Promoting inclusion and mental well-being | Promouvoir l’inclusion et le mieux-être mental
Inspirations Articles

Awesome Parent: Lori-Ann Zemanovich heads up the Montreal Autism Community Lions Club

Lori-Ann Zemanovich, middle, her son Pietro Cammalleri, left, and her daughter Rosetta Cammalleri. Photo courtesy of L. Zemanovich
Lori-Ann Zemanovich, middle, her son Pietro Cammalleri, left, and her daughter Rosetta Cammalleri. Photo courtesy of L. Zemanovich
Montreal - Friday, December 2, 2022

by Anita Szabadi-Gottesman

Proud mom Lori-Ann Zemanovich and big sister Rosetta Cammalleri were over the moon with joy and excitement when they welcomed baby Pietro Cammalleri home. By the age of three, it became clear that Pietro was not meeting his developmental milestones. “I knew then that I had to explore a brandnew world and start to understand Pietro’s perception of the world around him,” said Zemanovich.

At first, she thought that Pietro had a problem with his hearing. Slowly she began noticing that he had reduced verbal development, was sensitive to touch and seemed overly focused when playing with his toys. “Pietro would not look me in the eye,” she said. “So many of his behaviours led me to my first encounter with autism when he was definitively diagnosed with PDD (Pervasive Developmental Delay) and less than a year later with ASD (autism spectrum disorder).

Zemanovich looked for support in the community to better understand Pietro and found it with teams of special education teachers and consultants. “I began by learning his unique language and way of communicating,” she recalled. “From there I developed what I call a ‘Pietro Reference Manual,’ outlining his coping mechanisms, the key phrases that he prefers and [descriptions of] his unique behavioural issues.

With her infectious smile and exuberance, Pietro’s mom was always focused on supporting not only him, but all those around him. “I took whatever classes I could, such as ABA [Applied Behaviour Analysis Therapy], amongst others, to constantly be by his side supporting him,” she said. Zemanovich became immersed in the community serving as an active volunteer on governing boards, along with many handson roles. As well, she is the founding president of the Montreal Autism Community Lions Club, the first Autism Community Lions Club in the Americas, Asia, Europe and Africa. In her role, Zemanovich will be attending various Lions Club conferences and conventions to spread sensitivity and advocacy for the autistic community.

“I feel rich when I give of myself measuring my wealth by how much I enrich the lives of others,” she said. Pietro, now 22, is a proud graduate of Summit School. He also attended Peter Hall School and has benefitted from many Miriam Foundation services. “I have always felt blessed as Pietro has [taught me], and continues to teach me, far more than I could have ever taught him,” said Zemanovich. “I will continue guiding him towards as much independence as possible.”

TMR-based Lions Club first to focus on autism pillar

 by Martin C. Barry

In April, the Town of Mount Royal resident held a launch event for the Montreal Autism Community Lions Club (MACLC), of which Lori-Ann Zemanovich is president. The new chapter of this well-known community service organization advocates for improvements and better support for the autistic community.

As a derivative of Lions Clubs International, the MACLC has become part of a network that includes 1.4 million volunteers and over 50,000 clubs around the world, which serve their communities and help those in need. MACLC aims to support and mobilize with the Montreal autistic community to champion the gifts of autistic people, while supporting their needs and challenges, explained Zemanovich.

While the Lions Clubs International’s five pillars of service includes diabetes, vision, hunger, environment and childhood cancer, the MACLC is the first specialized Lions Club to commit to “the Advocacy, Celebration, Support and Service of our Autistic Community,” according to MACLC’s Facebook page.

Montreal Autism Community Lions Club