PALS Autism Society Newsletter  |  Winter 2017
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In this edition:

School News
Adult Program News
Other News 
Autism Awareness Month
-By Yvonne Lam
On April 2nd the world will be lit up blue for Autism Awareness Day. On the last day of March, PALS staff and students all wore blue to get a head start in raising awareness for April’s Autism Awareness Month. To honour our students and families, we ask that you help advocate by doing the a few of the following:
1. Raise awareness 
2. Support an autism charity -make a donation to PALS!
3. Use ‪#AutismAwareness #AutismAcceptance #ABA #LightItUpBlue in social media posts!
4. Attend the free events put on by organizations like the Canucks Autism Network, the Autism Support Network, and the Autism Society of BC.
5. Wear blue clothing
6. ‘Light it up blue’ -You can buy the bulbs at Home Depot with portions of proceeds going Autism Speaks Canada.
Our advocacy is needed now more than ever! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states autism prevalence is 1 in 68 children. It is also estimated that 70 million people are affected by autism worldwide, making it an urgent public health priority that requires increasing global awareness, services and research.
School Program Update
By Yvonne Lam

It’s been a very busy winter with a couple of staff changes! On November 6, 2016, our Head of School, Andrea Kasunic, along with her husband Jeff Sarna, welcomed Kaz Joseph Sarna to the world! As Andrea steps into the new world of motherhood, I have stepped into her role as the Interim Head of School. I have been with PALS School Program since 2010, initially as an Educational Instructor, then as a Head Educational Instructor, later as the Assistant Behaviour Analyst and Behaviour Analyst. I obtained my Masters of Arts in Special Education from UBC and Board Certification as a Behaviour Analyst in 2016. This would not have been possible without the support at PALS. Andrea has been a wonderful mentor by providing me with invaluable guidance and feedback throughout my journey at PALS. I am so grateful for this opportunity and am looking forward to another successful school year!
Home for the Holidays

Amazingly, PALS Autism Society has once again been selected as the benefiting charity for The Sutton Place Hotel’s 11th annual fundraising initiative, “Home for the Holidays”. As the benefactors, PALS was invited to decorate the centre tree. The Parent Support Group and other volunteers decorated the tree with deliciously looking ginger-bread art creations from our students. On Nov 23rd, 2016, a large group of supporters gathered to learn more about PALS and to kick-off the initiative with a wine and cheese tasting. More than $6,000 was raised from this event, which will contribute to the 6-week Summer Program at PALS. The summer program is an integral piece to our students’ educational puzzle. The consistency of year-round schooling for students with autism means they are constantly learning new skills and always being included in activities with their peers. Thanks to the support of our donors, especially the Sutton Place Hotel’s “Home for the Holidays” fundraiser, our students get to come to PALS almost every day of the year and have fun while they learn.
Annual Christmas Concert

On December 16th, 2016, friends and families of PALS were delighted to enjoy our annual Christmas concert. The students worked tirelessly to put on a show that embraced the Christmas spirit and shared the Christmas joy. Once again, the gym was transformed into a magical concert hall which showcased all of the students talents.
This year, students from Gay’s class presented their interpretation of the traditional Christmas classic ‘Jingle Bells’ where their beautiful melodic voices were accompanied on the ukulele played by the students themselves. Although the ukulele was not the easiest instruments to learn in the short span of three months, their stick-to-it attitude certainly paid off as the audience was serenaded to a harmonious version of a beloved Christmas carol. Students from Rebecca’s class performed an original song ‘I Built a Snowman’ complete with choreography and some wonderful original dialogue to introduce the piece.
By far the most exciting part of the concert was the debut showcase of the new After-School Care dance troupe and their Hip-Hop Performance to Jessie Jay’s hit song ‘Price-Tag.’ The students truly shined and had the audience tapping their feet along to the original choreography and the free-style movements of some of PALS school’s most dedicated dancers. We sure are excited to see what the staff and students come up with for their year-end performance of ‘The Wizard of Oz.’
100 Men Who Give a Damn- Vancouver!
-By Yvonne Lam

On December 14th 2016, PALS School Program, Coast Mental Health, and Vancouver Adaptive Snow Sports were the three final nominee finalists to be considered by 100 Men Who Give a Damn – Vancouver’s 4th event. This amazing organization consists of a group of men getting together once every three months, bringing along $100 each, to make a greater impact together than if they were on their own. Each nominee delivered a 5-minute pitch speech for the men to vote. Nick Smith and Rainold Lee delivered a heart-warming speech on behalf of PALS, which gathered the most votes and leaving PALS walking away with $10,000! As the event had such a great turn out with more than 100 men in attendance, the other two charity nominees also each walked away with $1000.
Thanks to their generous support, the funds went towards PALS Speech and Language Therapy Program. As a result, our students will continue to make major advancements in their speech, language and communication skills. This ensures our students will have uninterrupted access to Shannon Muir, our long time Speech and Language Pathologist, whose expertise and guidance has fundamentally improved the lives of all our students and their families.
Snow Days on Grouse Mountain!
By Yvonne Kirwan

After the success of our first Grouse Mountain winter activity lessons in January 2016 we immediately began our snow dance in hope of another awesome season in 2017! We must have danced a little too much because we certainly had no issue with a lack of snow in Vancouver this winter! While it made things in the city a little tricky it meant we had awesome weather conditions up in Grouse Mountain for winter activities!
Thanks to the support of the PALS Parent Support Group, for the second year PALS students were able to develop their skiing and snowshoeing skills in a super fun environment. Our learners worked super hard developing skills last winter and it was now time to put those skills back into practice and develop them further!
Similar to last year, eight of our students signed up for snowshoeing while ten of our students took part in skiing lessons. Both winter activities proved to be extremely enjoyable and every student showed consistent improvements from the beginning of the lessons to the final session! Additionally students had access to sleigh-rides, winter themed movies, and ice-skating on the mountain.
We are already looking forward to next year where we know our students will exceed further expectations! A special mention for our newest PALS students Neal and Cassie who came to Grouse with us for the first time and each did amazing in their ski lessons and adapting to a different environment!
Promotes Kindness for Pink Shirt Day!
-By Yvonne Kirwan

In February, alongside many other schools across the country, our students participated in Pink Shirt Day. Pink Shirt Day is a decade-long anti-bullying initiative that promotes kindness and acceptance of yourself and toward others. To mark the occasion our students all wore pink shirts kindly funded by the PALS Parent Support Group. The pink shirts worn represent taking a stand against bullying and practicing compassion. The focus of our day was on promoting kindness and what it means to be a good friend. Rebecca’s class discussed their friendships and what it means to be a good friend. They shared what they learned with each other by creating artwork. Gay’s classroom discussed a little about the history of the movement and the concept of bullying-prevention. Students also partook in compliment circles throughout the day where they shared messages about what they like about each other… and, of course, we had to take a photo in our cool shirts! At PALS, we always strive to promote dignity and kindness. Friendships and social skills are a big part of what students learn at PALS and Pink Shirt Day was an awesome way to highlight this!
Visuals for Learners with ASD
-By Rebecca Tayler

In March, I had the pleasure of doing a presentation on Visuals for Learners with ASD for the staff at PALS. Visuals are any visual information that supplements and/or clarifies understanding for the learner of a particular skill or task. Visuals can be word walls, visual schedules, communication boards, picture prompts, graphic organizers, lists, contingency maps, and much more! As adults, every day, we are surrounded by visuals in our environment. Whether it be exit, washroom, or road signs, visuals serve an important purpose in our lives. My desire to present this topic was to expand staff’s knowledge on the various ways they can incorporate visuals into their teaching strategies at PALS.
In my classroom, I have seen the benefits visuals can have on student independence and understanding. Visuals can be as simple as a toileting icon or as complex as a multi-step procedure. The wonderful thing about visuals is that once taught students can engage in an activity or perform a skill without assistance from the instructor. Visuals can be used for communication, schedule following, as a behavioural strategy, or for a specific skill or activity such as academics or life skills.
When making a visual ensure it is explicit, systematic, and individualized for the learner. Only use as much information as necessary for the learner to reach the objective. Most visuals will require teaching to the student before they can use them independently. Ensure to use prompting and fading procedures as needed when guiding the student in using the visual. Furthermore, it is important to reinforce the successful usages of visuals so students prefer using it more than if they required prompting from an instructor. Lastly, assess the effectiveness of the visual. If the student is unable to use the visual independently after sufficient teaching, ask yourself if the visual needs to be altered. With sufficient scaffolding, visuals can be an ideal tool in supplementing learning in the school, home, and community!
British Columbia Association for Behaviour Analysis (BC-ABA)
-By Erika Lindstrom
This year marked the 9th annual BC-ABA conference, a forum for professionals in the field of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) to share ideas, discuss current research, and promote mutual growth and development. Ten members of the PALS staff team were able to attend the full-day conference on a bursary provided by the school program.

The morning kicked off with keynote speaker was Dr. Jon Bailey who gave an engaging and thought-provoking talk on the ethical standards of the Behaviour Analyst Certification Board. He focused on the implications of the Code of Ethics for both supervisors and supervisees. At PALS, Interim Head of School, Yvonne Lam, is supervising a group of staff who are working towards their BCBA certification. It was an enlightening discussion about the details of this relationship.

Afterwards, Dr. Pat Mirenda spoke on bilingualism and ASD, sharing summaries of recent studies. They show that bilingual exposure for children with ASD does not hinder their language development. It was such a pleasure to also see former PALS staff member, Aimee Doherty, present alongside with Katie Allen and Mary Penrice, on the topic of what to do when the results of a functional analysis is not clear for challenging behaviour. They suggested for staff to think outside the box and add new conditions that are client-specific that might help pinpoint the function of the behaviour under conditions that are outside of the standard functional analysis framework. We also learned from Surrey School District staff as they spoke about their experience in training Educational Assistants in ABA in order to meet the needs of students with complex needs. They shared the training model that they used and how it has led to successful inclusions and improvements in behaviour for students with Autism.

In the afternoon, there was a question and answer period with Dr. Jon Bailey regarding data collection and professional communication in an age of digital correspondence and data storage. The questions were surrounding the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act in BC, and its relation to storage of client information and communication including client information between families and BCBAs.

It was a professionally edifying experience for us and we all appreciated the chance to engage in professional learning and discussion. For anyone interested in becoming a member of BC-ABA, please visit
BC SPCA Hops into PALS
-By Yvonne Kirwan
On March 29th, PALS had a very special guest pay us a visit. The BC SPCA returned for a second year to talk to our students about pet care and this year the guest star was Johnny Appleseed a friendly bunny! Prior to being introduced to our fluffy new friend our students got to learn a little about rabbits and the responsibilities involved in being a pet owner. They learned about respecting the animal and petting gently. Students then got the opportunity to meet Johnny and each took turns in gently petting the animal. Johnny’s owner brought a snack and some of the students were able to feed him some of his preferred treats carrots and apples! Our students did amazing in adapting to a new creature in their environment and each displayed a willingness to try new things in petting the rabbit. It was a very successful visit and we look forward to welcoming the BC SPCA back to PALS in the future!
Winter Program Update
-By Karin Terado

The Adult Program would like to welcome all of you to our spring term!  These past several months have been full of activities, celebrations and milestones achieved.  A few examples of what’s been keeping all of us busy include:  creating our Christmas Candles and Baked Goods gift boxes which were both very successful fundraisers for the program (more on that in an article below),  wrapping up our curriculum project which has been  three years in development, our UBC Sauder Marketing co-op student Catherine continues her work on developing an exciting strategy for our Candle-making Social Enterprise, PALS Board Housing sub-committee continues to meet and plan a thoughtful, responsible and sustainable housing alternative for families, and planning has started for PALSAP In The Summer, 2017 (stay tuned for a wonderful surprise!).  We’re also thrilled to announce that Sangeon and Karl are getting paid, part time work at GO Studios and Shanti’s Curries, respectively.  These wonderful employers have supported PALS for a number of years and we are thankful to have them as a partner in employment.  Thanks also to RWA (Ready, Willing and Able), our Federal Government partner which has stepped up to support our Job Coaches as they work with Sangeon and Karl.  I look forward to sharing more news from the adult program later this spring but, in the meantime, please take a few minutes to read the following articles written by several of our staff.
At this time I’d like to take the opportunity to thank all of our donors, supporters, friends, families, volunteers and staff for your hard work and commitment to PALS - I wish all of you a happy and productive spring and I hope to see many of you at PALS 10th Anniversary Imagine Gala: Once Upon A Time to be held on April 8th.  I’m sure it will be an absolutely magical evening, in support of a very important cause. Thank you!
Christmas Bake Sale 2016
-By Katie Smith

Planning and completing the second annual PALS Christmas Bake Sale was a highlight of 2016 for the students. The proceeds of the sale funded a super fun lunch at White Spot and left over funds will be put towards another student initiative or student outing.  

Whether they planned, budgeted, advertised, collected orders, shopped, baked, or packaged the goods each student contributed to the operation. It was really cool to see the students take pride in their work and stay on top of production and quality control! In the end 2,536 cookies were baked in two ovens at the Adult Program and we earned a gross revenue of $2,070 which greatly exceeded what we made the previous year. It was a team effort that required creativity, diligence, and stamina.
Smile Program
By Boris Wu

The students at PALS have been practicing and working hard in the SMILE reading program! They have learned many new sounds in the past couple months and are able to combine sounds to make some fun words. Our students are reading more clearly, loudly and with more confidence. They are also able to recognize and spell some of the sight words with these new sounds! Awesome work!
PALS Christmas Candles
By Niki Fung

This Christmas marked the first year for the PALS Adult Program Christmas Candles, and it was met with a smashing success! The Christmas candles are part of our growing social enterprise that began in April 2016.

The students of the Adult Program have designed and produced 3 candles to make up our Signature Collection.  This collection is comprised of Lavender, Eucalyptus and Vanilla Candles. During the Christmas season we also added three limited edition scents in Cranberry, Evergreen and Christmas Spice that combined to make our Christmas Collection. The candles were sold individually or as a set of three in either the Signature or Christmas scents. The gift sets were packaged beautifully with custom labels, tissue and bows. Production for the Christmas orders started at the end of October and the students were busy at work right up until Christmas break! Every step of the process including candle prep, candle production, packaging and order filling was completed by the students. We ended with some very impressive numbers, selling 159 gift boxes and 128 individual candles. Combined the students made 605 candles in under two months! They also placed an impressive 2,133 labels by hand! Our gross revenue totaled $4,076! The students took themselves out for a Christmas lunch at White Spot to celebrate their hard work and in January we held a vote to see how everyone wanted to spend the money they made. The winning vote is for a movie and a lunch at Red Robins that will be happening at the end of the month. Thank you to everyone who supported our Christmas Candles and we look forward to an even better Christmas season this year!
Cooking Fridays
By Ally Gordon

Hi there, I’m Ally Gordon and I teach cooking on Fridays with our wonderful students.
We have learned so much. Our skill set includes measuring, chopping, stirring, boiling and even opening up packets of spaghetti like a pro. We also have learned new words like ingredients, method and al dente. We also and most importantly have a lot of fun eating what we have made.
Staff Bios


Hi I'm Hatty, I'm from London, UK and moved to Vancouver at the start of 2017. My background is in primary school teaching and I've been working at PALS for just over a month now. I'm really enjoying getting to know the amazing students and staff here and am excited to become part of such a great team.

In my free time I like watching films, reading books and baking enormous cakes!


Hi I’m Catherine, a fourth year student at UBC Sauder School of Business. I was born in Taiwan and lived in Shanghai before moving to Vancouver for university. I am currently on my co-op term at PALS Adult Program as the marketing intern for the candle social enterprise.  So far I have worked on projects such as analyses of the business idea, creating brochure and website for the PALS Candles and am enjoying working with the amazing students and staffs!


Hi my name is Caoimhe Morton and I started with Pals in November 2016. I grew up in Ireland with my family and despite the distance we all still remain extremely close. I've worked mostly in business management and love playing sports with my friends. I have recently got into painting and am hoping to attend a couple classes in the spring. On the weekends I am still exploring all the beautiful mountains and re visiting all my favourite beaches. I have learned so much from Pals already and am very excited to continue to grow here. I believe in promoting strong relationships because you can accomplish anything with the right support.
PALS would like to take this opportunity to thank the many people and organizations who generously donated to the school and adult program between November 2016 - March 2017;100 Men Who GIve A Damn - Vancouver, Freidoun Alagheband, Kaz and Marion Arai, CA Technologies, CORIX - Golf for Kids, Heather Delane, Karol Dubitz, Els for Autism Canada, Gordon and Sharon Grams, Norman and Benita Jekubik, Raymond Lee, Music Heals Charitable Foundation, Jessica Owen, Parisa Reyhani, Devi Sangara, Sophie Sherkat, David and Stephanie Williams, Jimmy and Alice Wong, Missy Yano, Sherry Yano and Erik Bjerklund, and Variety - The Children's Charity. This support allows us to continue delivering exceptional academic, behavioural, and life skills programming to students and young adults with autism spectrum disorders.

Good Friday - School Closed
Friday, April 14th

Easter Monday - School Closed
Monday, April 17th

Behaviour Anaylysis Workshop - 
no afterschool care   3:00 - 6:00      
Thursday, April 27th

Professional Day - School Closed
Friday, May 19th

Victoria Day - School Closed
Monday, May 22nd
Good Friday - Program Closed
Friday, April 14th

Easter Monday - Program Closed
Monday, April 17th

Victoria day - Program Closed
Monday, May 22nd

Copyright © 2017 PALS Autism Society, All rights reserved.

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