At Canucks Autism Network (CAN), we recognize that needs change with age which is why we believe that every Autistic individual should be supported during important transitions into adulthood.
We’re proud to have evolved over the years to meet the changing needs of our members by addressing some of the major gaps and most urgent issues impacting youth and adults on the spectrum, such as employment, social and community connection, and most recently, mental health.
One of the most common barriers that Autistic youth and adults face is the need for a formal autism diagnosis to access supports. In talking with CAN members and the broader autism community, many themes have emerged as potential barriers to formal diagnosis including cost, access to a professional who is qualified to provide a diagnosis, fear of not being believed, and other challenges navigating the healthcare system.
For the above reasons, CAN will no longer be requiring a formal diagnosis for individuals over 13 years of age who are interested in accessing any program or service provided by CAN. This important decision to increase accessibility has already been met with enthusiasm from our CAN community.
Longtime CAN program participant, and now CAN program and training team staff member, Kayla Tellier shared her excitement about the change.
“I almost didn’t get a diagnosis. The cost and fact that it was a late diagnosis would have been barriers if not for having an amazing counselor at the time,” shared Kayla. “I am very excited about this change as I experienced barriers to services for a couple years after high school and struggled to get a diagnosis due to doctor issues and cost. I was lucky enough that I eventually did get my diagnosis, but I can see these issues being a continued barrier for many others, especially women/girls who frequently go undiagnosed. Allowing people to self-diagnose for services opens opportunities for those who were not lucky enough to find a workaround and for those facing other barriers that often stand in the way.”
CAN Office Administrator and program participant, Maxwell Smith, elaborated on the importance of this shift to allowing individuals who are self-diagnosed to access CAN programs and services.
“As an autistic individual, I have invested so much time in trying to find appropriate services that would match my support needs and eventually just giving up on services and having to put in a LOT of trial and error in finding things that can help me. Making the diagnosis criteria optional for youth and adults opens a gate of opportunities for other individuals on the spectrum and especially in their time of transitioning from high school and onto their own journey.”
CAN’s core program focus areas for youth and adults include: employment & volunteering, social connection, recreation & leisure, mental health & wellness and life skills development. To learn more or to sign up for our monthly youth and adult newsletter, please email [email protected]