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AUTISM STORIES

MJ

Marshall McAnerney and Dave McAnerney are brothers, and MJ is Marshall’s son. MJ’s real name is also Marshall and was diagnosed with autism at age 3 (PDSNOS). MJ attended our Shaughnessy event with his autism support dog, Kiley.  Together, the two (along with the help of Marshall, Dave, MJ’s brother and his mother) manned a lemonade/juice stand next to our registration desk.  With juice donated from SunRype (where Dave works), Marshall was able to raise $245 – all of which was donated to Els for Autism Canada.

 

MJ’s presence at the tournament was uplifting to all who had the chance to meet him.  We’ve invited him back for next year’s event and he already has some lofty fundraising goals!

DYLAN

Dylan is 9 years old and was diagnosed with autism at the age of 4.  He was overall a very happy and zen child.  His biggest challenge was that he was non-verbal.  But that all changed when we got a cat just before the age of 5.  It was a beautiful thing. Yelling at "Daisy" to "Get back here" amongst a variety of other commands.  This opened his speech up wide open!

 

As children with autism get older, the developmental gap widens and this proved a challenge for Dylan.  All of a sudden, his friends weren't interested in spending time with him anymore.  Dylan was unable to play soccer, football and many of the games his friends enjoyed doing.  The birthday party invites stopped as his facial tics and stims increased with age.  Our normally zen boy was changing to one of anxiety and angst.

 

Just a few years ago, his grandmother died of ALS.  This was a very difficult time for the family and a time in which Dylan had trouble expressing his feelings.  And then just over a year ago, his Dad was also diagnosed with ALS.  Faced with the truth that his Dad was going to die, Dylan has had all sorts of challenges dealing with the illness.  The lack of counselling available to kids with special needs has been a problem.  But, we are very thankful for amazing staff at his school and friends in the community.  The importance of community in our lives is huge.  "It takes a village..".  Our family appreciates and lives this every single day.

 

Friends like Marco and Manny from the BC Lions have made a big difference in his life.  Marco started the ball rolling by helping our family attend their last home game of 2014.  And Manny has picked up Dylan as a mentor and spending time with him.  Marco and Manny's contributions were all done outside of their association with the team.  Very meaningful to us and we are very, very thankful.

 

If you were to ask Dylan what his dreams are, they're very simple.  He wants to play football for the BC Lions.  He wants to suit up and catch a ball like Marco and Manny!  As an avid NASCAR fan, he also wants to meet Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick.  Ok, not so simple, but simple in his mind.

 

What do I tell him?  Go Dylan go!

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MARCO

Marco is 19 years old and lives in Toronto with his family. Marco has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. He attended the Special Education Program at Michael Power High School.

 

Frank Fata is Marco's dad and his devotion to his son is inspiring. This summer he contacted all of the golf clubs in the Toronto area in his attempt to find Marco a meaningful job, one that, according to his dad will "develop his life skills to navigate within the world of work while dealing with specific challenges."

 

Frank found that job for Marco at St Georges Golf & Country Club in nearby Etobicoke working with the Food and Beverage Team. The people at St Georges provided Marco with "a sense of purpose" according to his dad, "of being a part of a team." Corey Ladouceur, the Food and Beverage Manager for St George's says that while Marco was discovering the extent of his abilities the staff were learning to recognize and appreciate their own abilities, a win-win if there ever was one.

 

To top off his summer Marco and Frank helped to hand out the tee gift bags at registration at Scarboro. Frank and his dad were also at the dinner, along with Brian Rowe.

 

Congratulations to Marco and the fine staff at St Georges Golf & Country Club!

 

February 7, 2014 -   St. Georges Golf & Country Club sent this email - "For our Super Bowl 50/50 draw we have $500 donation for Els for Autism that we would like to send to the organization on behalf of Marco and St. George’s."

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SCOTT

Below is an email we received from Scott Smith.

 

Read Scott’s amazing story. Alan made a personal donation to Scott’s anti-bullying club that allowed them to purchase more shirts for sale.

 

“My name is Scott Smith, I have Aspergers and I'm proud of it. It makes me special, as all kids are. Last year, when I was in Grade 5, I started an anti bullying club at  Belfountain Public School.  I also involved local businesses and the community.  Sadly because of having Aspergers I would get bullied at school.  Many other kids get bullied as well.  I started the club to help all kids that were getting bullied. With the help of some of my classmates, my Principal,and my family we quickly had a website, and raised money to buy anti bullying t shirts. We sold 200 t shirts  using to profits to bring in groups to the school and talk to us about bullying. The Club got a lot of attention, we have had inquiries from other Schools in Ontario, United States and even Australia.

 

Every student at Belfountain, signed a pledge not to bully making our School the only bully free school in Ontario.

 

Kids with Autism or Aspergers all have good ideas. You just have to make them happen!!

 

Scott Smith

 

Belfountain, Ontario”

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LILY

In the early stages of our website development, we determined that we wanted to have the site translated into French.  With a tournament in Montreal on May 27 2013, we felt it important to ensure that our website content was available in French as well.  In response to our request for proposals in Quebec, Lily replied.  Lily, is a 2nd year student at Laval University – she has autism.

 

Lily welcomed the challenge of translating our website and did it efficiently and with pride.  In fact, she reported to us that she cried as she translated our content – thankful for the opportunity and understanding the potential that she had.

 

Lily has done a phenomenal job for as a translator and to have been able to secure her services and know that she has autism, made this project all he more special.

 

Well done, Lily!

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BRODY

Brody is a 16-year-old boy who received his Autism diagnose when he was 4 years old.  We knew something was different about Brody from a very young age. I would be lying if I said It wasn’t a tough day when we got the diagnoses of Autism along with ADHD, OCD and a few other A’s and D’s, I am sure.  The best thing told to us that day was he is still the same child he was before the diagnoses.  He has always been very head strong and very impatient.  Always trying to figure things out for himself.  This was very hard in his early years when he did not have much verbal.

Over time though his vocabulary and his patience have grown.

 

Over the years he has seen so many specialist dealing with all the issues that have arisen. Two of these issues stand out the most to me.  One was a psychologist in her field for over 30 years with the Calgary Board of Education.  After several sessions with Brody she told us he was the most complex child she has every worked with.  She thought his IQ was off the chart, but could not figure out how to break through to him.  The other specialist dealt with several issues also, but the main one was toilet training.  After our first meeting, she told us she would have him using the toilet in no time.  After several weeks, she told us she had tried every technique she knew and nothing worked.  But she did believe when he is ready he will use the toilet.  It would be like flipping a switch and shortly after we moved to Okotoks it was.

 

We moved to Okotoks to get Brody into a program that would challenge him more.  By that time, we had a great team working with Brody and we starting seeing the brilliant boy that was hidden inside him all along.  The first day he walked into his new school for grade five in Okotoks he did not have much verbal or eye contact.  He was in his own little world.  That year for the Christmas concert he sat in the middle of the gym along with his peers playing their recorders for 13 different song.  Just to think a few months earlier he would not have even walked in the gym.

 

Over the past few years he has played at the Kiwanis music festival, been in a few school plays, and played on the school flag football team.  Now in high school (grade 11) his marks are over the moon and every year he becomes more and more independent.

 

Brody wants to be a movie maker, a YouTuber.  I think he has the talent but how do we get him there?  We are hoping that he may be able to live semi-independently and we will work toward continuing to find him the support that he requires, as scary as that part of the journey will be.

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SHINING THROUGH CENTRE

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"Learning Prevention Strategies and how/when to implement them was very helpful and valuable, as well as the importance of positive reinforcement. I also really enjoyed the opportunity to share information with other parents and relatable experiences! Shiri and Nitra at Shining Through were excellent instructors, and taught the material in an engaging way that made each session both informative and comprehensible." 

---Parent, Participant in Shining Through's RUBI Program

 

"More than anything. The central idea of ABC has changed how I think about how I handle problems with my child. Before I would typically focus on avoiding problem situations altogether, but now I try to think of it more in the 3 stages (Antecedent. Behaviour, and Consequence) and think about ways that any of those 3 can be affected"     

 

---Parent, Participant in Shining Through's RUBI Program

"This is one of our learners following  a visual schedule. He's looking at the picture and following what it's telling him to do. In this case, it's telling him to complete the beading activity and he'll get a treat. Thanks to the progress made in our parent training program he was able to do this independently at home."
 

SOCIETY FOR TREATMENT OF AUTISM

"The Toddler Program at STA was instrumental in getting our autistic toddler off to a strong start. We learned so much and were so impressed with each of the therapists we worked with. 

Even though the program was virtual, it was amazing how effective it was and how far we came in 6 months. 

After our scholarship we had to go to a non specialized  program and it has been incredibly apparent how important having a specialized program is for help and growth especially while these kids are developing and experiencing the challenges from their diagnosis. 

I will forever be grateful for the time we had at STA and the skills we learned."

-Anonymous 

The clinicians in Society for Treatment of Autism’s (STA) counselling program recognize that Autistic
folks have both incredible strengths as well as difficulties. While every Autistic person is different in
what they experience, a common challenge is in building satisfying social connections and managing
social anxiety. As a result, many of the individuals we work with experience a greater degree of social
isolation and loneliness. Those who are isolated or lonely tend to experience worse mental health. With
the generous support of Els for Autism, we offered group programs to address this such as the Autistic
Womens’ Learning and Support Group, and the Theatre Improv: Social and Communication Skills Group.
The Autistic Womens’ Learning and Support Group invites Autistic adults that identify as women to
come together to learn and build connections with others. All participants said that after attending the
group they had an increased understanding of Autism in women and increased self-confidence. In
addition, many said they had decreased feelings of self-isolation and increased social connectedness. In
fact, the biggest complaint was that the group wasn’t longer!
The Theatre Improv: Social and Communications Skills Group supports Autistic teens to develop skills for
social situations and manage social anxiety. We have lots of fun creating scenes, playing improv games,
and developing characters all while learning useful skills in a dynamic setting. Participants experienced
changes in their social anxiety levels after the group ended. They told us they spent less time preparing
for social situations, had fewer worries about upcoming social interactions, and were less afraid of doing
or saying something embarrassing. This helped participants to feel more confident in social interactions
in their daily life.
We are excited to continue offering groups throughout the year to support Autistic individuals.

NATE

Canucks Autism Network (CAN) is the beneficiary of the Els For Autism Golf Challenge in Vancouver. Nate Keller is a young man on the autism spectrum who has accessed CAN programs for over 10 years.

 

As a child, he benefited from CAN sports and rec opportunities, like soccer, skate and hockey. In his youth and adult years, he has begun accessing CAN social and employment services.

 

“CAN has taught me that autism is something special and unique about me. I want others on the spectrum to know that people will love you because you have your autism. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

-Nate Keller

AUTISM OKANAGAN

2022 marked the first year for the local Autism Okanagan golf program. The program currently includes a dozen golfers between the ages of seven and 17.

DILLON

Every single time Derek Fortier watched his oldest son, Dillon, skate around the ice, he beamed with pride.


“You get emotional, for sure,” Fortier said. “The small steps for him were big…because for him, it was a real struggle and he was able to overcome it.”


Dillon was diagnosed on the autism spectrum when he was just two years old. He decided to give hockey a try at age seven after watching his younger brother, Dawson.

“Teaching (Dillon) to skate was a big challenge,” Fortier said. “It’s risky, right? And he’s not a risk taker at all. So for the first eight weeks, he’d just kind of walk and then glide. I remember thinking, ‘how am I going to get him to take a stride?'”

“Us coaches, we have 18 kids on the ice at a time, it’s hard to break down things to that level, but for his success I had to. So because I had to, it made me think of an accelerated way of learning.”

That break-down not only worked for Dillon, but for some other kids Fortier had been coaching.

That’s when the Tornado’s Edge was born. It’s a skating trainer to help kids with crossovers and edge work.

“Based on the experience in coaching and trying to teach these things, we basically came up with a device that replaced the coach.”


“The original description Derek had was he wanted to make a horse trainer, and it’s like how is that going to fit on the ice?” said co-founder and Fortier’s long-time friend Gerard Beaulieu.

The two workshopped the idea into a prototype last September, which eventually became the final product. It has already been a big hit with the kids who have used it.


“They call it the merry-go-round,” Beaulieu said. “You can see the smiles on the kids faces–they light up when they’re on the thing and that’s amazing to see.”

“I don’t think they really understand what they’re learning,” Fortier said. “They just want to go around and when you get them doing that crossover, which is not a natural thing for anybody, it’s pretty incredible how quickly they pick things up.”

The Don Hartman North East Sportsplex was the first arena to purchase a unit and now has two for users to access at its two rinks.

“It’s just so much quicker in the ability for the kids to learn,” general manager Perry Cavanagh said. “Their confidence just skyrockets and within minutes–literally minutes–(the kids’) skating style changes, especially on crossovers.”

“I think it’ll have an impact across Canada and maybe beyond,” Fortier said.