How many people are struggling with Social Isolation right now? Now imagine you have struggled with Social Isolation your entire life….but you have made strides and even formed close relationships over the past numbers of months or years. You’ve found a safe place to gather with your friends daily or weekly….and now all of that is gone.
For a long time (years in a lot of cases) everyone in your life (parents, teachers, doctors) have told you things like; you need more social opportunities, you need to get out of the house, you need to make some friends…..now you are hearing the opposite and all of those people are staying home too!
This is our daily struggle now for our close to 1000 member families.
We had originally requested $150,00 but have lowered our request as we will be able to access some of the government support announced since our original submission.
Our request will cover operational support which is normally covered by program and fund development revenue
The Autism Aspergers Friendship Society (AAFS) was founded in 2004 when a group of families saw a gap in service. Their children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) were enduring stressful days, nothing but school and therapy. They were told by doctors their kids needed recreation and social time but these didn’t exist.
We asked a simple question, when did these kids get a chance to just BE Kids! Let me tell you about one of our members, Anton.
He was 13 when we met and was a “high needs” individual with autism. Anton had little awareness of safety, limited communication skills and many sensory issues which made the world a scary place. For Anton and thousands of others with autism, the community is a place of unknown and unpredictable obstacles.
There is a misconception that individuals with autism can’t have or don’t want friends and relationships. This is so wrong on so many levels! They want friendships, they want experience, they just need support in making these things possible. What’s missing for them? Opportunity and that’s where AAFS come in.
Over the years, through experiential learning, places which once invoked fear and anxiety in Anton became places of triumph. Environments once thought impossible, like the Saddledome, became places Anton could not imagine his life without.
Our mission and vision are simple, Community, Acceptance, Respect, Experience and Social Dynamics. If we provide these things, our members will be as happy as anyone, anywhere, anytime.
When we were founded in 2004,we supported 7 families. Today we have almost over 800 families
Through a feasibility study conducted by Social Venture Partners, it was identified that there are nearly 50,000 individuals with autism living in the Alberta, a number which is rising all the time.
In November 2011, a 14 year old boy with autism won 2 tickets to a Flames game. When asked who he would like as his aide for the game, he asked if Anton could take him. That night was Anton’s first night of many as a mentor in our community. Anton is now 26 and is a leader and a role model for our members. He has won an Autism Community Award for leadership, completed the Broadcasting program at Mount Royal University and is a cameraman for the Calgary Flames and Stampeders.
We have hundreds of story like Anton’s and with your support, we will have many more!
When we started in 2004, we provided 2 simple activities per week, one weeknight and one on weekends. On the weeknights, we would meet at the Autism Calgary office and rotate nights between Video, Board and Card Games and Art nights. On the weekends, we would do things like swimming, bowling and movies. Our focus was on getting kids out together in our communities with like minded people and having some fun.
Over the years, we have significantly increased the scope and reach of our activities because our members would say things like; “I want to make a movie”, “I want to learn how to design video games” , “I want to go to a Monster Truck Show” , “I want to go on a real camping trip.”
We began to explore the opportunities our members asked for. It was important to us that anything we started to do was because a member of ours asked for it and nobody else was doing it.
We have always operated from a very simple base, bring youth together, empower them, accept them, allow them to take risks, and learn naturally whenever possible. As much as the adult world wants to ‘structure’ how young people learn certain things, EVERYONE learns how they learn.
When AAFS began, one of our main goals was to immerse our kids in the community around us. Over the years, AAFS members have had a chance to do everything there is to do recreation wise in the Calgary area. The Community is the largest classroom in the world and AAFS takes full advantage.
A Community Outing can be anything out in the community, swimming, bowling, Flames/Hitmen/Stamps games, Laser Quest, paintball, sledding, skating. Whatever is out there!
Club nights are evenings at our Fairmount Drive location. On Clubhouse Nights, many important lessons are learned. Turn taking, sportsmanship, sharing, hanging out (and yes, we were told by one of our youth that how to just “hang out” was definitely a skill he needed to learn).
Here are some examples of popular club night activities;
Specialized Programs (not all programs are offered all the time)
AAFS’ Specialized Programs are programs that take place over 4- 16 weeks with a specific focus. These programs are an opportunity to engage our youth in their special interests and present an opportunity for possible vocations.
Some examples of our specialized programs are:
12-18 youth with ASD collaborate on the writing, filming, editing, acting and everything else to do with movie making. Over the past 8 years, our youth have taken us into a world of vampires with Amulet of Dracul, been sucked inside a Video Game world with “6- The Movie”, watched a group of misfits save the world from a Supersonic Fart in “2012- A Fart Odyssey” and watched a group of students become Super Heroes in “The Hero Initiative: Unexpected Heroes”
Art in Action
Arts based self-advocacy. An amazing program in which youth with ASD come together and identify various challenges they face as a community and then use the Arts to express and advocate for themselves.
Each year (May thru October) we take groups of up to 25 youth on a number of camping trips in traditional camping style. They plan meals, shop for supplies, set up the tents, cook their own food, go canoeing, light fires, and do everything one must do when camping. One of our youth when asked why he enjoyed our camping trips so much said, “Because I get to go camping. I am not going to a camp.”
A purely recreation/social program for adults who do not qualify for PDD funding. Once a week, participants meet up and decide on a group activity to do in the community. We run GO Group in partnership with CASS and Autism Calgary.
Video Game Design
Calgary Game Developers Academy for Youth started 2 years ago to help youth explore their creativity by learning about the many facets of the world of Video Game Design. With CGDAY facilitating, members will learn valuable technical skills which can set them up for future success by fostering conversation surrounding different opportunities in the rapidly growing tech & gaming industry. They also use professional 3D and gaming software as the platform for teaching members.
Participants will be exposed to the game development process, learn concepts like game planning, level design and play-ability. They will also work together to plan, build and test ideas and that is just the beginning!!!
Extreme Sports– Skateboarding, Parkour, Rock Climbing…
If you are a bit of an extremist when it comes to sports, then you will love these programs! Join AAFS and some amazing guests to learn extraordinary new skills. We offer an amazing skateboarding program partnering with our friends from the Calgary Association of Skateboard Enthusiasts, to teach you some skateboarding basics, and for those more advanced, some fancy tricks!
Our Parkour program is facilitated through Calgary’s own Breathe Parkour and is offered at their North & South locations. You will learn the art of movement involving running, jumping, climbing, vaulting, rolling, flipping, and much much more!
Rhythm, Movement and Courage
This eight-week program will, in the words of the folks at Movement With Message, allow participants to:
“Find your inner courage through this movement workshop. We first learn basic movement skills, how to vibe with others with those skills and then learn how to be courageous through the circle.”
Come join us for a unique, innovative program that combines dialogue and dance to develop yourself determination, and, be Courageous!
Earn a Bike (with 2 Wheel View)
Earn-A-Bike is open to bike enthusiasts ages 11 – 17 with all different backgrounds and abilities. Each week, participants will come together to learn all about bike mechanics, teamwork and leadership. At the end of the eight week program, each participant will go home having earned their very own bike lock, helmet and of course, bicycle! Yes … EVERYONE in the program gets a BIKE!
Everything Art is an 8 week long exploration of many artistic mediums including but not limited to: painting, sculpture, tie dye, collage and much more! Whether you’re an expert in the world of visual art or just trying it out, there will surely be something that you will enjoy! If there is a particular type of art or craft that you would like to learn or try out please be sure to let us know on your registration form.
There are many other programs and activities.
How you can help!
AAFS is a small charity (in capacity … not impact!). We have only 4 FT staff. As part of our culture, EVERYONE spends time working in Program Delivery.
As any non-profit organization, we rely on a few prongs of funding so we can run our programs – personal donations, grants and events.
There are a few ways you can help out!
1) Run a 3rd Party Event! Any 3rd party event can be run with a group of friends, in a workplace or within a family. Some example of 3rd party events are:
2) Corporate Donations!
Many companies match employee donations. Does yours? Even some companies who do not have a donation match ‘policy,’ will match when requested by employees.
3) Create a trail of giving in your community!
If you are willing to make a $25 donation. That is wonderful! What if your brothers and sisters matched your $25? What if your cousins, co-workers or neighbours matched your donation?
Challenge friends and family to give or to volunteer!
We have many volunteer opportunities for community members. Get in touch with us to find out more!