Kamloops opens the fifth chapter of a neuro-diverse club

Local family opens the club to bridge the gender gap in opportunities for girls with neuro-development differences

Kamloops is opening its doors to a new Thompson Valley Chapter of GIRLS CLUB, an inclusive club for girls with neurodevelopment differences to socialize and play. The Thompson Valley Chapter is the fifth in B.C.

GIRLS CLUB is based on the belief that every child, no matter their neurodevelopment, should be able to connect and form meaningful relationships with their peers. This new chapter, along with other chapters spanning throughout the province, is working hard to provide opportunities for children and teens who might face challenges to create these connections and friendships to better their well-being. 

GIRLS CLUB was originally founded in the Lower Mainland in 2017 by the mother of a five-year-old daughter with autism, Vicky Ryan. The club started as a dream in 2016 but soon became a reality for girls across the province.

“The purpose [of GIRLS CLUB] is to create community and connect. A place for our girls to see themselves in others and to form friendships,” said Ryan. 

Ryan found that in the clubs and social groups available for her daughter, she saw a great gender imbalance. Noticing the importance of providing social settings with girls that shared the same neurology and experiences, Ryan started GIRLS CLUB.

While raising her daughter, Ryan found that mainstream programs that were available were not necessarily allowing her daughter to act like a kid and just play. Instead of focusing mainly on “life skills” and therapy, GIRLS CLUB is an inclusive opportunity for these young girls to connect and play.

“What I was looking for, and was unable to find which is why I started GIRLS CLUB, was a social and fun environment for the kids to be able to be themselves, to make connections, to make friends, to just experience what it’s like to just be a kid,” expressed Ryan. 

Flash forward to today, parents Hoby and Rachel Cook are opening the fifth chapter in Kamloops. The Cooks have two children with neurodevelopmental differences, including a young daughter Mischa who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at age seven. 

This club is a fully-inclusive group and works to welcome girls of all abilities and ages. Girls have the opportunity to partake in meetups, arts and crafts, games and field trips, just to name a few. 

Before relocating to Kamloops, the Cooks were members of the Okanagan chapter. Noticing a lack of opportunities for their daughter, they decided to open a chapter for local girls to have the opportunity to “meet, have fun, develop connections and make memories to last a lifetime.”

GIRLS CLUB was recently recognized in the Excellence in Autism Awards in the Community Impact category.

This neuro-diverse club is 100 per cent non-profit with memberships free and no drop-in or participation fees charged. The club does not have an age gap and is open to all ages, not discriminating against young adults joining in on some of the social activities.