“The process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.”

Let’s face it, transitions are hard. We do many things to avoid transitions. When we cannot avoid them, we prepare for them. While in the midst of a transition, we all exhibit many behaviours that express our internal state such as crying, and behaviours that keep us well-regulated during the transition such as going for a walk.

Some transitions have a huge impact on our lives, while others are part of daily routines. Regardless of the impact of the transition, transition cause us varying amounts of stress.

Life is a never-ending transition. Therefore, attempting to avoid or postpone them is never going to make transitions easier. In fact, it will make them much harder. The good news is we can make transitions easier – it is all in the prep.

At the Friend 2 Friend Play Centre we have a saying, “Prepare 100%, use 30%” This means we prepare as much as we can for every eventuality to ensure the children and youths that we support are successful. Even if we only use 30% of what we have prepared, we know we have done all we can.

If you are a parent of an individual with autism, think about all the transitions your child experiences in a single day. Are you preparing 100% for all those transitions?

Here are some transition strategies that may make transition easier for your child and you for you:

  • Provide and review a visual schedule prior to the transition,
  • Provide and review a Social Story® about the transition and / or the upcoming activity prior to the transition,
  • Offer your child closed choices giving them a sense of control over the transition,
  • Carry a transition object – holding a beloved object, phone, iPad etc will help distract your child during transitions lowering their anxiety
  • Plan an exit strategy with your child – come up with a plan of action before they become dysregulated,
  • Respect your child’s wishes – if your child puts on the breaks, slow down, listen and respect their needs.

While we cannot control all the transitions that we will face in our lives, we can prepare, prepare, prepare thus making those transitions a little smoother on ourselves and our children.



Changing the Game

Changing the Game Virtual Reality Autism Demystification 

I hadn’t really noticed the young man in the line-up waiting for his turn to demo our Virtual Reality Autism Demystification program until he spoke. “Do you need people who have sensory challenges to try it too?” he asked. Katie Robbins, Program Coordinator at Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society answered. “Yes, of course, we need that perspective most of all,” Katie replied. The young man smiled back at her reply.

By that time, we had been providing demos at the AASCEND Conference SFSU for 6 hours straight. We were exhausted. We were also rushing to pack up as another presenter required the room right away. I was busy myself providing demos so didn’t really notice as this young man began his turn with the demo. I did hear Katie do her usual spiel about how to use the Samsung HMD Odyssey Windows Mixed Reality headset. Supporting new users is a necessary step as VR is such a new technology to most.

This particular young man came to my full attention when I heard him say, “I just need to dry my eyes” as he quickly took off the headset. Katie suggested that perhaps he not continue with the demo, but his reply was, “No, I want to finish it. It is really cool” as he dried his eyes and then put the headset back on.

Changing the Game

Following their demo, each user was asked to fill out a questionnaire to provide us with data, comments, and feedback on their experience in the VRADP. We collected over 48 surveys that day. While some users chose not to fill out questionnaires, this young man did and identified himself as on the autism spectrum.  We knew from the rating that he felt the VRADP demo was excellent. He was also one of the few individuals on the spectrum who took the demo that day to write a comment, here is what he wrote:

“It was fun. It made me cry. It was completely accurate and made me vividly re-live kindergarten. I would play it all day.”

Needless to say, he was not the only person to cry that day over his reaction to our VRADP. Katie and I reached for the tissues as we reviewed his survey.

When we were starting Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society and designing the Autism Demystification model and programs 18 years ago, I could not have imagined how the delivery of these programs would grow and change over the years just like my children. And like my three children, the Virtual Reality Autism Demystification program has grown our little program into adulthood. Ready, able and capable of leaving the nest. Able to fly on its own to help educate a new generation to understand, accept and empathize, while promoting friendships between with individuals with autism and their peers worldwide.

Join us Nov 22, 2018, at the Friend 2 Friend Play Centre for our Virtual Reality Demo Evening.



Giving Tuesday is All About Giving Time

The definition of “give” states: to freely transfer the possession of (something) to (someone). While most of us think to give means to give money, it is only in the running of a charity that you truly understand the meaning of “give”. 

Giving Tuesday is All About Giving Time

Time is a most valuable thing we can give to anyone or anything. The Team at Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society knows all about the value of giving time.  That is because we spend a lot of time giving to the children with and without autism and families we support.

The Friend 2 Friend Team gives our time to:

Understand each unique individual child for who they are.

Know and understand each child’s affinity.

Create materials and play themes that are affinity based so that children are natural drawn to engage with them.

Assess each child’s unique needschallenges and gifts and then to design an individualized program for each child.

Support families not only in understanding our programs, but also ensuring they have resources they need from the community.

Ensure the Play Centres have materials that are engaging and fun to support the development of play and friendships.

Ensure the Play Centres are designed well, are clean and tidy making them a fun and safe place to play and make friends.

Find and build new Play Centre locations in an effort to meet the overwhelming demand for our unique peer play programs.

Create new programs to meet the need for our programs world-wide.

Train play guides to ensure the staff is well trained and able to provide programs.

Train others, around the world, who want to use our programs and models with children in their community.

And finally, we give our time to raise money. Money that ensures we have the time needed to support children with autism to play, make friends and feel accepted for who they are within their schools and communities.

Therefore, this year on Giving Tuesday November 28 regardless of which charity you give to, remember that Giving Tuesday is All About Giving Time.


New Family Training Online

New Family Training Online

New Family Training Online course is offered to families (parents, grandparents, primary caregivers) of children with autism and related needs ages 3 through 18.

This self-directed course enables families to access our online parent training completely free of charge at any time from the convenience of their own home. The online session takes approximately 60-minutes to complete, and includes the following information:

Introduction to Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society
Tips for Parents
Demystifying Autism
Overview of our Play Centre Programs

The goal of the session is to support families to better understand autism and provide helpful tips and strategies as they support their child’s unique social, communication and peer play needs. In addition, the session provides families with information about our Play Centre programs.

To register for our Free Family Training Online Click Here

Julia is Old Hat to US

I must admit I have been avoiding watching ‘Julia’, the new puppet with autism on Sesame Street. You see Julia is old hat to us because for over the past 17 years we have been creating and delivering the Autism Demystification® Puppet Programs. During these years, I have seen a lot of “takes” on autism in pop culture. Unfortunately, most of these “takes” were epic fails, adding to stereo types and increasing the “us vs. them” attitudes.

So, I avoided watching Julia. My worry was that Sesame Street’s new character would undo all our hard work. However, I was pleasantly surprised at Sesame Street’s take. I only cringed twice during the episode LOL. Even though they are not teaching prosocial communication strategies, as Ollie, a
10-year-old with autism reminded us the other day. After watching the Julia episode, he pointed out, “Mom, they forgot to use Friendship Tip #4 –
they were going too fast, they need to wait for Julia to answer”.

While not “innovative”, I applaud Sesame Street for their addition of Julia. Julia does represent changing attitudes – and this is wonderful.

When I started developing and delivering our Autism Demystification® Puppet Program more than 15 years ago, educators freaked out at the puppet using the word autism. Yes, that is correct,  many requested we drop the word autism from the program completely.  It was like the puppets were using a 4-letter word. Also, when we started delivering our Autism Demystification® Puppet Program more than 15 years ago, self-regulating behaviours where called “stims”, dysregulation was called “melt downs” or “tantrums”, and affinities were called “perseverations”.

The focus in the autism community at that time was “cure”.  You needed to “fix your broken child” through an intensive 40 hours a week of “behavioural modification”. However, Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society took a completely different approach. Our focus was on understanding, acceptance and building empathy and friendships. We have worked hard over the past 15 years to change misconceptions and demystify autism. I am proud to be able to see evidence that we have been successful.

So, while Julia may seem cutting edge to the world, Julia is old hat to us at Friend 2 Friend who have had many Julia’s over the past 15 years. In fact, their names are: Min, Freddie, Angela and Angus. And of course, You Don’t Know, Jack! (animations by Iain Robbins).

Want to learn more? Autism Demystification Online Course

Free Autism Demystification Online Course for BC Communities

In celebration of World Autism Awareness Month, Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society offers Free Autism Demystification Online Course for BC Communities. Friend 2 Friend will provide schools, school districts and other not for profit organizations our free BC Communities Capacity Program through our Autism Demystification Online Course.

Each year Friend 2 Friend Social Learning provides 5 Communities in BC with our BC Communities Capacity Building Program. This year we will offer our new Autism Demystification® Online Course  free to 5 schools, school districts or other not for profit organizations in BC.

This program provides participants with the knowledge, tools and techniques to implement the Friend 2 Friend Autism Demystification® Puppet Program curriculum with children aged 3 through 11. And works to address the needs of rural communities throughout BC by providing the training and tools to implement our Autism Demystification® Programs with children ages 3 to 11.

Participants from BC organizations will receive 14-day access to this self-directed, interactive online course that includes the following learning modules: Module 1: Introduction, Module 2: About the Society, Module 3: Guiding Principles, Module 4: What Does it Feel Like to Have Autism?, Module 5: Implementing the Program, Module 6: Wrap Up

Upon completion of the course, participants have access to a digital copy of the packaged curriculum including: the puppet play video entitled “You Don’t Know, Jack”, a course manual, and a children’s colouring story book adapted from the puppet play, as well as downloadable support materials.

 For information on whether your organization would qualify Free Autism Demystification Online Course for BC Communities program please contact our office. 

Go Beyond Awareness To Demystification

World Autism Awareness Day is not a special day in my life. In fact, it is just like every other day. This is because every day I work to encourage the world to go beyond awareness to demystification.

When my child started school, I watched him suffer from social isolation in the school environment. Therefore, I felt compelled to do what I could to change this situation for all children who experience social isolation and peer rejection.

In 2002, after several years of extensive research, I designed and implemented the Friend 2 Friend Autism Demystification® Programs. With the unwavering support of my husband, we then founded Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society, a not for profit, charity based in Vancouver, BC, Canada. The Society provides a variety of programs and services based on our signature Autism Demystification® model, as well as, the Friend 2 Friend – Integrated Play Groups programs based on the model created by Dr. Pamela Wolfberg.

Fast-forward 15 years to April 2, 2017 – World Autism Awareness day. The Society is now an international organization with satellite partners, publications and two Play Centres. But today marks another milestone for the Society. Today we unveil our new Autism Demystification® Online Course.

There is no question that a lot has been accomplished by the Society in 15 years, but it is not nearly enough.  On this World Autism Awareness Day, I challenge you to learn how to model, label, explain and normalize, and to promote friendships between individuals with autism and their peers – Going Beyond Awareness To Demystification!

Friend 2 Friend Unveils Online Course on World Autism Day


Friend 2 Friend Unveils Online Course on World Autism Day

March 31, 2017

News release – For Immediate Release

Vancouver, BC – On April 2, BC-based Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society will unveil its new Autism Demystification Online Course to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day.

“For the past 15 years, Friend 2 Friend has been providing our innovative Autism Demystification programs to children and their families”, says executive director Heather McCracken. “With the launch of our online course, we have taken a significant step forward in demystifying autism throughout the world.”

The self-directed course prepares participants to deliver the society’s signature Autism Demystification Puppet Program to children ages 3 to 11. “I had the privilege of participating in the review of the Autism Demystification Online Course. I appreciated the clarity of the information presented. I found the 6 modules accessible and easy to move through in terms of language use, literacy levels and multiple ways of learning approaches. The intentional use of visuals and cartoon like characters erased many perceived cultural biases that can often arise. I recommend this course.” Patricia McClelland Instructor, Northern Lights College.

McCracken, who created the Autism Demystification programs says, “Our focus is, and always has been, to promote understanding, acceptance and empathy to enhance the development of friendships between individuals with autism and their peers through our Autism Demystification programs.

“World Autism Awareness Day speaks to the profound impact that autism has had in our communities and on families. Our goal has always been to demystify the world.”

The course launches on April 2, World Autism Awareness Day. “Having adopted the Autism Demystification practices in our preparation of educators, speech-language therapists and related practitioners, I can attest to the profound impact on our schools and community. We are eagerly awaiting the online course to provide greater access and spread the effect of creating a culture that inherently values diversity and inclusion.” states Dr. Pamela Wolfberg, Professor, San Francisco State University and founding director, Autism Institute on Peer Socialization and Play

Friend 2 Friend is a non-government funded, non-profit charity that has been designing and delivering unique programs to children and families in BC, across Canada, and around the world. Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society was founded in 2002 by Heather McCracken, a Vancouver parent of three, including a son who has autism.



Twitter @F2FHeather, @F2FPlayCentre


For more information, contact Heather McCracken at cell: 604 671 4028

Autism Demystification for Siblings Sake

After delivering the Autism Demystification® Puppet Program one day in a school in Vancouver, a little girl in Grade 2 quietly walked up to the lead guide. She said, “I really liked the puppets. I hope you can come back next year too.” The facilitator smiled at the girl and said she was glad that she liked the puppets, and the team would be happy to come back any time the school invited them.

The girl started to walk away, but then she turned and came back to the lead guide. She said, “I really want you to come back because my brother is 5. He’s coming to this school next year and he’s like the yellow-haired puppet” pointing to Angus the puppet with autism. “Sometimes he does some things and the kids don’t understand. I think if you came back, the kids in his class could do those things.” She pointed to the 7 Friendship Tips board. Then she added, “It will help my brother a lot.”

Siblings are a very important part of our lives. They are our family, our blood and often the people we grow old with. With them we share common history as well as a future. They are our first and sometimes our last playmates. They are often the people that teach us to be “good players”. Being the youngest of 4, I am very fortunate to say that my siblings did and still do that for me and I hope my three children do that for each other.

All siblings take on unique roles within a family. This is especially true for siblings of children with autism. They might become a sotto parent to their sibling, or even their biggest rival. Regardless of the dynamic, siblings (like peers) require demystification. Therefore, it is our job as parents and educators to provide Autism Demystification for siblings sake. To demystify we need to model, label, explain and normalize, as well as teach them prosocial communication strategies. This ensures that siblings have the information and skills they need to understand, accept and empathize with their siblings on the autism spectrum.

Want to learn more?

April 2nd World Autism Awareness Day!  Take our Autism Demystification Online Course

Autism Demystification – Never Gets Old

This week I watched the memorized faces of four of our players as they watched our new, “You Don’t Know, Jack” Autism Demystification® puppet play video. The experience reminded me once again that Autism Demystification – Never Gets Old.

“You Don’t Know, Jack” is the latest in our Autism Demystification® Puppet Programs. We just finished filming it a couple of weeks ago and it is currently in post-production. We wanted to “preview” it with this group because we knew these players have been keen to see it. Therefore, we decided to show it to them as a special treat during last 20-minutes of the last day of the Spring Break Integrated Play Groups® program.

These four players are what you might called experienced. In fact, two of them have been attending our Play Centre programs for several years. They have seen all our previous puppet plays live and on video. And are I would call ‘experts’ in our Autism Demystification® Puppet Programs [That’s What’s Different About Me and Can I Play Too?].

Even with all their experience, the new puppet play video was captivating for them. With popcorn in hand, I watched as they prepared for the puppet play finding comfortable spots on the crash mat. They sat together as a group not making a sound as they stared at the screen watching the video.

It was what came after the video that excited me the most. During the Pass the Puppet Circle, these four children taught us what being a good friend truly means.

This experience demonstrated once again, that even for experienced players, Autism Demystification – Never Gets Old!

Autism Demystification Online Course|Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society


Want to learn more about our Autism Demystification® programs? Join us April 2nd as we launch our Autism Demystification® Online Course.