Baseball program for kids on autism spectrum arrives in Kamloops and West Kelowna | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Baseball program for kids on autism spectrum arrives in Kamloops and West Kelowna

The Canucks Autism Network will be delivering a baseball program in collaboration with the Jay's Care Foundation.
Image Credit: Canucks Autism Network

The Canucks Autism Network is launching an all-new baseball program for youth on the spectrum in Kamloops and West Kelowna that was built in collaboration with the Toronto Blue Jays charitable arm, the Jay's Care Foundation.

This spring, neurodivergent youth in Kamloops and West Kelowna will have the opportunity to partake in baseball programs tailor-made for them by the Jay's Care Foundation in collaboration with the Canucks Autism Network. The program requires no prior experience in baseball or equipment.

"We've partnered with Jay's Care Foundation and they were very generous in providing us with all fully donated equipment as well as new curriculum for our participants. So, instead of running our typical multi-sport program this spring, all of the regions will be running baseball," Morgan Painchaud, Regional Coordinator for the Canucks Autism Network says.

"That entails a six-week curriculum built out specifically for children on the spectrum as well as all the equipment they would need including bats, baseballs, jerseys, everything is included, and we'll be delivering their curriculum specialized towards our support strategies as well."

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While the program was developed by the Jay's Care Foundation, support workers from the Canucks Autism Network will be there with the participants to support them in properly taking in the information from the coach and getting the most out of this program.

"The way it typically works is the coach would deliver the curriculum through games and different modelling, we often say 'say and show,' and then our support workers work with one or a few participants in a pod to ensure that those skills are broken down, or rephrased, are shown with visuals or however our participants communicate best to ensure those skills can be practice and worked on while also using other support strategies that are specific to each participant."

Programs run by the Canucks Autism Network are tailor-made for neurodivergent youth and allow them to feel supported and welcomed in all capacities. To ensure the best environment possible, the organization trains a high number of staff yearly.

"Each season, our staff receives seasonal training that is updated every year and new facts are always being researched and added to the training. We also spend a lot of time one-on-one with our participants, building rapport with them, they don't usually get that in a different sports environment where there's usually only one or two coaches.

"We're also a little bit more flexible with our curriculum plan; if something's not quite hitting home, our staff have the ability to rephrase, or help the participant take a break from the activity, perhaps there are sensory issues that are involved, so making sure that they are in a supported and inclusive environment."

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Allison Hohne says her son has participated in the organization's programs for five years now.

"My son has told my husband and myself 'I can be me, it's friends just like me,' so I think it gives him a space where he can be his full self," Hohne says. "As a parent, I just feel like when you drop your kid off there you just feel a sense of comfort with them because they get to know your kids, their name, their interests.

"Like as soon as our son walks in it's like 'Hey Jackson, how's it going, how's your hockey league going?' because he makes up all these fantasy hockey leagues and they remember that and take the time to know my kid."

On top of being very welcoming and attentive, Hohne praises the program for its trained staff that knows exactly how to support neurodivergent kids, especially in times when it might be harder for someone with no training to do so.

"If he's ever having one of his meltdowns, at other places I was never sure if I could bring him because I was always questioning if the staff would be able to deal with his meltdown appropriately. Do they have that training? Do they know how to give him space but also be there for him if he needs it?" she says.

"With the Canucks Autism Network, we drop him off if he does have a meltdown and I feel comfortable doing so because they've asked us what our kid needs when he is having a meltdown whether that be comfort, space, they really get to know your kid and how to help them.

"One time it happened where he was having a meltdown and my husband dropped him off and they texted us ten minutes later telling us 'yeah, we're good, everything's resolved.'"

Hohne recommends these programs for youth on the spectrum and she says her son definitely would as well.

The spring baseball program will run in Kamloops on Monday evenings for youth under the age of 13, until to June 3, and for youth 13 years of age and up, on Tuesdays until to May 21.

In West Kelowna, the program will be on Monday evenings from April 22 to June 3. To register for programs run by the organization, visit the registration portal here

Aside from this all-new baseball program, the Canucks Autism Network will be running a variety of other evening spring programs as well as summer camps. The organization also offers a well of resources to promote inclusion and support of individuals on the spectrum. To find out more, visit the website here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Gabrielle Adams or call (438) 830-1211 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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