Champion Autism Network, Inc. (CAN) is a nonprofit autism awareness organization started in Surfside Beach, South Carolina. CAN was founded in 2012 by Becky Large, a business professional and mother to a child on the spectrum.
To the general public, Autism and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.
Life with autism can be unpredictable. Some children and people with autism have sensory processing issues making lights, sounds, smells, crowds and new environments difficult to tolerate. When they become overstimulated they may communicate their discomfort through tantrums and meltdowns. Most times these tantrums occur outside of the home. Friends, family members, and the public-at-large can be very critical and judgmental of these episodes, staring or making rude comments about parenting skills or how the child is naughty or person is being dramatic.
Because of this judgment, many people and families living with autism opt to stay home. This decision does not help anyone. The parents and siblings become isolated and lonely and the person with autism is not given an opportunity to learn and thrive in a social setting.
Creating an environment where the families impacted by autism feel supported and without judgment is the primary CAN mission. In January 2016, the town of Surfside Beach issued a resolution declaring it the first autism-friendly travel destination, with the City of Myrtle Beach and Horry County following suit at the end of 2018.
CAN’s goal is to create and ensure inclusive communities where all people CAN happily live, work and play, by building a world-wide network of autism champions including businesses, local nonprofits and individuals with autism