7) and Avery (5).

Arianna was one year when my husband and I relocated to Medicine Hat, Alberta. My husband, Derek, had a new and exciting work opportunity.

The new living location meant I was away from friends and family, which is hard for anyone, especially a new mother. I would take Arianna to local play groups to socialize. As months went on, I began to notice diminished eye contact, repetitive play (such as lining up her ponies), an absence of gestures, and regression in her limited word selection.

When Arianna was 2 years old, I hurried her to see our paediatrician in Alberta, (who had suspicions she was autistic), before we began our move back to Ontario. Her paediatrician at that time wrote a note to take to Ontario, in hopes to begin the search for a new paediatrician. Hopefully, one that could perform the recommended tests to diagnose Arianna.

It wasn’t long before I would find that even getting a paediatrician would be nearing a year wait, with an additional 1 year wait to receive any Applied Behavioural Therapy (ABA) provided by the government.

We managed to find a private psychologist who diagnosed Arianna with moderate to severe autism, when she was almost 3 years old. At this time, our second daughter Avery was just 3 months old. I was given a strong slap of reality, that autism is more common among siblings.

During the wait for Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI), Arianna flourished with her ability to complete all sorts of puzzles. She knew her alphabet forwards and backwards! It was astonishing how quickly she could go from Z-A. We began to realize, when she lined up her ponies they were in the order of the colour spectrum, this amazed us.

Before Arianna began the IBI program with the Maltby Centre, I attended a More Than Words seminar by Hanen. It was at this time, the speech pathologist who instructed this seminar provided me the skills to teach Arianna to communicate with Picture Exchange Communication (PECS). This was a tremendous help to our family and she even transitioned easily from PECS to an IPad with the app Proloquo2go (Augmentative Communication Device).

As Arianna entered IBI (Maltby Centre) in September 2016 (4.5 yrs. old), I began to notice our second daughter, Avery’s, regression socially and with her verbal words. Within a month her word count dropped from 30 words to 5 words.

At just 25 months, Avery was diagnosed with autism and a global-delay. She has been attending IBI (Maltby Centre) for close to 2 years now. She has gained many skills, including communicating with her iPad; saying simple phrases, giving one-word answers, and echoing many words with good articulation.

Both my daughters Arianna and Avery have taught me more patience, strength and love then I ever thought possible. As their mother I relish in getting excited for all their accomplishments, big or small. Both girls are beginning to make new sounds and words with the help of a speech pathologist (SLP) they see weekly.

This journey beginning from diagnosis to now has been long, and at times an exhausting journey but it has enriched my life for the better.

At times being a parent of autistic children, I have felt alone and isolated. Once I connected with some local families whom also have autistic children, I felt a real sense of acceptance and understanding.

There were no recreational programs that existed locally for our children and this meant we were always travelling out of town, so our kids could participate in programs. I had always feared as our girls grew each year there would be fewer programs available to support them.

This sparked a fire in me! We need to have inclusive programs here locally for all ages. We need to have more connections with families of children with exceptional needs. It is for these reason, I dedicated my time and efforts to help create The Lennox and Addington County Autism Network.

For the first time in a long time, I am excited for the future, because together we can help many in our community!

Ashley Piontek:

Member

My name is Ashley Piontek, I was born and raised in the Town of Greater Napanee. I’ve been married to my husband Scott for almost 8 years. We have three boys Liam, Logan and Lloyd. 

My middle son, Logan had a difficult birth, that began with no heart rate or breathing. Paediatric doctors were able to bring Logan back to life and placed him in a medically induced coma. They placed him in a hypothermic state to control, swelling in his brain and protect his vital organs. Within 72-hours doctors were able to wake Logan from the induced coma. He spent the next two weeks in the NICU. Finally we were able to bring our bundle of joy home with us.

However, little did we know the difficult journey had only just begun. Logan remained on anti-seizure medication for four months. He was followed closely by the special infant clinic at Hotel Dieu Hospital in Kingston, Ontario. My husband and I, along with the paediatric team noticed Logan was not developing the same as his peers. Logan was diagnosed at 18-months with global-delay and cerebral palsy. At 24-months he was diagnosed with severe autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

At age 4.5, Logan began a two year journey with a treatment team. Known as one-to-one, intensive behavioural intervention (IBI) therapy with the Maltby Centre located in Kingston, Ontario.  During this treatment, Logan (non-verbal) began using an iPad with Proloquo2go known as an augmentative communication device. During Logan’s therapy with the Maltby Centre, I was able to connect with a group of like-minded women; Kristy, Mandy, and Laura.  We quickly built a strong bond with one another, sharing commonalities over having children with special needs.

Logan is 7.5 years old and amazes us every single day with things we never thought possible. My family has experienced a lack of resources and support in the Greater Napanee area. It is for this reason, this group of women and I decided to create a network to benefit families living in our community. With hopes to help families who are experiencing similar struggles.