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Interactive Autism Exhibit


The CAN Van The CAN Van is an interactive, mobile display that travels to communities throughout British Columbia with the goal of educating the public about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) while bringing attention to the programs, activities and events offered by the Canucks Autism Network (CAN). The Canucks Autism Network is a non-profit organization which provides high quality sports, recreational, social and vocational programs for individuals and families living with autism throughout BC. By creating a display that is engaging, fun, and welcoming to all ages, CAN will not only help build awareness about ASD, but will also increase understanding of the disorder, which will help encourage more inclusive, supportive communities for individuals and families affected by autism.

About CAN In 1996 Paolo and Clara Aquilini, owners of the Vancouver Canucks hockey team, 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.

It is Paolo and Clara’s profound desire to enrich the lives of families living with autism in BC. This vision is the founding inspiration for the Canucks Autism Network and guides the organization in its mission to provide high quality recreational, sports, social and vocational programs for individuals and families living with autism and to build capacity through community networks across British Columbia.


Compelled by the growing need for programs in the community, and driven by their own personal experience, in 2008 Paolo and Clara founded the Canucks Autism Network (CAN).

CAN Programs Overnight Camps

am Day C ps

Camps: We CAN Go To Camp is a weekend opportunity for the whole family to enjoy an outdoor experience in an organized group setting. I CAN Go To Camp is a weekend opportunity for children with ASD and their siblings to get away and enjoy a weekend in the great outdoors. Day Camps: Summer in the City and Jump into Spring have been designed to encourage social interaction and cooperation among participants, and to teach important life skills, including preparing meals and navigating the transit system. I CAN Play Series: Bike, Get Fit, Skate, Swim and Soccer have been specifically designed to promote the physical and social development of individuals with autism by providing an environment and pace of instruction that is modified to meet their needs. CAN Family Adventure Series: The CAN Family Adventure Series has been designed to help minimize barriers to families living with autism and to offer access to activities that are fun for everyone.

CAN Programs The Sociables: A social group for teens and young adults where friendship building skills are incorporated into typical age appropriate activities.

I CAN Go to Work: A targeted work experience program that supports young adults pursuing employment opportunities.


CLICK: A social photography program for teens that explores the theme of friendship through picture taking.

We CAN Be Friends: We CAN Be Friends is a curriculum-based elementary school program that teaches all learners the values of friendship, empathy and inclusion by using grade appropriate lesson plans, autism specific resources and awareness raising activities for the entire school.

What is Autism? Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of disorders, more generally referred to as ‘autism.’ ASDs are diagnosed based on difficulties with social interaction, communication and behaviour, but there is significant variability amongst individuals who share the diagnosis. ASDs occur in all racial, ethnic and social groups, but are almost five times more likely to occur in boys than girls. • U.S. Centre for Disease Control (CDC) estimates 1 in 88 children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This marks a 23% increase since 2009, and a 78% increase since 2007. (CDC, 2012) • ASDs are almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 54) than among girls (1 in 252). (CDC, 2012) • There are over 7000 children and youth in British Columbia diagnosed with autism. (Ministry of Children and Family Development, 2011)

• ASDs occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. (CDC, 2012) • More children are diagnosed with autism each year than with juvenile diabetes, AIDS or cancer, combined. (Child & Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative, 2009)

• Research at the Harvard School of Public Health found that the lifetime per capita incremental societal cost of autism in the U.S. is $3.2 million. (Ganz, 2007)

Meet Peter & Jane

Jane is a 12 year old girl with autism. She likes playing with her cats, watching hockey with her brother and sitting by the ocean on sunny days. Unlike Peter, Jane is able to communicate through speech, however, she can come across as shy or unfriendly. She avoids eye contact, has a hard time joining in with her friends when they play, and sometimes seems to misunderstand the emotions of others. If you learn more about ASD, individuals like Peter and Jane can feel more included and better understood.


Peter is a 10 year old boy with autism. He is a talented gamer and a movie enthusiast, and has a strong admiration for all things Canucks. Like other kids, Peter gets bothered by certain situations, however, Peter is nonverbal and communicates and sometimes behaves differently from other kids his age.

Verbal Communication (Jane) Jane, like many people with autism, can speak in full sentences but she still has some difficulty communicating. Metaphoric language such as “it’s raining cats and dogs� can be confusing to Jane since she thinks in concrete terms. Jane has perfect hearing but her ability to understand what is being said can be affected by distracting sounds, fast speech, and long sentences. Jane can also find it challenging to interpret facial expressions and voice intonation which makes it difficult for her to add meaning to what someone is saying.

Non Verbal Communication (Peter)


Peter, like some individuals with autism, doesn’t talk. However, that doesn’t mean that he cannot communicate. Rather than using his voice, Peter uses pictures, sign language and computers to help him communicate with others. This way he can tell his parents and friends his likes and dislikes and how he wants to spend his day.

Behaviour - Peter Individuals with autism can be sensitive to certain sounds, smells, objects and situations that can sometimes cause them to behave differently than other people. Even everyday activities such as going to the grocery store or going to school can present challenges for some people with autism. Individuals on the spectrum may have specific routines that they like to follow and when their routine is interrupted, it can cause them to become upset. They may also have specific objects or actions that they are particularly interested in. Peter, for example, is fascinated by the automatic door at the grocery store and likes to watch it open and close numerous times before entering.

Social - Jane


Many individuals with autism find it difficult to interact socially with others. They may not understand social messages that others are trying to communicate which can make it challenging to make friends. It can also be hard for someone with autism to recognize other people’s emotions or to know how to initiate conversations. Jane, for example, has a difficult time knowing what to talk about when she meets someone new, but when people take the time to get to know her, they find that they usually have things in common with her.

Sensory Differences SIGHT AND SOUND Many people with autism are especially sensitive to bright lights and loud sounds. This heightened sensitivity can be stressful and may cause a person to cover their ears, talk loudly to themselves to block out sounds, or wear sunglasses even on a cloudy day. However, a person who has reduced awareness of noise and visual input may really enjoy bright sparkling lights and loud entertainment. Peter is very sensitive to bright lights and will wear sunglasses even when it isn’t sunny out. Peter might hear a lot of sounds and can have a hard time focusing on one, so people may think he’s not listening. He enjoys watching movies with the volume turned way, way up. Jane likes looking at things that sparkle and shine however, unlike Peter, Jane is very sensitive to high pitched sounds and loud noises like school bells and sirens. She will often cover her ears if sounds get to be too loud for her.

Sensory Differences TOUCH AND SMELL Many people with autism are especially aware of the sense of touch and smell. This heightened sensitivity may cause some to be “sensory avoiders,” not wanting to touch or smell things, or to have anyone touch them. A reduced sensitivity may cause others to be “sensory seekers,” with a craving to touch or smell certain things which interest or calm them.

Jane can’t stand the feeling of scratchy clothing and avoids activities that make her hands dirty. However, unlike Peter, Jane isn’t too bothered by strong smells and is interested to smell everything that she touches.


Peter doesn’t mind the feeling of scratchy clothing and he enjoys messy activities that get his hands dirty! However, Peter dislikes strong smells, like fish and perfume, and can often detect a smell before other people around him even notice it.

Early detection can help Early signs of ASD show themselves within the first three years of life. Parents are usually the first to notice. They become aware that their child is not smiling, not responding to their name, showing more interest in objects than in people, struggling to imitate the actions of others, or unable to look where a parent is pointing. In this case, parents should consult a specialist. Early diagnosis is important, as early intervention and training can help children develop abilities in self-care, improve their social skills and better their communication abilities. These will be helpful as the child grows older.

“Red Flags”indicate a child at risk If your child shows two or more of these signs, please ask your pediatric healthcare provider for an immediate evaluation.

Impairment in Communication: • Lack of showing gestures • Lack of coordination of nonverbal communication • Unusual voice quality Repetitive Behaviours & Restricted Interests: • Repetitive movements with objects • Repetitive movements or posturing of body, arms, hands or fingers


Impairment in Social Interaction: • Lack of appropriate eye gaze • Lack of warm, joyful expressions • Lack of sharing interest or enjoyment • Lack of response to name

Wetherby, A., Woods, J., Allen, L., Cleary, J., Dickinson, H., & Lord, C. (2004). Early indicators of autism spectrum disorders in the second year of life. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 34, 473-493. Based on research at the Florida State University FIRST WORDS Project.

The more you know the better With the right support, all individuals with autism can lead successful, rewarding lives. Appropriate support to identify strengths and encourage skill development will help all individuals on the spectrum achieve their personal potential. Learning about autism is the first step in becoming more supportive and inclusive of those on the spectrum. There is a lot of information available to you and our hope is that you will access it. Website: Visit our website ( for information on the many programs, activities and events offered by the Canucks Autism Network. Newsletter: Sign up for the Canucks Autism Network newsletter to receive free updates, tips and invites to great events. The CAN Provincial Resource Centre: Take advantage of the growing library of autismrelated books, games and DVDs for teachers, parents, children and caregivers. These valuable resources can be loaned free of charge to all CAN members.

CAN across British Columbia An important part of our mission is to build awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorder in communities throughout British Columbia. This leads to more support and inclusion for those living with ASD across our province. CAN offers programs in communities across BC. Please help us spread awareness about autism in communities across the province. If you know of an event happening in your community that the CAN Van could visit, please go to our website to submit your suggestion.


Check the map below for a program near you!

You CAN make a difference Your support helps make it possible for the Canucks Autism Network to provide year-round, innovative, high quality sports, recreational, social and vocational programs for individuals and families living with autism in BC. You can show your support in a number of ways: Make a cash donation, donate a gift-in-kind, become a corporate donor, participate in one of our sponsorship programs, host a fundraising event, participate in an employee giving program, develop a proceeds of sale/ cause marketing program, or leave a legacy gift. For more information on how you can help, please contact Noah at 604 685-4049 (ext.206). CAN offers rewarding and diverse volunteer opportunities for those looking to gain experience supporting individuals living with autism. Whether you are looking for experience with kids, teens, adults, or would prefer to support CAN at public events, there are many options to choose from. CAN participants and programs will provide you with a unique experience that is both rewarding and fun. For information on how you can get involved, please visit

Thanks to the Sponsors


The Canucks for Kids Fund has supported and generously donated to the Canucks Autism Network since its foundation in 2008. The Canucks for Kids Fund raises funds through several charitable initiatives and dedicates resources to assist close to 100 charitable organizations throughout British Columbia.

Contact CAN For more information on any of the CAN programs, events or activities, please contact the CAN office or visit 203 West 6th Avenue Vancouver, BC V5Y 1K7 P: 604-685-4049 F: 604-685-4018 E:

CAN Van Interactive Autism Exhibit Brochure  

This brochure gives a brief overview of autism and the various exhibits in the CAN Van including sensory, behavioural, social, verbal and no...

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