Drafted by : SHANNON LITTLE

No two people are the same. But if you add in a complex mental condition, and developmental disability, characterized by difficulties in the way a person communicates, and interacts with other people, this wide spectrum disorder known as Autism makes this statement even more profoundly true.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a developmental condition, impacts typical brain growth widely varying how it affects each individual’s needs, abilities, and skills. There are some common characteristics such as repetitive interests, and activities, difficulties with social interactions, and communication, and stereotypic motor behaviours.

ASD is the “most common neurological disorder in children, (and) it is four to five times more common in boys than girls.” – PAFC website

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Photo Credit: Charles Zuckermann Photography

Although the cause, or causes of ASD are unknown, and there is no cure at this time, there are many “effective treatment and intervention methods that can help individuals, and their families, address the characteristics of the disorder.” – PAFC website

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Photo Credit: Sergio Cocchia

The Pacific Autism Family Centre (PAFC), set to open in the fall of 2016, in Richmond, BC, is a family led initiative by Sergio Cocchia and Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia. This state of the art centre of excellence will provide a network of supports for individuals with ASD and their families across BC, and ultimately all of Canada.

“The centre will be a one-stop-shop of information for families, a vocational training facility, and an educational hub for researchers and therapists,” says PAFC co-founder Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia. “The further out you get from Vancouver, the more difficult it is to find assistance. We will also be opening smaller “spoke” centres across British Columbia to ensure that families spanning the Province can get the help they need.” – Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia

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Photo Credit: Sergio Cocchia

The main Hub, is an incredible 60,000 square foot building specifically designed for the unique needs of everyone in the autism community.

“Calming, family-friendly spaces with soft lighting will house clinics, labs, classrooms, observation rooms, multidisciplinary research spaces, libraries, and family information kiosks.” – PAFC website

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Photo Credit: Sergio Cocchia

The PAFC is a non-profit organization intentionally designed to be an open, and collaborative environment bringing together fundamental organizations like the government, education, families, healthcare, and the community at large who desire to bring awareness to Autism and related disorders not only to those who live with it, but to society as a whole.

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WWW.METROLIVINGZINE.COM NEWS IMAGE CREDIT: pacificautismfamily.com

Some of the labs will be dedicated for counseling, and medical treatment. Two full rooms have been dedicated for dental labs. The PAFC has partnered with UBC’s Faculty of Dentistry, and designed a comprehensive program that will have graduate students, dental hygienists, and supervisory staff from the faculty working alongside the PAFC staff to provide teaching opportunities, education, care, in a calm, and safe environment.

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Photo Credit: Charles Zuckermann Photography

“As proponents of this project the Cocchia’s have secured a $20 million grant from the provincial government” – PAFC website, to assist in the completion of this $31 million initiative.

During National Autism Awareness Month, BC’s Top Personalities united on the runway for a sold out show, on Friday, April 15, 2016, at C|Prime Modern Italian Steak & Wine.

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Photo Credit: Charles Zuckermann Photography

The “Fashion Blooms for Pacific Autism Holt Renfrew Celebrity Fashion Show” raised $55,000 for Autism and related disorders with all proceeds from the event going towards the completion of PAFC’s new centre.

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Photo Credit: Charles Zuckermann Photography

Honorable Peter Fassbender started the event off with inspiring opening remarks, while emcees Sophie Lui of Global TV, and Fred Lee, Man About Town, kept the crowd fabulously entertained.

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Photo Credit: Charles Zuckermann Photography

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Photo Credit: Charles Zuckermann Photography

Everyone looked stunning, particularly those personally affected by autism who also walked the runway wearing the hot new looks for this season, provided by Holt Renfrew, Canada’s leading luxury retailer.

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Photo Credit: Charles Zuckermann Photography

Dolce & Gabanna known for their overtly sexy designs departed this season to a slightly subtle sexier look as portrayed in the white eyelet dress worn by Mary Zilba. Sonia Deol of Global TV’s Morning News cast wore Canadian designer Wayne Clark, while other local celebrities, like Keri Adams from CTV walked the runway carrying Canadian designed Mackage purses, and handbags

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Photo Credit: Charles Zuckermann Photography

Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia and Sergio Cocchia hosts of the fashion show were touched by the support for the event, and that they have succeeded in their mission to continue to raise the significant funds needed for the PAFC and bringing awareness for all who are affected by ASD.

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Photo Credit: Charles Zuckermann Photography

The Pacific Family Autism Centre will truly be more than a building. It will be a safe, welcoming environment with the ability to provide help, education, research connections, and most importantly compassion and the feeling that people are not alone in dealing with a unique disorder.