January 7, 2016 Meeting: Planning 2016

This was a meeting to plan, for each of us to express our interests, focus, and roles for our group moving forward into 2016.

We noted that we need to augment our membership; this is important for the following reasons:
• To meet the need for support for this generally unsupported group of transitioning youth.
• To effectively advocate for government & other institutional policy changes that would support our youth.
• To achieve the “critical mass” needed to justify requesting speakers for our meetings.
• To build rich & diverse social networks for our youth.
Speak of our group to your friends and associates,  distritbute SPS cards, and refer contacts to our website: www.squarepegsociety.ca.

Fred presented the requirements for becoming a registered non-profit society. This designation is desirable to be able to solicit funding for such things as website hosting, business cards, honorariums for speakers, and activity fees for our youth. The requirements stipulate that we have a Board, consisting of at least 5 members, including a Chair, Treasurer, and Secretary, and an address. We will have a 7 member board, with the positions of Chair, Secretary & two board members coming available for elected candidates in January 2017, and the positions of Vice-Chair, Treasurer, and one board member coming available for election in January 2018.

Additional Work
We identified several topics that we would like to delve into further – through Committees, additional speakers, and perhaps workshops. They are:

Housing:
• To learn more about, and to look for opportunities for independent, inclusive housing for our adult children. In keeping with this, Louvain, Laya, Mahmoud, & Joette attended on Saturday, January 9, a Housing seminar hosted jointly by Vancouver Transition Parents and BACI, with Howard Sample as facilitator.
• This is an area that Sue also has knowledge & experience of, through a project that her church is currently engaged with. Sue will share more about this project later this year.

Advocacy:
• Catherine will head this Committee, working with Nicole – to examine how we might achieve some policy changes that would result in some support for our kids, and for others coming behind them. These might be changes to the Community Living BC (CLBC) eligibility criteria, changes in the ways Registered Disability Savings Plans can be used, changes in the secondary/post-secondary school systems that would better enable our kids to succeed in programs, access to job coaching, mental health services.
• Perhaps we could also join forces with other groups, for example PLAN, to identify, and to develop an action plan to move forward on these issues.
• Douglas Lee, a psychologist who assesses individuals for eligibility for CLBC funding will speak at our meeting, April 21. We hope to be well-prepared to be able to challenge him on the changes needed to better serve our young adults.

Social & Life Skills:
• This is also a topic for a Committee, but should also include some workshops for our kids. I (Joette) will work on this, but would like help… Ideas on the table in this category are Toastmasters groups, PEERS for Young Adults, Cooking Club, General Home maintenance Workshop, Sexuality & Dating, and Finances, Credit, and Budgeting.
• We have tentatively proposed a meeting on Sexuality & Dating for February 18th, and a meeting on Finances for May 19th.
• We are hoping that once the Pacific Autism Family Centre is operational, programs, such as a Cooking Club, PEERS, etc, could be run more affordably, if the Centre could provide the facility and administrative support.

Education/Employment:
• This is a topic that Louvain and Joette will be pursuing further. The Ready, Willing, & Able program in BC is now hosted jointly by the Pacific Autism Family Centre (PAFC) and by InclusionBC. The objective of this program is to address the chronic under-representation in the workplace of people with developmental disabilities. It was realized that the program that existed prior to this joint endeavour was not capturing enough of the high-functioning autistic and Asperger’s population. Two positions have been recently created, a Regional Autism Coordinator, and an Autism Outreach Coordinator; these roles will be managed by Jenna Christianson-Barker, at PAFC. The Regional Autism Coordinator is to procure & educate prospective employers, and the Autism Outreach Coordinator is to connect individuals to the right positions and Employment Placement organizations, of which PosAbilities is one involved in this project.
• Our task is to ensure that the jobs procured are not only dead-end entry level jobs. While we recognize that skills are learned from the ground up, we want the interests, abilities, and intelligence of our youth, not only their employment history, to be considered in their job placements, and for them to be seen as candidates for advancement. This might mean identifying additional education or training that they might require. We would like to see the role of the new Autism Outreach Coordinator to include good “matchmaking” of employer and employee, and discussion about how to best integrate the employee in his or her position, and about any additional training or course work that might be needed to better fulfill the employment requirements over the long term. On-the-job follow up will most likely be required to ensure a smooth functioning relationship that will mature into long term stable employment.

Mental Health:
• Anxiety & depression are often secondary diagnoses which affect our youth, particularly as young adults. The supports and stability that high school provided them, despite the stress of high school for our youth, has evaporated, and they often lack friends, and confidence about their abilities, leaving them lonely and unsure of what to do next. They are very aware of their situation, and feel as though they are being left behind in life.
• We will look for an opportunity to have mental health service providers speak to our group about what might be available “in the system” for our youth. We would also consider a workshop using cognitive behavioural therapy, and mindfulness or meditation therapy for coping with depression.
• Mindfulness based stress reduction lecture/seminar. 1.5 hours, free, Saturday, January 16th, 10:30AM-noon, at the Capilano branch of the North Vancouver District Library, 3045 Highland Blvd. 604.771.0579. See link: http://www.drkasimalmashat.com/
Social Activities:
• We hope to become the best supporters for each other, parents & youth. I believe that in doing so we will be stronger and more effective (and have more fun, and last longer) than any support agency. This is best done by finding ways to connect over activities – not everyone will like or want to participate in every activity, and that is fine.
• Laya will head this Committee; she may want some help and suggestions.
• Fred has registered our group for the Sun Run, for both runners & walkers. To join go to the Sun Run website, look for “Join an existing group”, and sign up. $49.00, if you sign up before February 4th.