“Because of CAN, Noah has a place to go. A place to belong.”

Dear CAN community,

Thinking back, we kind of knew something was going on when Noah was as young as 18 months old.

When we got his diagnosis, it was upsetting and scary but also freeing in a way, knowing we had a path forward. We started researching autism and joining Facebook forums, but it was just so hard to find the right resources.

My wife and I describe those initial years as experiencing parental loneliness. None of our friends had a child with autism. When we would try to go out into the world, people just assumed we had a bad kid or were bad parents. It was extremely isolating.

My name is Shane McKinnon, and I’m the proud father of three beautiful boys, Eli, Noah, and Luke.

We didn’t discover Canucks Autism Network (CAN) until Noah started school.

I remember day one of kindergarten like it was yesterday. Noah was just screaming and crying looking at me like “Why are you leaving me in this place?” since he didn’t have a lot of language at that time. Somehow Colleen, his incredible Special Education Assistant, quickly made him feel at ease. Colleen’s work with CAN is what got us involved with the organization.

With 1 in 29 BC kids now being diagnosed, the need for support is greater than ever.

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We signed Noah up for CAN’s Active program when he was five. As far as I knew, we’d take him there, let him burn off a bit of steam, then go home. Little did we know CAN was going to change our lives.

On the first day of the program, we arrived in the parking lot and got out of the car and this group of about five people in CAN t-shirts were smiling and waving at Noah. He started running towards them, but because we were in a parking lot, they all started running towards him. I remember thinking to myself, okay these people know what they’re doing.

Even still, we were so nervous that Noah was going to have a total meltdown. But within 30 seconds of walking through the door, we could just tell by the way the staff were interacting with him that it was going to be okay. We could tell that it was a very good place for him to be.

My wife and I then noticed the other parents. We kind of looked at them and they looked at us, then we looked at our kids acting in similar ways, and we got overwhelmed with this instant feeling of relief.

For $25, you can fund an hour of one-to-one support from a trained CAN staff member. Donate now >

In those initial months with CAN, we were hoping to meet some parents we could talk to and for Noah to meet some friends, but we never expected our whole family to experience such a sense of belonging.

Even the way Noah played with his brother changed. Before CAN, it was very much parallel play alongside his brother. Since practicing back and forth at CAN programs, they now play together.

I even noticed an improvement in the way Noah walked up the stairs at school. It was as if he suddenly had this heightened physical ability from all the activities he’d been doing at CAN’s active program.

But what really hit us was the change in Noah’s communication. He was finally communicating with people who knew how to communicate back to him. It was like CAN helped to unlock his voice.

In the beginning, I remember feeling upset that Noah had this roadblock in front of him but CAN has made that roadblock so much smaller. His confidence has grown more than we ever could have imagined. He’s learned so much and come so far.

Without CAN, Noah wouldn’t have an outlet where he could just be himself and not be on edge. It’s really the only place where he just gets to be a kid. And the only place where my wife and I can truly relax.

CAN has changed the way that Noah can live his life. Because of CAN, Noah has a place to go. A place to belong. We all do. And there is truly no greater gift than that.

Thank you,

Shane McKinnon, CAN dad

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