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World Autism Awareness Day: Embracing Inclusion with First Tee – Canada

World Autism Awareness Day: Embracing Inclusion with First Tee – Canada

“Inclusion is not about bringing people into what already exists; it is creating a new space, a better space for everyone.
(George Day, Canadian professor)

In Canada, 1 in 66 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the way a person communicates and relates to people and the world around them. It can affect body language, social interactions and relationships, and sensory processing. (Autism in ontario)

Creating a welcoming, safe and empowering environment for children of all backgrounds and abilities is a priority for staff across the country. Inclusion is at the core of First Tee's mission.

First Tee – Canada Partners with youth organizations across the country to provide all children with the opportunity to play golf in a welcoming environment.

In British Columbia, First tee – BC He has made an impact in Vancouver's autism community by working with Canucks Autism Network (Can).

“One in 30 kids in British Columbia is on the spectrum,” said Jake Wynn, senior director of programs at the Canucks Autism Network. “By joining forces with First Tee, we are giving kids a chance to try something new and discover a sport they may not have tried before. Programs like First Tee broaden the horizons of children with autism.

The Canucks Autism Network provides year-round programming for children, youth and adults with autism throughout British Columbia. Their programs for children aged 3-12 focus on sports and entertainment, so they were happy to add golf to their range of offerings.

“We like the fact that First Tee’s classes are adaptable,” Wayne said. “We can quickly change games depending on the group and change tasks and challenges for each athlete. It's not one size fits all. It's customizable and available for every participant to participate in.”

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First Tee – BC coach Tyler McKay has been leading the programming efforts.

“Tyler knew how to interact with children and instill confidence in the participants and their families,” said Scott Stefani, BC Program Director. “The feedback from parents and Canucks Autism Network staff has been very positive. Seeing our team and the First Tee program itself creating buzz around our sport and getting kids excited about playing golf is very exciting.”

The positive response from parents and participants is a testament to the importance of having a dedicated coach, and First Tee – Canada has no shortage of such coaches.

The same is true on the East Coast First T – Atlantic'The coaches also offer golf to children with special needs.

First Tee – Atlantic's partnership with Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labradorr, thanks to the efforts of coach Wayne Allen and his daughter, coach Rosie Allen, winner of the 2023 Lori Kane Future Leader Award at Golf Canada.

The father-daughter duo have made a huge impact on the children in their community in Corner Brook, Newfoundland over the past two years, and they go above and beyond to create environments where everyone feels welcome.

In addition to obtaining his first Tee Instructor Certification, he completed Coach Wayne's Ernie Els #GameOn Autism Golf Training Program, which includes evidence-based practices for teaching golf to people with autism spectrum disorder.

The time and effort put into this partnership has not gone unnoticed.

A parent left positive comments for Coach Wayne. “Thank you for creating a space for these kids to come together and belong to something. They are often left out of mainstream sports.

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Coaches like Wayne are proudly paving the way for a more inclusive sport across Canada.

Today, and every day, First Tee – Canada celebrates diversity and believes that kids of all abilities deserve to feel safe, empowered and welcome in the sport of golf.

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