General Meeting: April 1, 2017

What We Are & What We Do:                                                                                                                  

Square Peg Society is a non-profit volunteer group, (we do not have CRA Charitable status), formed by parents in October 2014, to support ASD adults and their families.

Our particular niche is the support of people who aspire to become independent, self-supporting adults. We focus, therefore, on issues related to achieving independence – pursuing post-secondary education & employment, finding housing, developing life skills, such as cooking, cleaning, & money management, and building the social skills necessary for forming respectful & enduring personal & professional relationships.

Square Peg Society offers our individuals and their families:

  • Information pertaining to the above areas of focus
  • Emotional support
  • Alliances with funded service agencies, with whom we may partner to host meetings or to provide workshops on issues of common interest (RWA, Healthy Sexuality Workshop, Cooking Club, Peers)
  • Advocacy to promote government policy change.

Notice of Upcoming Meetings:                                                                                                

April 20                                 ASD & Post-Secondary Education: Experiences & Challenges of College &

University (Rashmeen Nirmal, UBC Psychiatry)

May 18                                 A Best Practice Model to Hang our Hat On (Louvain Chalmers)

June 15                                 Social Inclusion: A Round Table Discussion

July 20                                   Parents /ASD Individuals Share Experiences (interest in a parents’ weekend away in the fall?)

Sept 21                                 Advocacy

Please send me your suggestions as to future topics.

Voted in 2 Board Members:                                                                                                       

There are 7 position Board positions. Two new members were voted in: Debra Merchant for Secretary, Nicole Jinn, Member at Large

Recap: 1) Joette, President, 2) Louvain, VP, 3) Mahmoud, Treasurer, 4) Debra Merchant, Secretary  5) Nicole Jinn, Member at Large Position 1 6) Catherine Alcee, Member at Large Position  2, 7) Fred Michael, Member at Large Position 3.

                Up for re-election 2018: President, Treasurer, Member at Large Position 2 (Catherine)

Up for re-election 2019: V.President, Secretary, Member at Large Position 1 (Nicole), Member at Large Position 3 (Fred).

Money:                                                Mahmoud, Treasurer                                                    

Mahmoud:  We have a VanCity business account for non-Profit societies. Currently, we have $ 1,284.37 in our account. Mahmoud ‘s recommendation is that we use PayPal for prepayment on any of our events. PayPal charges a service charge 2.9% + a fixed charge of $0.30. Paypal charges, for example, for each $13.50 cooking club payment, a $0.69 fee.

Would this be less if we were a Registered Charity? What is the record keeping that we would need to do, if charitable status is received, and what is involved with having an annual audit, and who would do this? Fred is to report back on these items.

We need additional funds to increase our profile and visibility in the community, to increase our membership, and to have more say in programs we work on with partners (as a paying partner), and to occasionally run our own programs, when no program exists that would be a fit for our membership.

There was agreement on raising funds for Website/IT assistance. Mahmoud can help with some of our objectives, but Peter put forward the name of Alan Colquhoun, as a candidate for website assistance.

“Alan Colquhoun (arcolq@gmail.com)  is currently employed as a software contractor at SAP. Alan has also had experience working as a self-employed web designer. I described some of the improvements that you were hoping to make on the SPS website like having a donation button and a membership button. Alan asked me to forward his name and email address in case you are interested in using his services at some point.

Following is my list of technology items that need to be done:  Add Membership & Donate Now button to the website. A bolder, more flexible version of our logo is needed, so that it can be scaled up or down to fit into the formats of others when we are co-hosting programs or events with others. Start a Square Peg Facebook page. Help with posters for events.  VanCity has offered us advertising space on their digital board; I have an idea for this, but it needs to be developed. Mahmoud is to prepare a rough budget as to what these items would cost.

I would like to use some of the existing funds for the following: honorariums/gifts for speakers ($275 per year), honorariums/gifts for cooking club guest chefs ($275 per year), and meeting snacks ($120 per year).  We could also consider business cards, and/or pens, fridge magnets, memory sticks with our logo on it? Should we spend money on social activity fees and expenses? I would like to raise $1000.00/year for these items.

The idea of a paid position was also raised, to provide continuity with Board transitions, and so that there is consistency of service beyond a given Board or board member. My concern is that a paid position might provide a disincentive to others who might otherwise consider volunteering. However, the job is now too big to be mostly a one-person job. We should, at least, define what tasks could be assigned to a paid position, and how many hours would be allotted to that job.

Raising funds for particular programs was also discussed – specifically, PEERS…I will describe this later, and will include the pricing on the PEERS concept.

We need your feedback as to what to spend money on, be it PEERS or other life skills programs, so that we can target our fundraising to these projects.

Money:                                                Fred, Fundraising                                                           

Fred is to report back to the membership, by the week of April 17th, on the pros & cons of, and the process of pursuing charitable status. Note previous vote a year ago not to pursue charitable status; members did not want the record-keeping burden and limitations on time spent on advocacy that charitable status would require. Not having charitable status limits our ability to apply for gaming money or other grants, as funding organizations are not willing to provide funds to groups who have not been “vetted” by the charitable organizations application process.  Also, not having charitable status renders us not equal players at the table when trying to initiate programs. Can we get someone who has successfully done this to speak to this?

Fred is also to identify 2 potential sources of funds. Who will help with specific grant proposal applications?

Membership:                                                                                                                                                   

Without a bigger documented membership, and without being better able to demonstrate our value, we will not be able to make a case for grants and gaming funds, and without these we will not be seen as a legitimate player at the table for programs, and information networks.

We need each of you to sign up some members; they need not come to all meetings, they need not be on the Spectrum, but only understanding and empathetic to our cause.  See attached membership form. We need a Square Peg member to volunteer to be our first point of contact, who would direct people to the appropriate member.

Social Club:                                                                                                                       

As a result of discussion at the meeting, it was agreed that the social events should be Aspie-centric; that is, excluding parents, and planned by adults (young & older) on the Spectrum. Invited guests, not on the Spectrum would also be welcome. For the time being, the last Saturday of the month will be the targeted time (but other days are possible) for the social event, and a preference for activities “out in community” was favoured over in-house activities. The thinking is that a variety of activities to capture diverse interests is preferred, as is a Friday or Saturday evening to give everyone a feeling of a “weekend night out”.

 Natalie & Aaron are going to take the lead on this, under Peter’s guidance. Aaron is going to present to Peter’s meetup group (when?), in the hope of some cross-pollination between groups. The revised social group is to present their activity plan to me two weeks in advance of the social club evening, in order for me to put together a poster and circulate it.

In addition we will plan an all-ages family Christmas and a summer picnic each year.

Please provide Aaron & Natalie with your suggestions as to activities for the social events.

 

Cooking Club:                    Led by Sue & Joette                                                                                      

Concept: Roughly, 3rd Sunday of the month. For the present we are trying out Sunday late afternoon, early evening, at PAFC in Richmond. The goals for this activity are both social & Life-skills development through preparing and sharing a meal together. Participants will cover the cost of the food (approx. $12.00 per person + PayPal charge). Preference given to the young adults –Older adults will be limited to 2 – parent volunteers plus the guest chef. Participants need to be 17+, must be able to handle a knife safely, and able to work in a group for 2-3 hours.

Your suggestions. Do you know of chefs or hobby chefs or would you, be prepared to lead the cooking a few times per year?

Advocacy:                                          

Autism Spectrum Adults and the families who support them must be afforded the dignity and respect that every British Columbian deserves, and given the services that they need to become independent, contributing adults. We support the position put forward in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, which was adopted in December, 2006, and will work toward its implementation.  

https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities.html

“The Convention follows decades of work by the United Nations to change attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities. It takes to a new height the movement from viewing persons with disabilities as “objects” of charity, medical treatment and social protection towards viewing persons with disabilities as “subjects” with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society.

The Convention is intended as a human rights instrument with an explicit, social development dimension. It adopts a broad categorization of persons with disabilities and reaffirms that all persons with all types of disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms. It clarifies and qualifies how all categories of rights apply to persons with disabilities and identifies areas where adaptations have to be made for persons with disabilities to effectively exercise their rights and areas where their rights have been violated, and where protection of rights must be reinforced.”

We encourage advocacy for our ASD individuals, based upon the following points:

A Call for Adequate & Appropriate Funding & Services for Autism Spectrum Adults in British Columbia

  • Funding and services are needed for Aspergers and High Functioning Autistic adults in BC.
  • Mental health services should be available by need, not determined by diagnosis.
  • Programs for ASD individuals must recognize that roughly half of ASD individuals have average or above average intelligence.
  • Diagnosis should be paid for up front by government, including psycho-educational assessments, regardless of the age of the individual.
  • Prior to becoming adults, Students in Public Schools in British Columbia must be given life and social skills training throughout their school life by instructors knowledgeable about Autism Spectrum Disorders. Transition to Adulthood training should commence in high school. Special Education Assistants (SEAs) need to be qualified through a certification program, and paid commensurate with their knowledge and experience.
  • ASD adults who did not receive early diagnosis and intervention must be given supplemental assistance as they age and in retirement in recognition that the lack of services provided to them has resulted in reduced well-being and earning potential throughout their lives.

Peter has done some excellent research that provides statistical backing to some of the above points. Please his findings attached. ACT has also prepared a video called “The Essentials of Advocacy” – here is the link to the video: 

http://www.actcommunity.ca/education/videos/the-essentials-of-advocacy-a-parents-guide/

Square Peg is also planning a meeting, September 21, 2017, on Advocacy, in order to push this agenda further.

Anyone else interested in working on this?

PEERS:                                  Proposed partnership of several, including PosAbilities, PAFN, ACT

All too often we are hearing from families that depression, anxiety and stress around the ability to “fit in” and difficulties forming social relationships is an impediment in our people’s lives. We are noting that social facility is key to happiness and success in work, school and life.

Our ASD adults frequently feel socially isolated. This sense of isolation is caused by several factors, two of which are 1) a lack of opportunity, and 2) a lack of social skills. Both of these need to be addressed. The PEERS workshop primarily addresses the lack of social skills, but also examines ways to increase the number of social opportunities. PEERS is a social skills training – a path to understanding and practicing a wide range of social skills across a wide range of social situations.

Concept: 16 week evidence -based social skills training, developed by Elizabeth Laugeson, UCLA. With 2 facilitators. Projected cost per participant is $200 per person (including coach/support person). This group is based upon 8-10 closely matched 19-30 year olds. The amount to be raised to run this program would be $34,000, based upon 2 workshops per year for 3 years. The intention is to follow up with a bi-monthly “Reflection Café” with a facilitator, for a nominal drop in fee. One session to be east side, another session to be at PAFC in Richmond.

The Program

PEERS – Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills for young adults between the ages of 18-30, is a 16-week evidence-based social skills intervention for motivated young adults, who are interested in learning skills to make and keep friends and develop romantic relationships. During each group session, young adults are taught important social skills and are given the opportunity to practice these skills.

PEERS was developed at UCLA by Elizabeth Laugeson (See: “The Science of Making Friends: Helping Socially Challenged Teens and Young Adults”. Our training will also be a 16 week training, using PEERS support material, and will be led by a PEERS trained facilitator, with two Square Peg Society assistant facilitators. The group will be limited to 10 individuals between the ages of 18-30, who are willing to commit to meeting one per week for 16 weeks, and to engage in some practice of the techniques between sessions. A parent or support person will also be asked to attend a support group each of the 16 weeks, run in parallel to the participants’ sessions. The support group is intended to offer the participants feedback and practice between sessions.

Some of the topics to be covered are:

  • How to use appropriate conversational skills
  • How to take directives from employers
  • How to present your needs, expectations to employers
  • How to find common interests by trading information
  • How to appropriately use humor
  • How to enter and exit conversations
  • How to be a good host during get-togethers
  • How to choose appropriate friends
  • How to be a good sport
  • How to handle arguments and disagreements
  • How to develop dating etiquette skills

Is this a workshop that you would participate in? Would you be interested in a similar workshop for 30+ years of age?

Other Lifeskills Workshp Ideas:

These are likely to be run at PAFN. Saturday chores & movie – laundry, ironing, sewing on a button, etc; All things digital – changing clocks, hooking up dvd/cd players, etc. Your suggestions?

Other help needed:                      

Employment: Who can act as a liason between employment service agencies and our families?

Education: A future project – who can act as a liason between post-secondary institutions and our families?