Who’s Who: Kym Hume: Girl Strong

Who’s Who: Kym Hume: Girl Strong
By Mike Butler

Oh that SMILE! It’s as warm as her hugs and as glowing as her personality. This powerful, intelligent, and vibrant woman is an inspiration to so many here in our valley and beyond. I am so proud to call her my friend and to feature her here (finally!) for everyone to read about.

Kym Hume is a Valley girl. She lived in Middleton with her parents and siblings until she moved to Halifax to go to university. She grew up in a loving, animal-centered and political family with her dad, veterinarian and former Minister of Health Dr. Gerry Sheehy, and her mum, Emma, always encouraging her to look at the world through an unbiased lens and accept everyone regardless of disability, race, intellectual ability, religion, or any differences. “It was expected that I would have a career where I would help others,” Kym says, “and so, I went into teaching at Dalhousie. Eventually I also attended Acadia where I studied special education and got a master’s degree. Along my educational career path, I was a classroom and special education teacher, as well as a school administrator, before I eventually ended up at AVRCE as the Coordinator of Student Services for a year, and then the Consultant for Autism.”

Midway through her career at Annapolis East Elementary school in Middleton, Kym began to have children with autism enroll in their primary classrooms and transfer in from other areas. At that time, Kym did not have the expertise in autism, so she enrolled at the University of North Carolina’s Teacch program and completed both Level 1 and 2 of this intensive training. “I also began to attend other training opportunities and conferences focused on understanding autism and creating an educational environment where our students with ASD could feel comfortable and learn.” she says. “Autism became my passion and I have gotten my greatest satisfaction from working with people with autism and their families.”

After a wonderful 34 years in education, Kym retired in 2010 and began her own business, Autism Atlantic Consulting Services, with her close friend, Yvonne Rafuse. Since establishing the business, she has been very busy presenting seminars, workshops, and intensive five-day training in the area of autism spectrum disorders both here in NS, other places in Canada, the US, and Anguilla (British West Indies). For many years Kym volunteered with the Valley Autism Support Team (VAST), which was the forerunner of the current Annapolis Chapter of Autism Nova Scotia, and she still volunteers for this dedicated organization by doing training and offering information sessions for families the public.

“For the past three years,” Kym says, “I have focused on the area of females with autism. My partner and I offer an annual two-day summer institute focused on understanding females with autism, who are very different from males with autism. In fact, many girls with autism are not recognized as having the disorder and do not get their diagnosis until they are older. Fortunately, the information about the characteristics of girls with ASD is becoming better known and more girls are now being screened for the diagnosis.” Kym and her partner Yvonne have developed a unique program focused solely on helping girls with autism called Girl Strong. The program focuses on understanding emotions, specifically the more intense emotions of anger, sadness, elation, and most importantly anxiety. The girls learn ways to recognize their triggers and self-regulate their sometimes overwhelming feelings of anxiety. Following the establishment of the successful Girl Strong program, it made sense to create an experience for girls with ASD and their families.

Kym explained, “So, from Thursday August 16 to Sunday August 18, 17 girls with autism and one (or both) of their parents came to Acadia University to participate in a unique and first of its kind summer retreat for girls with autism. They stayed in residence, ate their meals in the cafeteria and attended ten sessions along with their parents focused on girls and autism. I am thrilled that this dream of doing a retreat has come true and cannot stress enough how supportive Acadia and their staff have been to help us put this special event together. It was a thrilling success according to the feedback we got from the families.”

All the best to Kym and her team in their future projects, and a special thanks for everything you do to make everyone feel accepted, loved, and strong!