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Three Days with David Pitonyak – Chad Clippendale

September 1, 2009
Shelley Nessman, Ernie Baatz, David Pitonyak, Susan Kurliak, Jule Hopkins and Laura Appleton-Jones

Shelley Nessman, Ernie Baatz, David Pitonyak, Susan Kurliak, Jule Hopkins and Laura Appleton-Jones

I recently had the good fortune of being able to attend three days of workshops with David Pitonyak, a consultant fron Blacksburg Virginia who travels around the world speaking about working with folks with developmental disabilities.

On August 19th David presented his workshop “Toolbox for Change: Reclaiming Purpose, Joy and Commitment in the Helping Profession” to Spectrum Society’s leadership team and on August 20th he presented his workshop “The Importance of Belonging” to parents, self-advocates, and support workers.  On August 21st he facilitated an initial meeting of a provincial group of “Network Facilitators: Agents for Change” workshop.

“Toolbox for Change” consisted of strategies that organizations can use to improve their services to indivduals with a developmental disability. The strategies focused on the importance of relationships for the individual who is being supported and for those in a support capacity, how to remove fear from the workplace, how to make joy a goal in the work we do, how to develop a vision, get organized and stay organized, how to listen, learn, help and lead, and how to tell stories.

“The Importance of Belonging” focused on the importance of relationships in the lives of both individuals with a disability and those who work in a support capacity, person centred planning and inclusion, how to develop and strengthen relationships, the impact of the system on relationships, helping folks connect with people who love the same things they do, and helping folks make a contribution to the broader community.

“Network Facilitators: Agents of Change” was a chance for people from around the province to connect and tell stories about the work they are doing to help individuals develop and maintain personal support networks. The hope is that these individuals will come together to meet and share stories of best practice on a consistent basis. What was so remarkable about David Pitonyak was his ability to tell a story. At times he had everyone laughing, and at times he had everyone crying. He was telling stories that were deeply touching, stories that drove home the highs of belonging, and the lows of loneliness and isolation. It was information that we often talk about and notice, but in the form of stories, each one had the purpose of driving home an important point, not only about the lives of those who we support, but about our own lives as well: “loneliness is the only real disability” and that we as support workers must have our needs of belonging met before we can help others to truly belong. The way he crafted those stories, with emotion and vulnerability, drew all of us in, and left us inspired and refocused on what is truly important.

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