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Do you remember how thrilled we all were when Ontario’s ombudsman – it was Andre Marin at the time – decided to look into the mounting complaints from parents of individuals with developmental disabilities?  And when I say mounting, I mean mounting.  The complaints were in the thousands about waiting lists, lack of government-funded programs, concerns with the DSO assessment process.  It went on and on and on.

Three cheers for Horton High School.  Where, you might ask, is Horton High School and what has it done that is so special?  Horton is in Wolfville, Nova Scotia and it has partnered with Special Olympics to start a basketball team that includes students with intellectual disabilities.
The program is part of the Special Olympics Play Unified program.  The purpose of the program is to promote social inclusion through sport on the same playing field.  In the case of Horton High, almost half of the 20 students have an intellectual disability but they all warm up, work on skill development and play a game together.  Two other Nova Scotia high schools have now followed Horton’s leads and have started Play Unified teams of their own.

A few weeks ago, some 60 families got together for a Caregivers Retreat.  It was a wonderful shared experience.  One of the key panels for families was made up of local employers who hire individuals with intellectual disabilities, as well as a feisty woman with a disability, and a job, and her coach.

And what was one of the key questions that family members asked the employer panelists?  “How do I convince an employer to hire my son or daughter?’  Well, here’s a new Ontario program that may help provide an answer – and good on the financial institutions that are joining forces to support businesses in communities – including Ottawa.

Some weeks you’re just not in the mood – for blogging, that is.  Maybe it’s the piling on of chores or the lack of sleep or the sheer lack of inspiration.  Whatever it was, it sure hit me.  I couldn’t write a blog for love or money.  Of course, it didn’t help that we had to move our office and that there was a dead squirrel that surfaced from the melted snow bank on my front “lawn”.  Or that my snow tires – MY SNOW TIRES, at this time of year! – were too bald to go another kilometer and snow was in the forecast yet again.  You get the picture.  Forget about blogging.

You don’t have to check out too many jurisdictions.  Ontario is only one of very many.  Sheltered workshops are starting to see the end of their ‘useful’ life for adult individuals with developmental disabilities.  In Ontario, the government has said it will be moving away from sheltered workshops.  The Minister has assured worried families that the government is working with agencies, families and individuals towards inclusive employment and other “meaningful community participation”.  Bottom line, that means no new admissions to sheltered workshop programs.

Maybe it’s because spring is just around the corner.  But I am feeling optimistic.  Every time I read about another institution that is starting to get it, I feel a little cheered.  This week it was some of our friends south of the border.  Nope, it wasn’t because they were into a serious “like” of Justin Trudeau.

It’s because Pennsylvania judges are taking courses to learn how to work with defendants on the spectrum.  I know that a lot of first responders locally have been really working on how to relate to individuals on the spectrum.  And that’s happening in other jurisdictions as well.  And that’s great and so important.  But I was so pleased to read about this initiative.

I lived in British Columbia a long time ago.  Long enough ago that the Georgia Straight was THE newspaper with all the dope– if you know what I mean.  I was naïve, for sure, but I wasn’t too keen on the ethnocentricity of Vancouverites, even then.  Too bad that I had no money to buy real estate or I would be a rich woman today. So we moved back to Ottawa when university and youth came to an end.  

But the more I read now about how British Columbia is developing programs to support young adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities to navigate their way into adulthood, the more I am impressed.  An actual navigation service!  Fancy that! 

I try to be a glass half full kind of person, honestly I do.  I really work at it.  But sometimes it’s harder than others.  I’ve heard twice this week about a young person with a developmental disability who died – no one yet is sure what caused it to happen.  All I know is that that in the middle of February there are grieving parents.  And that’s so, so hard.  There’s nothing I can do to help.

Yup!  I’m a bit of a Luddite.  And I’m not afraid to admit it.  It takes a lot for me to try the latest gadget.  A Fitbit?  Nope.  I don’t have one of those yet.  PVR.  Yikes!  Will someone come over to my house and walk me through the steps?  Heck, I’ve been driving gearshift since I got behind the wheel of a car umpteen years ago.

Wow!  I was puttering around the house this morning, just before getting ready to go to work.  As usual the radio was on.  As usual it was glued to the CBC Morning show.  I had only half an ear paying attention.  But then I paid full attention.

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