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Maintaining “a sense of belonging” during COVID-19

June 4, 2020

Keara Farnan is a CAN participant, volunteer and regular guest writer, who shared with us her experience accessing CAN virtual programs during COVID-19.

Over the past couple of months, I have taken part in Canucks Autism Network (CAN)’s virtual programs for youth and adults. These have included Netflix Parties, Zoom meet ups and live fitness classes. It has been a great way to interact with others and feel part of the CAN community during this difficult time.

Continuing to participate with CAN has helped me feel a sense of belonging and decreased my feelings of social isolation, anxiety and depression.

I’ve discovered common interests among other participants and connected with a few individuals outside of virtual programs as well.

Netflix Watch Parties

One of the movies we’ve watched is Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. The chatroom function allowed us to talk about the movie while it was playing. It was a great way to feel more included.

Discussing the movie allowed us to share our perspectives, answer trivia questions, and even play a game of movie bingo.

Even though we weren’t watching together in-person, it still felt as though we were connected. I like being able to discuss the movie with others as opposed to just watching by myself at home.

Adults with autism can be particularly vulnerable to social isolation and mental health issues, like depression & anxiety.

The suspension of services can be disproportionately challenging for them. The situation only gets harder when they live alone.

Zoom Meet Ups

The first Zoom Meet Up I took part in consisted of myself and about 15 other people, a mix of both staff and participants. I noticed some familiar faces and it was great to meet new participants and staff who I have never met before as well.

We started with introductions, followed by a picture guessing game, and a scavenger hunt. CAN participants were able to share whether or not they enjoyed the Zoom Meet Up and what changes they would like to see in the future.

I really enjoyed meeting new participants and staff, as well as trying out new activities. It’s a great way to get together as a group all in one place at the same time while maintaining social distancing.

Our online programs for youth and adults with autism are designed to build social connection, routine, and physical and mental health.

Trying out new apps like Zoom has definitely helped me become more familiar with online platforms. I feel more confident participating in more virtual meetups and connecting with others online now.

Zoom Fitness

Last month, I had the chance to participate in CAN’s first online fitness class. As someone who actively exercises and likes to stay in shape, it was a great way to bond with my peers, while maintaining my fitness.

The instructor showed us how to do squats, jumping jacks, and “mountain climbers”, followed by stretches, which are important to do after any physical activity.

The exercise class has been my favourite out of all three CAN virtual programs so far. I find that working out helps me stay calm if I’m stressed out or feeling anxious.


Participating in CAN’s online programs has allowed me to practice my social skills while doing fun activities, rather than sitting at home alone and further isolating myself.

Help us continue to deliver our vital online programs. They’re needed now more than ever.

My wish is that eventually things will soon go back to normal, and that we all will be reunited in person. I cannot wait to participate and volunteer in CAN programs in person once this virus is gone.

In the meantime, CAN’s online programs have given me something to look forward to every day while COVID-19 continues.

-Keara Farnan, CAN participant & volunteer

CAN online programs are needed now more than ever. With help from generous contributors like you, we can continue to support our community virtually during this difficult time.