Update – Stepping Out is a recreation program for people on the Autism Spectrum with a focus on fitness.  Previously enabled by Sinneave, Stepping Out continues to be offered by Autism Aspergers Friendship Society independent of Sinneave.  For more information please contact Brittany Morrison at AAFS 403-246-7383 or brittany@aafscalgary.com

July 2, 2014 – Hayley Wickenheiser on Stepping Out

“Stepping Out’s major goal is to see these young adults not on the autism spectrum but rather to look at them as athletes, focusing on the potential they all have. Through a physical focus on fitness, functional movement, balance and coordination, Stepping Out attempts to tie that in with the holistic social and emotional development of the person. Not to mention, we have A LOT of fun doing it! Its one of the most rewarding things I have been a part of in my life.”

About Stepping Out

Stepping Out is a social recreation program led by Dr. Margaret Clarke and Hayley Wickenheiser and staffed by kinesiology students at the University of Calgary that aims to equip young adults who have autism spectrum disorders with the physical self-efficacy, social thinking skills and community connection they need to thrive in the transition to adulthood.

Here is a link to a 4-minute video about Stepping Out:

How We Train

Practices are planned with elements of dynamic warm-up and cool-down. Like any other young athletes in training, Stepping Out participants are instructed in fundamentals of motion, balance, and coordination. Teamwork and communication during the group activities are social focuses during practice. Young adults who are part of the Stepping Out team benefit from program leaders who emphasize their efforts and accomplishments in sessions, not their disabilities.

Interested in Being A Part of Our Team?

We are currently welcoming youth transitioning to adulthood aged 18-25 to be part of a Stepping Out academic study that includes our weekly workouts in the fall starting mid-September. We are having a summer session for interested participants to give Stepping Out a try. The summer schedule has a fun and varied schedule of afternoon activities that run at the U of C on Tuesdays (fitness), the Ability Wednesdays (yoga), and off-site at various centres across the city on Thursdays until Aug 12.


In the Stepping Out sessions, a group of five to seven participants are exposed to a wide range of activities during hour-long weekly sessions over a twelve-week program, such as:

  • Boxing
  • Badminton
  • Handball
  • Yoga
  • Circuit training/obstacle courses


We add some social outings to the program help solidify bonds of friendship and common experience that take root in the gym.

These have included

  • Swimming at the Talisman Centre
  • Skating around the Olympic Oval
  • Visiting the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame
  • Playing basketball in the University of Calgary gymnasium


Led by Hayley Wickenheiser, all instructors are University of Calgary Kinesiology practicum students who have a passion for the transformative power of fun and intense physical activity. The advantage for participants is that their instructors are neurotypical peers of the same age-group. All have been or currently are CIS varsity athletes. This year, Bronwyn Stevens of University of Calgary Dinos women’s hockey and Jordhynn Guy & Emma Pedersen of Dinos volleyball worked alongside Hayley. Past instructors have been Tanya Morgan of Dinos women’s hockey and Alex Naylor of University of Ottawa GeeGees women’s basketball.


Many personal transformations have happened for Stepping Out participants but some notable ones include

  • Resolving conflict through teamwork
  • Building friendships and hanging out outside sessions
    • Two people who met in the group enrolled in a dance class together and are on the road to lifelong activity and friendship!
  • Overcoming physical and social hesitancy
    • Contributing to group discussions
    • Trying activities that seemed out of reach before
  • Building leadership skills
    • Directing dynamic warm-ups during workouts
  • Improving body composition

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