Employment for Life!
People with diverse abilities bring unique perspectives to any workplace setting. Having the right amount of support can make all the difference to ensure this partnership is maintained.
Econolodge City Center’s General Manager, Andrew Cuthbertson, knows this all too well. He learned about AiMHi’s Infinite Employment Solutions division through a family friend and was pleasantly surprised to meet a prospective employee named Leah Ekholm, an enthusiastic worker who impressed him with her positive attitude, a solid skill base and a willingness to learn. Leah is a Mother and a Grandmother. For Leah, like many of us, having employment is vitally important for several reasons. Employment allows her a sense of independence and the ability to take charge of her life. It gives her an income that allows her to purchase items she would otherwise do without. Leah has always demonstrated her enjoyment for working with others. She takes great pride in taking care of and cleaning other people’s homes and enjoys the contribution she makes in the lives of others. Employment also has a benefit that cannot be measured by just a paycheck for Leah; employment has allowed Leah to develop a sense of belonging and build relationships with her co workers eliminating the social isolation so often experienced by persons with barriers to employment.Job coaching supports were offered to enable a successful transition into the workplace. The job coach uses techniques to help the employee learn to perform job tasks to the employer’s specifications and to learn the interpersonal skills necessary to be accepted as a worker at the job site and in related community contacts. In addition to job-site training, job coaching includes related assessment, job development, counseling, advocacy, travel training and other services needed to maintain the employment. Her job coach used a few simple tools like photo cards and separate easy to read schedules to ensure Leah maintained her independence at her new job as a chambermaid. Andrew revealed “Leah required nothing extravagant just changing things slightly to make it work for her.” He shares “We went into this not knowing what was going to happen, and it has worked out very well. The first day Leah was here, she wanted to stay and make it work. Her happy demeanour affects the climate with the other workers and people can’t help but smile when she is around.” Leah reveals “I like the people I am working with they are very friendly and treat me as they would any other person, the staff is always kind and they show me tips on making my job easier” Leah works a 6 hour day 3 to 5 days a week depending on hotel occupancy. Econolodge, of the Choice Hotel franchise, has 53 rooms in its downtown Prince George location. It is one of the Global sponsors for this past summer’s 2013 World Baseball Challenge which will keep the Leah busy throughout the season. Andrew tells “Leah trys very hard. It’s not often that you see this in a new employee. We see her as a life timer.”
When asked about future hiring considerations Andrew exclaims “With AiMHi’ friendly job coaching staff, great candidates and helpful support, I would absolutely do it again without hesitation.”
Volunteering Our Time!
Barb has been volunteering with the Hospital Auxiliary for over two years now and seems confident and relaxed walking around delivering books and magazines to the waiting rooms around the hospital. This hasn’t always been the case. Barb has a fear of tests, blood work, and the hospital in general until she started volunteering for the Hospital Auxiliary.
At first, Barb would only go into the library room. Over time, staff assisted Barb to overcome her fear of the hospital and now she delivers magazines to the waiting rooms on two floors and the Emergency department. Becoming a volunteer was a perfect fit for her as she loves to visit with people. It was an excellent choice as Barb has overcome most of her fears of the hospital and is more relaxed now when going for tests. A real sign of success was when Barb had an X-ray done without a bother!
Barb, with the support of AiMHi employee Kerrie, seems to enjoy her volunteer job and looks forward to delivering books every Saturday!
Closer to the Sky
At AiMHi we work to meet the needs of each person, and we ask people what it is they want out of life. For Amanda she wanted to fly up in the sky. Amanda is a curious person, she loves watching Star Trek, Star Wars and the Discovery Channel. When swimming she loves to float face first in the water with goggles so she can look at the bottom of the pool, she finds this view fascinating, saying ‘it’s the sky’.
Rachael, who worked with Amanda for six years, wanted to find a way to give Amanda the experience of flight. There were some barriers to new experiences as Amanda expresses herself poorly when she is anxious or stressed. Over the years she has learned to control herself, but there are days when the urge gets the best of her and she will scream or may hit people when she is upset. With these thoughts in mind Rachael felt that Amanda would do well with a small excursion in a helicopter as a first step.
Amanda had some savings as she rarely spends money on recreation and paired up with a friend to make her dream come true. With someone to share the costs she happily booked her inaugural flight with Aberdeen Helicopters!
The morning of the flight Amanda was very excited – she was acutely aware that she was going to go up into the sky. She asked to fly around Prince George because she specifically wanted to fly over her home and the AiMHi office. With camera in tow four people and Pete, the pilot started to lift off the ground…..Rachael noticed Amanda was nervous and waited to see how she was going to handle her emotions. Amanda was really nervous at first and put her head on Rachael’s shoulder, but it didn’t take long before the fear of taking off was behind her and she moved to that of place of fascination. She peered out the window the entire flight while Rachael explained where they were, pointing out her house, AiMHi and other places in her community. They flew around Prince George for 20 minutes looking at houses and people on the ground. In all her wonderment Amanda could not get over the fact of how tiny people looked. She kept saying over and over ‘Look at the tiny tiny ants’.
A goal or lifelong dream is so individual and Rachael was happy to assist Amanda with her aspirations and Amanda’s enthusiasm was definitely enough validation that this had been the right thing to do!
Open your Heart, Open your Home
Adults with Developmental Disabilities face a variety of challenges. One of these challenges is finding adequate housing. For 55 years, AiMHi has helped people with these needs by providing housing options and supports for daily living assistance. Currently, we are further developing these services through our Home Sharing Program. This program connects a person like yourself with someone who is looking for a supportive place to live and to call home.
Going into our 3rd year of successful Home Sharing, we are in search of more places for people to call home. We want to connect people with developmental disabilities to a place where they can call home. A place where they can have the freedom to live a more independent life, a place where they have people who care about them to provide them with the support needed to be a member of their community and have a sense of belonging. We are looking for people who can provide the stability that comes from being part of a home and family, just as we have for the past 50 years.
If you or someone you know have room in your hearts, an extra room in your home, and are interested in giving a person with a developmental disability a sense of family, connection and belonging, then we want to speak with you. We understand that families and homes come in all different shapes and sizes and are interested in speaking with anyone who would like to learn more about this rewarding opportunity. We’ll be happy to give you more information, or simply answer some of your questions on becoming one of our Independent Home Share Providers. Please call Home Sharing Coordinator @ 250-564-6408 ext 251 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
My Adventures in Home Sharing
‘Coming to Canada is a dream come true for me. My name is Marisa Castro from the Philippines. I came to Prince George September 15, 2005, my family joined after 4 years. I first worked as a caregiver for a wonderful woman the late Mrs. Georgina Williams – the first white woman born in Prince George and owner of McInnis Lighting. After she passed away I worked at Amigos Taco Shop and Hamilton House – Assisted living home for seniors owned by a generous couple Mr. and Mrs. Wayne Dittmar.
I loved looking after people and I believe I made a significant change in the quality of their life. I then looked after 10 seniors with different disabilities at Hamilton House. I found out that it’s not really hard to do when you give your heart to them and try to reach them and understand what they want or need. I listened to their stories and often asked about their history. I tried to find their “gifts” and helped them maintain this interest as long and as near possible. I feel very comfortable looking after people; it’s just like a natural task for me. I enjoy their company and am happy to learn something from them.<
When the Hamilton House closed due to the owners retirement, Mrs. Lorna Dittmar encouraged me to do Home Sharing. She told me I can do this within my family life which is wonderful for me. Now, I am looking after one senior referred from social worker at UHNBC and am now in my second year contract to AiMHi for another senior. I can say Home Sharing is a very rewarding job. We have so enjoyed our new members of our family. My family was so happy I only worked at home and for they enjoy living with the seniors. My neighbourhood and friends are very welcoming. I am glad to have this opportunity from AiMHi. I am grateful to have a very supportive Home Sharing managers – Mrs. Ginny Arsenault and Ms. Dawn Taylor. I and my whole family are so thankful for this opportunity to be participating member of the community.’
The Prince George Self Advocates Caucus
The Prince George Self Advocates Caucus was formed in April 1991 to give people a voice to affect change in their community. Many people who have developmental disabilities are learning to speak up for their rights and call themselves “Self Advocates.”
Although they use the same office space, the PG Self Advocates Caucus operates separately from AiMHi. Many members of the Caucus sit on the BC Self Advocates Caucus and speak up for their peers in the north!
This year, caucus members were supported and funded to participate in many conferences around the province – 4 people traveled to Prince Rupert, 3 people traveled to Terrace, 3 people traveled to Penticton, 2 people traveled to Williams Lake and 8 people traveled to the Endenvale Retreat in Richmond.
Throughout the year Caucus members volunteered their time to support activities like the Snack Shop, the Value Village ‘Bagging event’, the Family and Friends Picnic and the AiMHi Christmas banquet where they held a 50/50 draw and ran the coat check. A number of green thumb caucus members worked hard in the AiMHi Community Garden helping our community bloom.
Volunteers are the backbone of the PG Self Advocates Caucus; therefore they extend a heartfelt thank-you to the many volunteers and AiMHi for their support throughout the year.
You Never Know Until You Try!
Mike and Carol Carr have been very busy parents. Their son Patrick was born almost three years ago and during this time they have experienced an emotional rollercoaster. When Patrick was 6 months he started to experience visual issues and was diagnosed with cone dystrophy manifesting with rotary nystagmus. This basically means that his pupils move involuntarily in circular patterns, particularly when he’s tired or in poor lighting. He has a photosensitivity and finds a well lit room blinding. With this discovery Mike and Carol were referred to local services and often travel to Vancouver for check-ups. With so many activities centered on Patrick’s therapies they have found a real pleasure in the approach of Infant Development Program (IDP) consultants, Shelley Anderson and Judie Smith. Their approach is a combination of observation, assessment, and discovery – and the discovery has been that Patrick is a much more capable person than predicted.Patrick attends the IDP Toddler Drop-In Playgroup most Tuesday evenings where he plays with his parents and with other children. It also gives Mike and Carol the opportunity to chat with other parents and with the IDP consultants. With the opportunities of free play with other kids, and playing with skill building toys that challenge him, Patrick has made some surprising advances. ‘Shelley and Judie are seasoned professionals and they have a very positive and reassuring nature. They push us to try new things with Patrick.’ says Mike. They observed Patrick taking turns with another child while playing, and they had been told that he would not learn that skill. They were told he would never run down a hallway and just the other day he ran down the hallway while playing with kids his own age. They have found that one of the best ways to learn and discover things is to let him play with a bunch of kids! As parents Mike and Carol have embraced the challenge head on – but it’s always nice to know someone has your back. Shelley is a great support and helps them ask the tough questions with important assessment meetings. Shelley offers ideas and helps translate clinical/ medical information and offers her observations to other professionals which helps tremendously. Shelley does home visits as the main part of her work as an IDP consultant and she often brings toys and equipment and provides suggestions of things to try. Loaning toys are part of the services that IDP offers and these have been very helpful. You just never know which toy he will take to, and sometimes Patrick masters a toy that is way beyond his age…but you never know until you try!
The IDP program supports children up to three years of age, so Mike and Carol only have a year left, but they are so very thankful for the support they receive from Shelley and Judie as it has made a real difference to the entire family!