Tag Archive for: inclusion

Meet Kristin Drummond

Kristin Drummond is completing a Bachelor of Community Rehabilitation and Disabilities Studies from the University of Calgary. This degree is offered though online courses from the University of Calgary and Athabasca University. As part of her degree studies Kristin is currently doing a community-based practicum with Astonished! She is writing a volunteer manual that will support the orientation of Astonished! volunteers.

In addition to working on her degree and doing a placement with Astonished!, Kristin works 4/5 time as a client services coordinator at Spinal Cord Injury Saskatchewan. Kristin has life experience and education that contribute to her skills at work. She has Cerebral Palsy and has used a wheel chair since her middle-school years. As a child and a teenager growing up in Swift Current her grandparents played a significant role in her life. Kristin has an Employment Supports Specialty Advanced Certificate from Douglas College, and a certificate in Life Skills Coaching. She loves teaching transferable skills to people with disabilities. For example, she taught a community cooking class that included skills in math, reading, decision making, and self esteem. Kristin always tries to ensure that the people involved are part of the decision-making process and she is always willing to learn.

Kristin currently lives in Regina and is a regular traveler on ParaTransit. On her workdays she wakes at 5:30 AM to be ready for her bus that arrives at 6:50 and gets her to her workplace for 8:00. She notes it is difficult to plan down-time between activities because it is a challenge to get home and back in the time available. She can relate to the lives of many of the Astonished! Core Members who also must factor in a large amount of time in each day for travel. Time management takes on a fourth dimension when you must include accessible public transportation into the shape of your day, every day.

We are happy to have Kristin on the A! Team and are looking forward to learning with her.

Welcome Landon Sawden

Landon Sawden is the newest A! Student Researcher. Landon started at the A! Teaching and Learning Centre in September and he is actively pursuing his goals. Each Student Researcher works with a group, of their choosing, to identify their Strengths, Dreams, and Needs. Landon recently met with his group and identified two big goals: 1-To move out of his family home into age appropriate housing that supports his specific needs. 2- To succeed as a degree student at the University of Regina.

For most 25-year old’s these can be big goals, but if you add in the need for accessible housing, support with some personal care, accessible transportation, someone to take notes in class, and a low fixed income, the barriers to achieving these goals can seem insurmountable.

Landon is identifying what he is looking for in housing and researching the housing options in Regina. He is learning about the enormous cost of some locations, the long wait lists, and the wide range in quality of housing and supports. We will all benefit from Landon’s research because there are many in our community who want to know about accessible affordable housing, what is available, and how the system works to access such housing.

Landon is registered as a degree student at the University of Regina. Prior to this Landon was part of the U of R Campus for All Program where he audited classes and had the support of a buddy for things like note-taking and getting familiar with the campus. This semester Landon is taking Psychology 101, his first class toward his degree. He was able to receive a U of R Accessibility Grant to help with some of the costs, and he now has a volunteer note-taker, but this is a time-consuming process for Landon and he has some great suggestions on how to make it more efficient for everyone.

Landon is trying to juggle class time, study time, A! Teaching and Learning Centre time, travel time (via ParaTransit), researching housing options, and occasionally getting enough sleep. He is up and in his chair for more that 50% of every day and he wants and needs more down time. The good news is Landon is a man on a mission and he has a wonderful team in his court. Welcome Landon.


The Strengths Perspective at Astonished!

Dr. Brenda Rossow-Kimball, Astonished! Board Chair, and Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies at the University of Regina, brings together Strengths Perspectives theory, and conversations with the parents, founders,  and vision keepers who began Astonished!

She writes:

Historically, the dominant narrative in the ‘helping’ professions such as social work, disability studies, and medicine have taken a ‘deficits-based’ approach; a professional assesses an individual’s problems and creates an intervention to ‘deal’ with their inadequacies, illness(es), deficits, lack of achievement or functioning, and so on (Anderson & Heyne, 2012). The nature of the ‘helping work’ undertaken by professionals is situated in a negative state and defined by one’s problems. The strengths perspective is an attempt to write a counterstory of possibility, hope, expectation, and independence in response to a dominant grand narrative of inadequacy, hopelessness, underachievement, and dependence.

Saleebey (2009) writes that the incentive to develop a strengths perspective is a response to “our culture’s continued obsession with psychopathology, victimization, abnormality, and moral and interpersonal aberrations” (p. 2). For example, a deficits approach sees the person as a ‘case’ or ‘diagnosis’ whereas the strengths perspective sees the person as unique with talents and resources; the deficits approach creates an intervention that is problem-focused whereas the strengths perspective will initiate support that is possibility-focused; the deficits approach sees the professional as the expert whereas the strengths perspective sees that individuals, families, and communities are the experts; finally, the deficits approach aims to eliminate illness or dysfunction whereas the strengths perspective aims to enhance one’s well-being and quality of life (Anderson & Heyne, 2012).

“Families are the basic, foundational social units in every society (DeFrain & Asay, 2008, p. 2), yet research on ‘families’ has typically taken a deficits-based approach by emphasizing the problems or weaknesses in families or by highlighting the individuals in the family unit who causes ‘problems’ or stress. For families who live alongside a child experiencing disability, the dominant narrative is negative, citing the experience as stressful (Aneshensel, 2014), depressing (Emerson, 2003), hopeless, ‘copeless’, laborious, and burdensome, leading to family dysfunction and breakdown (McConnell & Savage, 2015).  However, “If one looks only for problems in a family, one will see only problems. If one also looks for strengths, one will find strengths” (Defrain & Asay, 2008, p. 5).

My thinking has been inspired by the initiative and ingenuity of the parents and vision keepers who began Astonished! many years ago.  Because little research focuses on the positivity and strengths within families when facing new and unexpected challenges, I thought the strengths perspective would be an appropriate framework in which to think about the lived stories of mothers and fathers who are parenting a family unit that is experiencing disability.

The strengths perspective suggests that when facing adversity, we ought to put the lens of focus on “what people want their lives to be like, and what resources and strengths they have or need to get there” (Saleebey, 2006, p. 12), I have learned that families, indeed, pull on their strengths and resources to regain and maintain the coherence that existed prior to disAbility. As one parent stated so well, “Everybody sets a bar for their family standards. Ours simply adjusted and now this is our normal. You readjust your normal.” For families experiencing disability, the framework of the strengths perspective may be a response to the longstanding dominant narrative that suggests the experience of parenting is primarily laborious, onerous, family-breaking, and dysfuntional. Families carry on [with] “one foot in front of the other”, “extreme strength”, and “no fear”.

“It’s just ordinary life.”

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

Growing Gratitude 2016

We are delighted to launch our Grow Gratitude 2016 campaign with the release of our Growing Gratitude 2016 video. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Wascana Walk and Wheel

Ever wonder what happens at an A! Social Club event? Check out this review of the Wascana Walk and Wheel by Hannah and Kaitlyn.

The 20th of June brought friends and family together for a gathering of mutual enjoyment of the outdoors. The weather was on our side and the evening was just as lovely as the people enjoying it. Student researchers and core members took part in a scavenger hunt around Wascana Lake and had much fun exploring the area. Looking with detailed eyes to try and complete the list. Many members of the community were present and the lake was seeing many patrons. After a half loop walk and roll the groups retired to the legislative garden and enjoyed some snacks and cake pops with a special occasion gracing our evening. Our practicum student Kevin Ma, celebrating his twenty fifth birthday. It was an evening of picture taking, laughs, flying birds, and one great beautiful sunset.

Photo: Kaitlyn, Kevin, Stephanie, Kelsey, Angela, Amanda.



Rebekah Lindenbach

Rebekah really sees me, not just the surface of me. She always greets me and kids around with me in ways that bring a lightness and brightness to my day.” Debra Brown.

It is tough to write a blog about yourself, so I consulted a few friends to help me with this. I am a natural consultant; I check with others rather than assume they want to do what I want to do. I am also a planner; I like to anticipate my day and be consulted about plans for the day, week, month, and year.

If you live on a dairy farm with your mom and dad, and in the city with your two aunties, have three older brothers, three sisters-in-law, seven nieces and nephews, plus more cousins and aunts and uncles and friends, and you are a Student Researcher at Astonished! with a companion who supports your active life YOU NEED TO PLAN. If you don’t do it someone else will do it for you. I am NOT someone who likes to have others plan my life for me.

For example, it took more than a year of planning, but I am now deep into a quilting project with my friend Deb Ottenbreit (and an auxiliary quilting team). The whole thing started because I wanted to spend more time with my friend, so I thought what the heck could be a project where we could spend more time together, and look what happened… great big fun quilting parties, more time with my friend, and a quilt that is turning out to be very cool and beautiful.

Rebekah notices things and laughs at things that are funny but not everyone notices, but everyone laughs when she does. It is such a great sound.” Ruth Blaser

I am told I am also a gracious hostess. For example, my mom and I plan events for my friends at my farm. We call them Broyhill (the name of my farm) Bashes. It is great to have my friends rolling around the farm and learning a lot more about farming.

I am cautiously adventurous, I know, it sounds like I should be one or the other, but I am both so I am always trying new things. I am currently planning a yoga project with my Auntie Ruth. This spring semester (May-June 2016) we are going to lead a yoga pilot project with the Astonished! Student Researchers, A! staff, and University of Regina volunteers. We were inspired by the work of Matthew Sanford. He is a nationally-recognized pioneer in adaptive yoga for people with disAbilities.

Thank you for your interest in me and my blog post. Rebekah

Photo: Deb Ottenbreit, Rebekah Lindenbach, and Randy Ottenbreit choosing quilt fabric.

Variety – The Spice of Life

The March A! newsletter highlights some of the variety of life at Astonished! We hope you will take a few minutes to enjoy catching up with us. The big question is ‘How did Rhea Boysen and Katherine Taylor look so fabulous at Wings on Our Wheels ~ Astonished! in Flight when they spent the day racing around doing event preparations’? Thanks to everyone who made it such a great night.

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.

Summer Adventures

Summer is often a time for trying new things, changing the routine. In this newsletter we are highlighting some of the Astonished! summer adventures. This includes big news from James, Bonnie, and Lauren (photo above). Click here to read more……

Photo by  Tanys Rae Photography