For those who have had a child diagnosed with autism, you know what the first year feels like.  The confusion, the heartache, the frantic searching for answers and for help. The determination to get your child what he or she needs to learn and thrive.  Shining Through was built by that kind of fierce parental determination.  ​​​

In 1999, five ordinary families found they had a common bond.  Each family had a child with autism and no acceptable options for the care and education for their children. We call them the Founding Families:  the DeBartolos, the Girardis, the Leiders, the Martinis, and the Santinis.  What the Founding Families needed for their children did not exist in the community.  It was a time of severe shortage of qualified centres specializing in cutting edge therapy for children with autism.  These families took matters into their own hands, and the Shining Through Centre for Children with Autism was born. 

What the Founding Families decided to do next was truly inspirational. Word had spread about the quality and innovation of the therapeutic care at Shining Through, and Shining Through was growing.  The parents of Shining Through acquired a beautiful, 19th century mansion house, and, with the help of close family and friends, committed to renovate the interior.  Every night for a year, those determined, resourceful parents, after long days at their jobs and caring for their children, dragged themselves to the building to work on the renovations.  They taught themselves the skills they needed and enlisted all the help they could from their community to build a new therapeutic and learning centre.  By January, 2001, the Woodbridge campus of Shining Through was open and registering learners. 

As their dream moved beyond the needs of their own families, Shining Through continued to grow.  The goal became the creation of a centre of world-class quality, wherein their children and others could find the best care available. To that end, they began hiring a staff of highly specialized professionals to create programs, conduct one-to-one therapy (based on the principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis), monitor progress, advise families, and champion the progression of all constructive interventions that would facilitate the education, growth, and development of their children.  

As time went on, Shining Through grew, both in the number of learners and in its mandate. Before long, the Centre boasted a large number of serviced families, a robust fundraising calendar, an annual Gala that attracted over 1000 attendees, a social skills program, academic publications, an annual training conference hosting internationally recognized educators and practitioners, and a therapy outreach program that supports in-home education and intervention strategies.

So extensive was the Centre’s success that in 2008, learner loads exceeded the capacity of the Woodbridge campus. Shining Through acquired a second campus in North York. The historic 19th century landmark, located adjacent to Beecroft Park, was completely refurbished and outfitted with all the amenities required to run a world-class therapy centre. A third site in Mississauga, located in the Streetsville Academy & Private School opened in 2012. These sites have helped Shining Through further extend its dedication to helping children with autism and their families in the GTA.  

So many parents of children with autism have stories of finding the Shining Through Centre when they did not know where else to turn.  Shining Through remains a close knit group of parents working for a common goal, but now there over 1400 members of our community who support Shining Through at the gala and throughout the year.  There is awareness and recognition of the work of Shining Through, and it brings the larger community together as team members. The Shining Through Centre also attracts internationally renowned staff, recognized and published researchers, accredited and credentialed management, as well as established and prolific educators. The dedication and grit of the Founding Families of Shining Through resonate through our efforts as a community.  So many of those families are still tireless contributors to managing the Centre and its fundraising events, even after their children have grown up or moved on.  They inspire the work of Shining Through’s staff, families and countless supporters.  They remind us that determination can bring change, and together we are always stronger.