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Our 101 Ways to Make Friends Book and Website will share strategies for creating, expanding and deepening networks of support for folks with disabilities, their supporters, friends and families... for our workshop schedule, check out

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A Week with David Pitonyak

November 9, 2015


It’s always a pleasure to draw for David Pitonyak, one of my favourite colleagues, friends and speakers.

On Monday we hosted David Pitonyak for a workshop with Home Share providers and others who choose to share their lives with folks with support needs focusing on The Importance of Belonging – in a recent provincial exploration of these models one of the things that kept coming up was the desire to have more training specifically for folks who do this, where they could meet and talk to each other.   The feedback was great!  Sketchnotes from the day:

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On Tuesday we worked with David and a small group of leaders on clarifying Spectrum’s strategic plan – a method we’ve been really pleased with since we began focusing on action oriented, communicable goals.  We looked at it in relation to David’s Toolbox for Change, a workshop we brought him in for previously, that we’ve all been talking about since.  Graphic facilitation notes:

DPitonyakStrategic2 DPitonyakStrategic

On Thursday we spent a last day with David and a group of about 90 folks, talking about “Beyond Behaviours: Supporting Competence, Confidence and Well-being” – more good conversations!

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As always, David reminds us to take care of each other.  There are things to do, ways to be, plans to make but, really, it’s all about being members of a pack and taking care of each other.


What do you want to plan? With whom? Upcoming Person Centred Training events.

October 1, 2015

652656527_531b076931_oIn November we have three events related to person centered planning, graphic recording and facilitation with two more coming up.

MAPS and PATH Training in Vancouver, Wednesday, 18 November to Friday, 20 November, from 9 – 4.   Shelley and Aaron will be joined by some special guests for three days of hands-on training and great conversations.

Expanding Graphics for Person Centred Planning and Thinking with Aaron Johannes, on Saturday, 28 November 2015 from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM in Vancouver.

Facilitation!  Tips and Techniques with Shelley Nessman.  Date TBD.

Community Centres, Neighbourhood Houses and Other Places of Belonging are Waiting for You!  Join Geri Briggs to learn about what’s available and make a plan to get out more, meet new friends and contribute!  Date TBD.

“A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”

Brene Brown

Photo by Ehsan Khakbaz H.

Creative Commons

Tom Kohler and Tim Vogt ponder the Possibility of People, by Shelley Nessman

October 1, 2015
What Can People Come to Mean to Each Other.  Graphic by Shelley Nessman and Sheldon Schwitek

What Can People Come to Mean to Each Other. Graphic by Shelley Nessman and Sheldon Schwitek

I recently spent some time with Tom Kohler – Executive Director of Chatham Savannah Citizen Advocacy and Tim Vogt – Executive Director of the Starfire Council of Cincinnati Ohio as they co-presented about “The Possibility of People”.

A key question that they asked was “What can people come to mean to each other?”  As I sat with my colleagues pondering this fundamental question for the work that we do with the people we support, it occurred to me that we often are asking some very different questions:

  • What will we do today?
  • Where can I support this person to find a job?
  • Is this person safe, healthy, happy?

Now don’t get me wrong- these last three are important questions but if we don’t take a crack at that first question on a daily basis- we are likely missing a significant thread in our work, that of honouring the person’s gifts and capacities and puzzling through the idea that the world is waiting to know and love this person so what are we waiting for?

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Tim talked about the 5 Valued Experiences which are foundational to the work at Starfire.

The 5 Valued Experiences

  • Sharing Places – People sharing the ordinary places of community life at the same time and in the same way as others helps them be seen for their gifts and passions.
  • Making Choices – Choices big and small, in all areas of one’s life, lead to possibilities and opportunities to grow.
  • Making Contributions – Attaining valued roles that use our gifts, talents, passions, interests, ideas and opinions are all ways to make contributions.
  • Growing in Relationships – Taking time to develop a wide, diverse range of relationships with people to grow stronger in our relationships.
  • Experiencing Respect – Being seen as a valued person who has positive roles to play in other people’s lives by putting our best foot forward.

They also talked about the ways in which we must let go of old ideas and ideologies to make room for the emerging future for citizens.  “What has to die to make room?”  inspired much talk around the room as people committed to let go of their fear of change or other negative influences in their work to make more room for their vision for a future that includes all people in an authentic way.

Next time you are with the people you support or your colleagues or even your mom… ask this question “What can people come to mean to each other?”  See what happens!  Let us know what people tell you… we would love to know!

”All citizens have better life chances, and everyone’s world grows more interesting, when communities offer rich opportunities for all people to have these five valued experiences.” John O’Brien and Connie Lyle O’Brien

Parker Palmer on finding institutions…

October 1, 2015

SteppingInToWhoYouAreThis great article came to me via colleagues – Parker Palmer on “A New Professional: The Aims of Education Revisited.”  In this he is writing about education and medical institutions, but the ideas are easily transferable to our field…  if we dare.

One of the things he writes is,

. . . as Ivan Illich reminded us 40 years ago, the functions of a profession are not necessarily those of the institutional structures that house it. The fact that we have schools does not mean we have education. The fact that we have hospitals does not mean we have health care. The fact that we have courts does not mean we have justice. We need professionals who are “in but not of” their institutions, whose allegiance to the core values of their fields makes them resist the institutional diminishment of those values.

I’m a sucker for Palmer.  I love his gentle, appreciative, dialogic, Quaker based approaches.  But in this article, he’s pissed.  How do we send students (or staff) to “work in institutions that too often prove toxic to their deepest commitments.”  It’s one of my favourite moments in workshops, where we get to remind each other of the emancipatory intentions that brought us into this work, before we got caught up in a world of boxes to tick off and forms to be filed.

Of how meeting people with disabilities and realizing that what we’ve been told about them in the media and in our cultural stories and even in our textbooks isn’t true – they are not dull-witted, necessarily concrete thinkers, boring, needy, and all those other things that a lot of the messages about them convey – potentially radicalizes us.  If what we’ve been led to believe about these folks – who show up at our doors with cakes to share, remember our birthdays, remind us of the things we’ve forgotten in the most gentle appreciative ways, point out that blue socks don’t go with a black suit, faithfully bring us valentines each year (this may just be my own list and if you have friends or family with disabilities you will have your own amazing list) – are some of our most valuable community members: what else might not be true?  What else are we in danger of throwing away?

Parker J. Palmer, A New Professional: The Aims of Education Revisited, November-December 2007.  Change: A Magazine of Higher Learning.  

David Pitonyak – in Burnaby, October 26th and 29th

October 1, 2015

HomeShareFamilyWe’ve enjoyed our work with David Pitonyak so much over the past several years – a series of talks, workshops, discussions of our strategic plan and case studies for more complex folks.   Given that so much of our support has transitioned to Home Share or Shared Living models, as it has around the province, we’re really excited about this upcoming conversation which we’ve organized in response to some of the folks we met in our Home Share Conversations project last year.  This event is designed for those who share their lives with people they care about, and hopes to give them time to meet, talk and question.   Some tickets still available for both events; lunch included.    

David Pitonyak for Shared Living Folks: The Importance of Belonging.  Monday, 26 October 2015 from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM at the Burnaby Rowing Club.  

One of the things we like is that working with David allows us to engage in a new conversation about complex and challenging situations.   His background in behaviourism and the understanding he’s come to over some decades of travelling the world and hearing and being part of many people’s stories allows him to share a rare expertise.  That he’s a masterful story-teller makes it all even easier to listen to!

David Pitonyak: Beyond “Behaviors”: Supporting Competence, Confidence, and Well-Being.  Thursday, 29 October 2015 from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM at the Burnaby Rowing Club.  

Reduced rates for both events for agency teams of 5 or those affiliated with PLAN, the Family Support Institute or British Columbia’s teachers and other instructional staff in schools and colleges.

Questions?  Please contact Judy Smith or phone (604-323-1433).

Information on Voting in the Federal Election!

September 18, 2015

Make sure your voice is heard!


People First Canada’s president, Kory Earle, encourages everyone to get out and vote saying:

I want to especially encourage people with intellectual disabilities to vote. It is our right and we should use it. Many advocates who came before us worked hard to make sure that right was protected in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

But I also want to do more than that. I want to encourage people to be aware of what is happening in their communities. I want people to find out who their candidates are and what they stand for. I want people to be informed and involved and to use their voice and their vote this October.

I encourage you to get ready, get registered, and get your voice heard in October.

Elections Canada has a great website that:

  • allows you to see if you are registered to vote
  • lists identification requirements to vote
  • lists advance polling dates

The Canadian Association for Community Living has developed a summary of the key issues that are important to People with Disabilities and their families – Inclusion Matters.

All Candidates’ Meetings give you an opportunity to hear directly from candidates why they think they are the best choice to represent you in Ottawa.  Getting a chance to say hi and shake their hand can be helpful in deciding who you want to vote for.

Upcoming Meetings: (send us any meetings you hear about and we’ll add them to this list)

Additional Resources:  

David Pitonyak in Burnaby

August 31, 2015

DeepenAndExpandPitonyakTwo upcoming events with David Pitonyak.

David Pitonyak: Beyond “Behaviors”: Supporting Competence, Confidence, and Well-Being on October 29th and For Shared Living Folks: The Importance of Belonging on October 26th.

David is an inspiring speaker and story-teller who always gives us new perspectives on our work and helps us connect with what else is happening around the world as he brings back news from his travels.

Please consider joining us.  Discounts for FSI, B.C. People First, TASH and PLAN members and staff.  Group rates for agencies who want to participate as a team.

For more information contact or

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