Brotherly Love

Janson and Joshua

Inspired by his brother, Janson Chan created Autism Teenage Partnership, a program supporting youth with autism

Jennifer Parraga, BA’93

When Janson Chan, BMSc’13, arrived at Western University to begin his bachelor of medical sciences degree, he brought with him a bag full of childhood memories about his brother Joshua. Three years his junior, Joshua is autistic, and often times has been the victim of bullying and great misunderstanding.

Witnessing some of the incidents directly, and for the love of his brother, Janson was inspired and hopeful he could do something that could help Joshua and other autistic children and adolescents. “My brother is bright, funny, outgoing and generous,” said Chan. “I wanted to do something to help him and others with autism.”

Chan took advantage of the club system at Western University, and together with his friend Brandon Wildfong, BSc’14, established Autism Awareness at Western. Working with Autism Ontario, the passionate club members set out to make a difference in the community while raising awareness about autism with their peers, on- and off-campus. Now in its fourth year, the club continues to promote the awareness of autism and raise funds to support people and families with autism.

“My brother spent so much of his time interacting with doctors, or with people paid to interact with him. Then he joined a teen program in Toronto and he finally had people he could connect with and he was able to develop friendships. It made me realize just how effective a program like ATP could be.” —Janson chan, BMSc’13

With his Western degree in hand, Chan recently headed back home to Toronto and began his studies in nursing. Determined to continue his volunteer work from Western, Chan applied for and received a $500 grant from York University to address social determinants of health.

He partnered with Wildfong, once again, and developed partnerships with Autism Ontario, the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario and the Milliken Park Community Advisory Council to create an eight-week, drop-in program for teens with autism called Autism Teenage Partnership (ATP).

Chan’s hope was to create a program that would give teens with autism a chance to participate in a regularly scheduled activity—one they could look forward to and at which they could interact with someone their own age. At the same time, Chan wanted to ensure the program offered parents a respite.

“My brother spent so much of his time interacting with doctors, or with people paid to interact with him.

Then he joined a teen program in Toronto and he finally had people he could connect with and he was able to develop friendships,” said Chan. “It made me realize just how effective a program like ATP could be.”

It didn’t take long for Chan and his partners to see the positive effects of the program. Locations were established in Richmond Hill and Waterloo, additional funding was secured and more than 100 participants registered for the weekly sessions.

News of the program’s success spread quickly thanks in part to articles in Maclean’s Magazine and the Toronto Star. And recognition wasn’t far behind. Chan was recently awarded the Ontario Medal for Young Volunteers—the highest honour in the province for young volunteers. While ATP was awarded the 2016 Organization of Character (Not-for-Profit) by the Character Community Foundation of York Region.

Now a public health nurse for York Region, Chan continues to manage the volunteer-run program. He’s not fazed or deterred by the long hours required to build upon ATP’s success. “I’d call this a passion project,” said Chan. “It comes from my heart and is an action of love.”

Chan’s long-term vision is to create a tool kit or franchise manual to help create similar programs for autistic youth across Canada. In doing so, he hopes to help close a gap in services and make a difference in the lives of young people.