Jack is 9. He has been a Canucks Autism Network participant for six of those years.
During that time, he has learned to swim, play soccer and do gymnastics, while also enjoying summer camp and family events. More recently, he has donated his own chore money and bake sale profits to CAN. Why?
“So more kids like me can have opportunities to learn and experience new things.”
So when World Autism Month approached this past April, he asked his teacher at École Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary in New Westminster if he could speak to his class. Jack wanted to educate his classmates about autism. And ask them to give back and donate, like he did.
His teacher went straight to the principal and asked if they could hold a school-wide assembly instead so that he could reach as many students as possible.
Jack is among several students with autism at his school — some of whom struggle to attend assemblies due to sensory sensitivities. When those students heard that Jack was speaking, they eagerly sat and listened to his entire speech.
When he was done speaking, teachers asked the students what they learned about autism. A sea of hands were raised. The best answer?
“They make good friends!”
Jack’s mom was on hand to see his special moment. “There were tears,” she told us. “Jack was aiming for awareness and acceptance. Mission accomplished.”
This was his speech:
Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder. It means it affects brain development. Autism affects 1 in 66 children in Canada.
Someone with autism can have challenges with social interactions, communication and can have repetitive behaviour. It is not contagious. You are born with it. There is no cure, but there are studies to find out what causes it and how to help people with autism.
I was diagnosed with autism when I was 2 ½ years old. For me, having autism means I do things differently from others. I like to arrange my food and dishes in a certain way when I eat.
My brain sometimes takes a while to understand what is said to me. That is why I don’t respond right away when someone is talking to me. I need extra help and time between activities. I forget instructions if there are too many steps to follow.
But I have a good memory when it comes to music or songs. I can teach myself to play a song on the piano just by trying out the notes. I remember a lot of information about space and elements just from books I read.
When I was little, I liked to spin toys. I liked to run and follow the lines on the floor. I didn’t know how to play with others, but I learned to read when I was 2.
That is why I am raising awareness about autism and asking kids and teachers for $2 donations. The money will go to Canucks Autism Network. This organization helps kids and their families participate in programs in supportive environments. They also provide training in communities across BC.
I have benefited from their programs – I’ve participated in swimming, gymnastics, soccer, camp and family festivals. I would like to give back to them so more kids like me can have opportunities to learn and experience new things.
I also want to raise acceptance about autism. I want people to understand that if they see someone who is doing something that is unexpected, like flapping their arms — this is called stimming — or talking about the same thing over and over, there is nothing wrong with them.
Those with autism are just like anybody. We just think and do things differently. And we want to have friends too.
Thank you to everyone who donated! Thank you to CAN, who provided help for me. And most of all, thank you to my Mum and Dad.
As a young self-advocate, Jack has already educated hundreds of kids about inclusion, acceptance and support.
With young men like Jack leading the way, the future is so, so bright!