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We CAN Make A Difference

In 1996 Paolo and Clara Aquilini listened in shock and disbelief as medical professionals diagnosed their son with autism. In the following years Paolo and Clara experienced the trials and triumphs that come with raising a child with autism. They also began to live with the frustration of watching their beloved child struggle to participate in “normal” activities and at times be told that he was simply unable to do so. Autism deeply affects not only the individuals who are diagnosed, but also their families. Compelled by the growing need in the community and driven by their own personal experience, Paolo and Clara founded the Canucks Autism Network in 2008 to support individuals and families affected by autism throughout BC.

The Canucks Autism Network provides year-round, innovative, high quality sports, recreational, social and vocational programs for individuals and families living with autism, while building awareness and capacity through community networks across British Columbia.


The CAN Story

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Provincial Resource Centre The CAN Provincial Resource Centre is an expanding collection of autism-related books, DVDs, and games that includes material written for children, parents, teachers and caregivers. The resources are available to families, schools, and service providers who have signed up for a CAN Membership. Resources are available for loan throughout the province, shipped from the CAN office, with all postage fees included. To browse the CAN Provincial Resource Centre’s online catalogue, please visit


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Service Provider Membership Program

Families living in British Columbia who are affected by autism can register for the CAN Family Membership Program for an annual membership fee of $25/family. By becoming members, CAN families can register for and access CAN programs, events and activities in their community, as well as access materials from the CAN Provincial Resource Centre. Thanks to generous funding by the MCFD Autism Funding Unit, the CAN Family Membership fee is now fully refundable.

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Professionals who are working with individuals with autism in British Columbia can sign up for a CAN Service Provider Membership as an Individual ($10/year) or a Group ($25/year). By becoming members, service providers can access the CAN Provincial Resource Centre, an expanding collection of autism-related books, DVDs and games, available for loan throughout the province, with all postage fees included.

CAN Family Membership Program

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Family Adventure Series

The I CAN Play Series has been specifically designed to promote the physical and social development of children with autism by providing an environment and pace of instruction that is modified to meet their needs. These programs give them a place to learn sports skills and socialize with their peers without the pressure of competition. It is a chance for children to build new friendships, new skills, and most importantly, a chance to participate in typical childhood sports.

The CAN Family Adventure Series has been designed to provide access to community events and attractions in a secure environment that supports family engagement. Through the Family Adventure Series, CAN helps minimize the barriers that are often faced by families affected by autism, including financial constraints and behavioural concerns. The program also gives families the opportunity to interact with each other while forming new friendships and support systems. CUT 0.375� from edge


I CAN Play

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CAN Camps The camp series includes a variety of opportunities that are all unique in nature and focus on positive social experiences in the outdoors.

I CAN Go To Camp is a weekend opportunity for children with ASD and their siblings to get away and experience a weekend in the great outdoors. Participants get to enjoy camp activities such as canoeing, swimming, field games and arts and crafts, while forming new friendships. There is a high ratio of support staff and volunteers to ensure a successful camp experience for all participants!

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Summer in the City/Jump Into Spring Family Camps The We CAN Go To Camp program is a weekend opportunity for the whole family to enjoy an outdoor experience in an organized group setting. This program is designed to encourage interactions between family members and provide opportunities for networking between families. Families get to enjoy a range of activities including boating, field games and campfire activities, as well as free time to enjoy the beautiful camp settings.

Summer in the City/Jump Into Spring is a week long day camp for teens with autism, set during Summer and Spring Break. Participants take part in a different adventure each day, from tourist attractions to a movie matinee. It has been designed to encourage social interaction and cooperation among participants while teaching important life skills such as preparing meals and navigating the transit system.


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Kid’s Camp

Social And Vocational Programs

The Sociables The Sociables: a social group for teens! This program teaches friendship building skills and incorporates that teaching into appropriate and typical teen-age activities such as bowling, social cooking classes, community outings, movie nights, etc. While adult staff and volunteers oversee the program, select peer mentors interact with the participants and model positive friendship behaviours. Areas of focus for this group are: participating in conversations and engaging in typical social behaviour.

Understanding Minds

I CAN Go To Work The I CAN Go To Work program consists of four components that help teach young adults with ASD how to obtain gainful employment. The program provides participants with a variety of experiences, including volunteer opportunities, job readiness workshops, work experience, and job placements, all within a supervised, supported environment.


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With a focus on autism, this program provides an educational opportunity for all learners at the secondary level to understand, accept and appreciate the differences within their high school’s population and to extend that understanding into their social lives. The core components of Understanding Minds are: an integrated and adaptable lesson plan for Planning 10, partnering with ASD students to experience first-hand accounts of challenges and successes, and class projects to raise autism awareness. In addition, there are opportunities for Special Education classes to become more involved in their school community and help raise autism awareness.

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School Selection

The We CAN Be Friends program (WCBF) is an elementary-aged, curriculum based program that teaches all students to accept and embrace diversity within their peer group. WCBF seeks to encourage friendship, empathy and inclusion among children living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their peers.

The WCBF schools are selected through a number of processes: via contact with teachers, district staff members, POPARD representatives, school principals, and as a result of parents advocating for WCBF in schools. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the CAN team, we are not far from our goal of seeing this dynamic program making a difference in every school district in the province.

This innovative educational program is based on four grade groupings: K-1, 2-3, 4-5, 6-7. The curriculum kit, which is gifted to a school, comes complete with five lessons for each grade grouping, all of the resources needed to support the lesson, and feedback forms to help evaluate the effectiveness of the program. Created by teachers, for teachers, the five lessons associated with each grade grouping help meet many of the Ministry’s Performance Standards for Social Responsibility.

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We CAN Be Friends

CAN Community Events

Volunteers who generously contribute their time and energy are the backbone of our organization. Whether you are available two hours a week or two hours a month, the Canucks Autism Network would greatly appreciate your support! Gain experience working with individuals with autism and help us enrich the lives of children and families across the province by volunteering for any of our numerous programs.

An important part of our mission at the Canucks Autism Network is to build awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorder in communities throughout British Columbia in order to help develop more support and understanding for those affected by ASD in our province. CAN organizes and participates in a number of activities and events each year, including World Autism Awareness Day, the Canucks Community Corner, and various community events and fairs.

In order to register as a volunteer, or to find out more about current volunteer opportunities with CAN, please visit Volunteers must complete the Online Volunteer Application Form and a valid Criminal Record Check (for volunteers 18 years of age or older) or a Student Recommendation Form (for volunteers under 18).


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I CAN Volunteer

Facts On Autism

Contact CAN

Autism is a complex neurological disorder that lasts throughout a person’s lifetime. It is part of a group of disorders known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls. Autism impairs a person’s ability to communicate and relate to others. It is also associated with unusual behaviours and restricted activities, such as obsessively arranging objects or following very specific routines. The symptoms of autism can range from very mild to severe.

For more information on any of the CAN programs, events or activities, please contact the CAN office or visit

• Autism prevalence is on the rise and the cause is unknown. In 1970, autism affected 1 out of every 10,000 children. Today it affects 1 in 93.

Thank you to our core funder, the Canucks for Kids Fund.

• Estimated healthcare costs of someone with autism are $3.2 million over their lifetime. • B.C. now serves close to 7,500 children and youth diagnosed with ASD and their families, compared to only a few hundred before the year 2000. • More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes & cancer combined.

203 West 6th Avenue Vancouver, BC V5Y 1K7 P: 604-685-4049 F: 604-685-4018 E:


• An estimated 190,000 Canadian children have autism.

Cascading Brochure  

Describes in short the programs, activities and events offered by the Canucks Autism Network.

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