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Celebrating the PATHS

I’ve been one of Rebekah’s friends for 14 years, and have been a friend of Astonished! since it was a gleam in Ruth’s eye.  Sometimes I simply witness from my home in Winnipeg (thank goodness for Facebook), other times I’ve been able to join the Student Researchers at the pub after an afternoon’s work, or to come to an Annual Meeting.

Last Thursday Rebekah invited me to the PATH (Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope) celebration for Kennen, Kaitlyn, Kelsey, Sean, Avery and herself.  What an eye and heart-opening afternoon! I loved the unique ways in which each of the Student Researchers and their companion or volunteer presented the rich variety of directions in which their unique PATHS had taken them.  They ranged from formal Power Point presentations, to informal questions and answers conversations.  Again and again, the accountability for each step/wheel roll of the PATH was obvious, and the strengths and abilities of each person shone through.  It was clear to me that the PATHS have direction and purpose.  They are leading in a direction determined by the Student Researcher  with the support of Astonished!  team.

I was also struck by the respectful and attentive listening as a presenter was talking.  No-one was waiting for “my turn”.  This was a community – celebrating the achievements of every member with a real sense of pride in each other.

The party afterwards was wonderful too – good food and good company.  Thank you for your invitation, Rebekah.  This was a great way to start my Saskatchewan stay.

Barbara Barnett

Claiming Full Citizenship

The international conference, Claiming Full Citizenship, October 15-17, 2015 in Vancouver, BC, focused on self determination, personalization, and individualized funding. Rhea Boysen (A! Interim Manager) and I (Brenda MacLauchlan, A! Communications Coordinator and Parent) represented Astonished! at the conference and presented one of the sessions.

How do you summarize the experience of an international conference with 550 participants from regions as diverse as South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, Finland, the United States of America, and Canada? Rhea and I (Brenda) are each writing blog posts about this conference that will give you some ‘snap shots’ of our experience.

The stated learning objectives were:

  • Evaluate the progress in achieving the vision set out in the Seattle 2000 Declaration on Self Determination and Individualized Funding
  • Share lessons learned on the implementation of self-determination, personalization, individualized funding and supported decision making
  • Promote cross national, cross cultural and cross sector dialogue
  • Share best practices
  • Support the realization of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities through promoting the effective global implementation of self-determination, personalization and individualized funding
  • Create a roadmap for the effective implementation of self-determination, personalization, individualized funding and supported decision making
  • Foster cooperative networks across jurisdictions, sectors and interests that will continue after the conference

Snap shot 1-The conference took place in a large, busy, downtown hotel in Vancouver. I was rather overwhelmed by the crowds. Within fifteen minutes of arriving at the conference I was engaged in a conversation with June Arthy and Bronwyn Moloney from Queenland Australia. They came to the conference to tell people their story about people labelled ‘Too Challenging’ or ‘Too Complex’ regaining their place in community. June (I guessed she was in her sixth decade) told me she had lived almost all of her life in an institution for people with intellectual disAbilities. She was delighted to tell me, with the support of a local not-for profit, she has been living in her own home for the last decade. I was inspired and no longer overwhelmed.

Snap shot 2 –The big attraction for me in attending this conference was to learn more about how Individualized Funding is managed in other places. Individualized Funding refers to direct funding to people with disAbilities so they can purchase services according to their needs. As a parent and as a member of Astonished! I have known firsthand the challenges of Individualized Funding in Saskatchewan. I hope we might learn from others like: Manitoba’s In the Company of Friends, a single window to access services, rather than being separated into service categories by diagnosis as we are in Saskatchewan; and Ontario’s Families for a Secure Future and the Ontario Independent Facilitation Network ,independent facilitators that assist individuals with the Individualized Funding process.

Snap shot 3 – This was the first ever international conference that brought together people living with disAbilities and people living with dementia, and families, professional support people, and academics from both of these communities. At first I wondered about the wisdom of putting together disAbility and dementia but I found it broadened the focus and helped us to be more aware of service gaps and attitudinal challenges.