Conference: Thinking Like A Movement. April 10-14, 2016

My reflections on the Thinking Like a Movement Conference that I wanted to I bring back to Square Peg Society. This Conference was sponsored jointly by BACI, PosAbilities and InclusionBC, and hosted by Al Etmanski and Vickie Cammack.  It was formulated around the ideas in Al Etamanski’s  Book, “Impact: Six Patterns to Spread your Social Innovation”. The quotes below are taken from this book.

Pattern One:  Think and Act like a Movement

The visual: Arrows going in all directions; more arrows going in the same direction. When you feel something needs to change in your world, and you feel you need collaboration/support of others to achieve that change, that is the beginning of a movement. You become more deliberate in aligning your efforts.

“When you strengthen the specific work you are doing and expand general receptivity for the bold vision behind it.”

Pattern Two: Create a Container for your Content

“Make your message easy to grasp; make it easy for them to do the right thing; make them want to be part of your movement.”

Resolve: in every SPS activity, think about creating a welcome place (hospitality); when possible include fun, art. Aesthetics, attractiveness, the Power of the Package. The “cool” factor for the kids – verbotomy & other games.

Pattern Three: Set the Table for Allies, Adversaries and Strangers

“Dialogue and convening… give structure to our need to belong,… broaden understanding, punctuate assumptions, change authority flows and allow us to cultivate new relationships. Solutions spread when we move beyond blame, competition, misunderstanding and mistrust.”

It is too easy to see ourselves at SPS as being outside the funding agencies – and this gets us nothing. We have to present our situation effectively so that we are understood.

Our disability, though real, is largely invisible at first glance, so we are overlooked. Our kids, most of whom we brought up through the public school system, where their disability was not “voiced”, they looked pretty much like everyone else, yet it sooner or later became apparent that they were different – they had SEA’s, they were excluded from some activities, they worked in resource rooms, etc. The consequence was that they were always struggling to keep up, to “behave normally”.  Therein lies their denial, and the denial in their families about their disability. This situation has, for many, led to extreme anxiety and depression as secondary diagnoses.

Secondly, as we are “outside”, we are not on anyone’s lists – which, (in addition to our invisibility), makes it hard to find each other.

We need to make sure that others – that would be –  service agencies, (because they might be able to share info and services with us), people with other disabilities (because we share some common experiences), and the general public, (because it is our obligation to work toward a truly inclusive society through educating others). The only way that we can remove the fear, stigma and discrimination around disability is through experience of the diversity of the disability community and the contributions they are able to make.

Resolve: SPS events, activities should include neurotypicals, service agencies (they are people too!), and persons with other disabilities.

How to do this while still being a clear voice for our community – I think we can; that embracing others does not mean a loss to ourselves…

The above is, in part, a means of countering the social isolation that many of our young people, and others in the disability community experience. Social Isolation is as critical to one’s well-being as employment, housing. Inclusion requires both policy and cultural change – both need to be advanced. Cultural change can only occur through contact, through life and activities.

However, how to bring our young people to the table? In the case of our kids, it is not only getting others to include and accept them, but also getting them to open up to connecting with others. When they were younger, they were more pliable, and were willing to try a range of activities. Now that they are adults, and we can’t force them to do things, they often find it too “out of their comfort zone” to do anything but a very narrow range of activities, even though they are unhappy with maintaining the status quo. Also, they have been excluded, bullied in the past, and are afraid of getting the same negative or disinterested response from others again. Finally, their fear & anxiety that life is passing them by makes them depressed, which makes it harder for them to motivate themselves to reach out. Would doing some workshops or activities online or though social media, help or hurt? Online workshops could serve as ice breakers making later face to face encounters easier, or they could provide more opportunities to avoid real life. As well as not getting into a costly online program design… Suggestions?

In setting the table…I learned about Inclusion BC, constraints and aspirations, Family Support Institute…At the conference I met people from PLAN, BACI, InclusionBC, and the Family Support Institute, as well as other families with members with other disabilities. Despite the bureaucracy of such agencies, there is a genuine intention to “do good”. InclusionBC is exploring how to include families on their Board, with voting rights equal to any other member. I am a bit clearer (though not entirely) with the role of Inclusion BC as a Federation of Service Providers, and now believe (as do they, I think) that they could occupy the role of a Voice for Human Rights in BC. I also learned that Family Support Institute does not discriminate between CLBC funded or not, and is willing to help us out with services – Valerie Irving (FSI), has offered help with Sexuality & Dating workshop.

Pattern Four: Mobilize Your Economic Power

“Your constituency is an untapped economic market…social change activists are flexing their economic muscle to disrupt business models, acquire flexible funds, reduce their dependence on grant funding and develop business partnerships that help spread their big ideas”. This is important not only for autonomy, but also as it helps us see ourselves as equals in discourse and planning. Think of the disability community as being a market force – like “grey power”. This is an area where I would like to learn more, and to see if I can find a role for myself here.

Resolve: I will broach the topic of an RDSP with every Square Peg Society member.

I would like to perhaps, do a Square Peg Meeting on entrepreneurship and  running a home-based business…Rosh’s Chutneys, Ash’s popcorn…ideas, pitfalls, and business sense…a business fair? Richard Faucher has an interest in this. I would also, wearing my architectural hat, like to do renovations, additions, laneway houses for families with members with disabilities.


Pattern Five: Advocate with Empathy

“…put aside tactics of blame and criticism and become solution-based advocates…two mutually supportive objectives: they propose solutions and at the same time improve governments’ capacity to innovate…governments have shorter attention span and are risk adverse…”

One parent presented a Case Study of verbal and physical abuse of her child by an SEA, that was brushed off by the school authorities. Advocacy work that needs to be done here would be something like a Charter of Rights for All Students in Public Schools, and a set of Standards for SEA training and behavior.

Link to Louvain’s idea about the standard we are seeking for our kids:

Also see below for ACT’s  course, July 11-15, 2016 SFU Harbor Centre

  About the Event

Level Introductory/Intermediate
For School Teams, Community Professionals & Parents
Approach Intensive, pre-readings required
Focus School-age children
Autism-specific? Yes

This 30 hour course has been developed by the Provincial Outreach Program for Autism and Related Disorders (POPARD) for B.C. educational professionals and paraprofessionals. It reflects current research and evidence-based practice in teaching students with ASD. In addition, research-based methods of effective adult instruction are used. These include pre-reading, practical hands-on activities, demonstration, coaching and application exercises as well as a variety of ways of evaluating participant learning.

This course is a requirement for teaching assistants in many school districts and is open to community professionals and parents.

The level of this course is introductory/ intermediate. The focus is on school-age children with autism with a range of abilities. Only 30 registrants can be accommodated in each course.

Resolve: Our advocacy issue would be to advocate to instate the CLBC’s Personal Supports Initiative, so that it captures our group as it was originally intended to do. See Square Peg Society Archives: Meeting, April 21, 2016 (See our website Archives on our recent meeting on CLBC funding criteria).

Pattern Six: Who is as Important as How

Too much emphasis is placed on the idea that we must be trained to be a social innovator. “…social innovation is enlightened by who we are…by emotional and spiritual maturity…they pay attention to what nourishes and replenishes their spirits. And they have the humility to admit their limitations and fears.”

Resolve: Take courage, and move forward one step at a time.  The idea of the power of the Passionate Amateur…