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CAN youth & adult members take the lead

May 30, 2019

Each year, Canucks Autism Network (CAN) delivers over 500 programs and events throughout BC.  Since 2012, our programming has included opportunities for youth and adults.

As the broader autism community calls for a stronger voice in organizational leadership, we are committed to actively engaging our youth and  adult members as leaders at CAN. As our members continue to mature into their adult years, leadership roles become increasingly important.

Last August, we began to formalize this process by inviting all of our members ages 13 and up to join our Youth and Adult Advisory Committee.* In less than one year, feedback obtained from these CAN members has already made a significant impact on program offerings.

*The name of this group has since changed to Youth and Adult Leadership Committee to more accurately represent this group’s active role in organizational decision making.

A group of 11 youth and young adult Canucks Autism Network members and Canucks Autism Network staff

Some members of our original Youth and  Adult Advisory Committee with CAN staff at the first formal meeting in August 2018

Our members asked for more opportunities to develop life skills – how to take transit, cook and do laundry. They highlighted a need for more vocational opportunities – how to build a resumé, attend an interview and gain experience.  They also re-iterated the need for values that CAN has already brought into their lives — social connection, skill building opportunities and community engagement.

Changes Made to Program Offerings

In direct response to the voices of our members, Canucks Autism Network reached out to community partners to develop new opportunities throughout the 2018-19 program year.

In Surrey, we connected with Avia Employment Services and WorkBC to host two resumé building workshops. Participants made valuable first contact with two employment services, created or improved their resumes, and learned about how to access further services as needed.

Six youth and young adults work in pairs at computer cubicles

CAN and WorkBC staff work with youth & adult members to build their resumes.

CAN’s Explore Volunteering program continued to provide the opportunities our members had requested in our meetings — to gain volunteer experience, work skills, communication and social skills and to sample job opportunities.

Every Saturday morning, participants visited community organizations like Rogers Arena, Vancouver International Airport and Science World. Participants practiced their skills with a range of tasks, including food and beverage services, customer service, administrative work, custodial duties, and gardening.

In addition to work skills, the program also addressed member interest in developing interpersonal skills at work. “I’ve discovered that I’m more capable and compatible with others than I thought,” Brayden shared after volunteering in the Union Gospel Mission (UGM)’s thrift store this past April.

A male young adult organizes a clothing rack at a thrift store

Read more about Brayden’s experience volunteering with UGM through CAN.

To diversify job sampling opportunities, CAN reached out and secured an opportunity for participants to explore trades. Tradeworks hosted a session for our members to learn basic woodworking skills this past September.

In addition to these employment-focused events and programs, CAN added more opportunities focused on mental health. These have included a mindfulness and yoga session and an intro to cooking class in collaboration with Coast Mental Health in Vancouver.

Finally, to address requests for support accessing public transportation, CAN has initiated conversations with BC Transit and Translink. We are currently in the process of developing transit accessibility events in Vancouver and Victoria.

There are still many more exciting program options to explore!  During the process of sampling new programs this past year, the CAN team and its Leadership group members have decided on new areas of focus for youth and adult programs:

  • Social and life skills
  • Employment and volunteering skills
  • Physical and mental health
  • Arts and technology

Youth and Adult Members as Leaders and Advocates

In addition to new programming spearheaded by our members’ suggestions,  the CAN team has been proud to support many of our youth and adult leaders in positions of leadership and advocacy.

Last fall, CAN member Sylvain shared his story with the Presidents Group about finding a successful inclusive employment placement with CAN.  In total, we currently employ 12 individuals on the autism spectrum across our programs and events. Meanwhile, an additional 42 are giving back as volunteers.

In the community, CAN members Keara, Kayla, Tyell and Tilman have represented the organization at various events hosted by partnering organizations. They have promoted the inclusion of autistic adults in various community spaces at events with the City of Surrey, Vancouver Opera and MEC.

A male and two female young adults at an info table

Tilman (left) with CAN and Power To Be staff members at a MEC rock climbing event.

Kayla (left) and Keara (2nd from right) joined our office staff to represent CAN at the Vancouver Opera’s first-ever relaxed performance this past spring.

As CAN members continue to grow their education, experience and skill set, it is our hope that many more will begin to apply for positions with the organization. We are so excited to see the diversity of our team continue to grow as representation of individuals across the spectrum increases in leadership positions at CAN.

We can’t wait to engage with our members to do more to make our communities more inclusive.

Next Steps

To all our CAN members aged 13+ — if you are interested in getting involved in CAN leadership or community advocacy, we want to hear from you!

For those in the Lower Mainland, our next CAN Youth Leadership Committee Meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 19 from 6:00-7:30pm at the CAN office (1788 West 8th Ave, Vancouver). CAN members can RSVP online or email [email protected] for more details.

For those in our Vancouver Island, Kelowna or Kamloops regions, please get in touch with us for ways to get involved. Email [email protected].

We look forward to hearing from you!