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We aim to increase awareness and acceptance of autism in schools

Elementary Schools

At Canucks Autism Network, we strive to inspire, teach and motivate others to be inclusive and accepting. We aim to achieve this goal in the school environment by providing autism training to teachers, special education assistants, administrators and any interested school staff members. We also work to increase understanding and awareness of autism through the delivery of our We CAN Be Friends program.

What is We CAN Be Friends?
We CAN Be Friends (WCBF) is a curriculum-based elementary school program provided by the Canucks Autism Network that teaches students the values of friendship, empathy and inclusion by using grade appropriate lesson plans, autism-specific resources, and awareness-raising activities for the entire school. WCBF is currently being delivered in 275 elementary schools across British Columbia.

Follow this Step-by-Step Program Guide

Step 1: Choose how you will access the program

Option 1: Access the lesson plans online at no cost!

Option 2: Access the complimentary lesson plans online and supplement the curriculum by purchasing the We CAN Be Friends Kit which includes resources and materials to teach the lessons. Please note: Some lessons DO NOT require any  resources. View the components of the We CAN Be Friends Kit and purchase the kit for your school.

Step 2: Ask permission from families

It is important to make sure that the parent(s) of the student(s) with autism is aware and open to your class having a discussion about autism as every family has a different approach to the diagnosis. We kindly ask that you are respectful to each family’s wishes about sharing their child’s diagnosis when using these materials in your classroom. Please print this We CAN Be Friends Letter  to send home to parents to inform them that your school will be running the program.

We ask that you also consider the student’s own understanding of their diagnosis and whether they want to share their experience with the class or not. Be sure to also consider the wishes of the siblings of those with autism in your class.

Please be aware of other students’ ability to identify the student with autism even without openly stating it. There are many lessons that do not mention the word “autism,” therefore, it is possible to teach students the values of friendship, empathy, and inclusion without ever mentioning the specific child’s diagnosis.

Please see our We CAN Be Friends Implementation Guide for more guidelines on being respectful of each family’s wishes.

Step 3: Consider who will teach the lessons at your school

The lesson plans are designed to be taught in a classroom setting and have incorporated Provincial Learning Outcomes into the curriculum. Some options for teaching the lessons include:

  • Each teacher at the school uses the lesson plans in their own classroom.
  • The resource teacher, principal, vice-principal, special education assistant, or school counsellor delivers the lessons throughout the school.
  • A student teacher or school volunteer delivers the lessons throughout the school.
  • School district staff deliver the lessons in various schools throughout the district.
Step 4: Review the implementation

This webpage contains an overview of the steps required to run the program, however, the We CAN Be Friends Implementation Guide contains further details and acts as a helpful guide to everything you need to know to run the program.

Step 5: Review information about autism

Before introducing the curriculum, it may be helpful to explain what autism is to your classroom. The Autism Society of America has created a helpful resource sheet that provides information about autism and suggestions as to how to explain it to children.

In addition, we have complied a list of Frequently Asked Questions about Autism, paired with suitable answers to help guide your classroom discussion.

Step 6: Begin teaching the lessons

Access the WCBF lessons by completing the Lesson Plan Request Form.

The lessons do not need to be taught in a particular order. You can choose to teach the lessons throughout the year or cover all lessons in April for Autism Awareness Month.

The lesson plans are designed to guide your teaching, however, we invite you to adapt them to suit the particular needs of your class. A suggested timeline is provided in the lesson plan, however, you may take as much time as you need to complete each lesson.

Step 7: Plan an autism awareness event!

April is World Autism Awareness Month and April 2nd is recognized worldwide as Autism Awareness Day. We encourage We CAN Be Friends schools to spread awareness by hosting autism awareness events including, but not limited to:

  • School assembly (guest speakers, student presentations, videos, etc.)
  • An awareness walk around the school with banners and signs
  • Choose a day to wear blue as a sign of support for autism awareness
  • Raise funds for Canucks Autism Network through our Jersey Fundraising Campaign where students donate $2 to write their name on a cardboard jersey and receive a CAN bracelet. The jerseys can be displayed in hallways and classrooms to show the school’s support of autism.
  • Teachers can play videos from our I CAN Share My Story project where 12 individuals with autism discuss their personal experience with the diagnosis. You may also refer to our Conversation Guide to drive your discussions.
Step 8: Send us student work and feedback on the program

We want to hear from you! If you have any questions, concerns, or feedback about the We CAN Be Friends program, please email [email protected].

Any student work you would like to share with us can be scanned and emailed to [email protected], faxed to 604.685.4018, or mailed to our address below.

Attn: WCBF Program
Canucks Autism Network
101-2020 Yukon Street
Vancouver, BC, V5Y 2N8

Step 9: Have fun!
April is Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness Month!

Tell Us Your Story

We are continually inspired by the strength, determination, and resilience of the individuals and families living with autism who make up our network.

Do you have a story that you would like to share? We would love to hear about your journey with autism, whether as a parent, an individual on the spectrum, an employer, teacher, friend or other. Has Canucks Autism Network positively impacted you?