Author Archives: CareHelps

Our Stories: Lydia Levers

This is Lydia Levers’ story, our DSL Manager at Stone Brook in Grimshaw.

Lydia has been with ASLS for five years and was hired on as a Licensed Practical Nurse, moving from British Columbia to take on the opportunity.

Originally from Jamaica, Lydia moved to Kelowna at the age of 19 in 2008 and studied in Vancouver to obtain her LPN Diploma.

Why did you want to take on the challenge? “I started at Stone Brook as an LPN. I was temporarily the LPN Team Lead for a couple of months until someone was hired into the role. The employee ended up leaving and I was offered the position on a more permanent basis. One of my fondest memories is of Rilla asking me in person to take on that role. It meant a lot to me that the Director of Programs at the time thought I could take on that role having only been with the company for less than 1 year. That truly sparked within myself, the realization that I have the potential to do more. I left for maternity leave in May 2016 and when I decided I was ready to return to work, I was offered a Manager position. I feel that was a natural progression of my growth within ASLS and am honoured to hold the position. Many days are challenging, the ups and downs of working in human services can be daunting but being able to provide a safe and comfortable environment to our vulnerable individuals makes it worth it.”

How has ASLS impacted your personal life? “I don’t think I’ve ever worked in an environment where I’ve felt so supported. It says a lot about an organization when many of the supervisory staff were first hired into a frontline position. The organization believes in its employees and sets them up for success. It’s evident and something to be applauded.”

Lydia is mom to daughter Jade-Lynn, is engaged to Mathew Strachan and is currently completing an online Site Manager Certificate program through Red Deer College and ASCHA.

What do most people not know about you that you would like them to know? “I am very approachable. Do not be scared or intimidated by me. My sense of humor can be very dry and sarcastic so it may take some getting used to. Also, I am an introvert so if I am not overly talkative in your company, it has nothing to do with you.”

Anything you would like to add? “I’d like to recognize the excellent team we currently have at Stone Brook. I feel our team is the strongest it’s been in sometime and I am happy to see the dedication towards our residents and ensuring quality services are being provided.”

Preparing for Emergency Preparedness Week

Positive programming, in nerd speak, is “the longitudinal instruction designed to teach skills and competencies to facilitate behavioural change.” – Institute for Applied Behavioural Analysis.

That’s a mouthful, let me translate…

Positive Programming means teaching new skills and abilities over time to replace behaviours of concern.

There are two keys words in that sentence: teach and replace.

The Individuals we support are very complex people with complex histories and often there have been significant gaps in their learning. When we develop protocols, we do so based on those gaps. What skill does this person need to achieve greater wellness and greater independence? Perhaps there are a number of smaller skills they need to learn before they can succeed at the desired goal. If that’s the case, we may design a protocol to address those smaller skills in order to build towards something bigger. A great example is taking place out at Saskatoon Lake. Using a visual (picture aided) communication system, we are working towards enhancing communication. Now, if we simply handed an Individual cue cards and said, “Here, use this,” without teaching them the basics that we know are lacking, like how to say “no” to something, then we’re not likely to be very successful. Programs build one upon the other and the role of the Community Support Worker (CSW) is to provide the Individual with consistent teaching so that they have a good foundation for the next step. Consistency is incredibly important in this process. If a protocol is only followed some of the time, it will delay an Individual’s learning.

When we consider protocols and programs for the Individuals we support, we have to ensure that we are meeting the needs of the Individual respectfully. This is why we teach with positive reinforcement. When someone is rewarded for positive behaviour (a thumbs-up, a sticker, one-on-one time with a favourite CSW), they’re more likely to want to perform that behaviour again. And who wouldn’t!?

Punishments for behaviours of concern are not part of this process. Though a punishment may result in a quick decline in the behaviour of concern, it simply doesn’t work in the long run for the Individual. This is because the Individual may not be able to understand why they are being punished. Also, punishment doesn’t teach an alternative to the behaviour of concern.

This leads us to the second part of the definition of Positive Programming: Replace. Once we’ve identified the behaviour of concern, we look at its function. The “why” behind the behaviour. If someone is hitting because they find a task too difficult, but don’t have the means to express this, we need to look at offering alternatives to hitting. What can we teach that satisfies that function? Well, that all depends on the person. Perhaps we teach them how to exchange a “Break” card with their CSW when they feel overwhelmed by a task. Maybe we teach them the sign for the word “No” or “Break” so they can express themselves in a more functional and less harmful way. Once we teach an Individual an alternative behaviour, we encourage and reward them every time they use it.

It is Emergency Preparedness Week and we wanted to share with you how ASLS has prepared our Individuals in case of emergency.

Each of our Individuals has an Emergency Backpack/Health and Safety Bag at the ready. This backpack accompanies our Individuals each time they leave their home.

Inside each backpack is some basic items, dependant upon the season, to help us through an unplanned event.

Currently, the bags have sunscreen, insect repellant, a whistle, bottled water, bear bells, emergency blankets, energy bars or fruit snacks, hand warmers and a first aid kit.

The bags may also carry personal items and small toys or activities specific to our Individuals.

“Often the key to preventing an unplanned event from turning into an emergency is response time. Preparation, speed, and clear thinking are critical. The safety of our Individuals, employees and the public is paramount,” says Cori Freemark, ASLS Health and Safety Coordinator.

“I think the biggest thing I can say is no matter how well thought out an Emergency Plan is, or how much food or water you have ready, it’s only effective if you can act on it which is why practice is so vital. People really need to commit to preparing and follow-through,” adds Cori.

Cori recommends visiting the Government of Alberta website as it has some very practical resources as well as a Personal Preparedness course that is available for free online.

We would again like to thank the following businesses that helped us ensure our Individuals are prepared.

Thanks to:

– Sierra Safety Supplies and Rentals for a great discount on emergency supplies

– Hivolt Safety for donating the backpacks

– EmbroidMe Grande Prairie for a great discount on the embroidered initials

Our Stories: Glory Przekop

This is Glory Przekop’s story, our Marketing Coordinator

I started with ASLS this past November, going from journalist to marketing coordinator. I decided to make the change because I wanted to combine both my careers in life.

Previous to working in newsrooms/radio stations across the province including here in Grande Prairie (Q99), I worked as a Rehabilitation Practitioner in Edmonton. I am an IBI/ABA trained therapist and have worked with autistic children in their homes as well as in their schools as a TA. I also have experience working with at-risk youth.

In my personal life, I am a wife, mother of two and a volunteer, sitting on the Saskatoon Lake Ag. Society board. In my younger years, I did a wee bit of travelling and spent some time living and working in the UK with my sister.

I am thrilled to be embarking on this new adventure with ASLS and discovering all the lives impacted by this organization that has been around for 50 years. In the future, you will hear and see more about that milestone as I gather stories and share them with all of you.

Quick facts about Glory:

– I am fluent in sarcasm

– I am a Calgary Flames fan

– I heart coffee

– I grew up on a farm, the oldest of 4 and now live on an acreage in the County of Grande Prairie

– My kids think I talk too much

Our Stories: Taylor Arnold

This is Taylor Arnold’s story, our Program Assistant.

Taylor has been with ASLS for just over two years and was originally hired as a Community Support Worker.

Her dedication and hard work soon earned her the promotion to Supervisor-Team Lead and current position of Program Assistant.

Taylor is originally from the border city Lloydminster and is a sister to eight and mom of three. Right now, the family pet is a bunny.

This line of work can be stressful and when Taylor is having a tough day, she tells herself “that we are making a difference in the lives of these Individuals with complex needs. I remind myself how far each of them has come.”

“I have learnt many things working for this company,” Taylor adds. “I have gained self-confidence and many skills that can translate to my own life.”

Exploring the World of HR

A few ASLS team members have returned from an HR conference in Edmonton.

Senior Leadership, as well as two managers and our HR Team Lead, spent a couple of days taking part in numerous sessions at the HR Undefined Conference.

• Conducting Workplace Investigations – The Right Way

• Preparing for the Future of Human Resources

• Harassment is a Hazard and other OHS Changes in Alberta

• Create a Gossip Free Workplace

• Moving Beyond Performance Management

• Overcome, Overwhelm and Accelerate Your Results

• The Resilient Leader

• Cultivating Leadership – Stimulating Ideas and Passion

There was also a Trade Show where our team members were able to speak with several vendors and some ideas of ensuring efficiency and effectiveness are being explored.

The most ‘hands-on’ session came during a team-building activity that saw our team roll up their sleeves and Get Cooking! Our chefs prepared a couple of different Paella dishes that tasted even better then they look!

Our Stories: Liz Merlo

This is Liz Merlo’s story, our Director of Support Services

Liz grew up in Midhurst, Ontario about an hour and a half north of Toronto, and is from a large, loud (her words) Italian and Irish family. She is the second youngest of four children and has been married for a year and a half. She lived in Victoria for almost 6 years while she completed her education, attending both University and College. She relocated to her husband’s hometown of Grande Prairie just over a year ago and loves the small-town feeling compared to larger cities she has lived in like Calgary. One of her and her husband’s first priorities after buying a house was adopting rescue dogs, she currently has two mix-breed dogs, Happ and Gracie, who were rescued from the Grande Prairie Pound and Bandaged Paws. You may catch them visiting the office occasionally, and they love any attention they can get. Liz has been with ASLS since October 2018 joining as the Support Services Manager and recently promoted to Director of Support Services.

Why did you apply to work with ASLS? “I was very interested in working in the not-for-profit industry again, with a specific focus on social assistance and healthcare, and ASLS sounded like the perfect fit”

Why do you stay? “This has been the most challenging but most rewarding job I have ever had. I enjoy coming to work every day to work alongside people who are so passionate, dedicated and hard-working to help the individuals we serve. I appreciate the adaptability of ASLS and am truly excited to be a part of its future.”

How does Liz self-care after a stressful day? “First priority when I get home every day is to get a big hug and snuggle from my puppies, they are always so happy to see me it’s hard not to smile and be happy with them around. My husband and I have recently built a home gym, so we try and utilize it every other day. We also really enjoy cooking together, my favourite is cooking Italian. My love of cooking came from my Nona when I was young, she would give me and my siblings two options: cook or clean. I always chose cooking so I could taste test before dinner and then hit the couch after! Luckily, my husband shares my love of cooking, so we like to spend a good amount of our evening in the kitchen trying out new recipes or recreating some of our favourites. My other way to relax is to take a nice hot bath and settle down with a good book. Currently, I am reading some books by Patrick Lencioni titled ‘The Ideal Team Player’ and ‘Death by Meetings’.”

What is your hidden talent? “No hidden talent comes to mind, but what people are sometimes surprised about when they come to my house is how many house plants I have. There are probably close to fifteen in my living room alone. To the chagrin of my husband, I find myself bringing a new plant home every few weeks, but I argue that’s better than bringing home a new dog or cat! So, I guess you can call me a Crazy Plant Lady, and a green thumb is my hidden talent. I wish I could have more around my office, but without the natural light, it is harder to find the right plants. I’m always on the lookout, though!”

Anything else to share? “If you’ve been around the Grande Prairie office at all you may have noticed I LOVE shoes, and you’ll probably always find me in some type of heeled shoe, no matter the activities of the day or how much snow is on the ground. I also love when there is a puzzle or challenge. I recently tried out Trapped with some friends, and now my husband will have to put up with me asking to go every week. I like when people ask me challenging or difficult questions. I have a lifelong passion for learning new things, and I have found there is not a shortage of that here at ASLS!”

Our Stories: Sterling Andrews

Sterling Andrews began his career with ASLS in 2012, being hired on as a Community Support Worker. In total, he has had four official titles with the organization; Residential CSW, Behavioural Assistant CSW, Residential and ILS Program Manager and Director of Programs.

Sterling made the move to Alberta from Newfoundland with his partner just ten days after graduating from the College of the North Atlantic on June 15, 2012.

Along with his current role at ASLS, Sterling is also a Village of Berwyn Councilor, an ACDS Government Relations Committee representative and most importantly, father to a recently adopted young boy.

Why do you stay with ASLS?

“I really enjoy working for an organization that is able to be flexible in the way we do things. It’s not rigid that if we see that something that could change to improve the quality of life for our Individuals for support or for our staff in their workplace that the organization can be flexible and do that. I do see at the end of the day how ASLS is a person-centred organization, sometimes that means we have to make hard decisions of graduating Individuals out of service or transition them to another service provider, but at the end of the day, I believe the people here in northwest Alberta who have developmental disabilities, who are the most vulnerable and have the least services offered to them are the ones ASLS are willing to say we are going to make this work, we are going to put the effort into it so they have a good quality of life and I so appreciate that.”

Sterling feels his passion to support individuals and commitment to this organization led him to his management position and he will always fight for the underdog and ensure their voices are heard.

What would you say to the founding families and community members if they were here today?

“What they tried to do 50 years ago obviously worked and made an impact on the region and the people in the region. Here we are 50 years later we are still providing quality services to children and adults with developmental disabilities. Not only have we grown with numbers and dollars over the years, I find ASLS stays one step ahead of where the Industry is, in regard to being progressive and advocating for the rights of individuals. I think that is because of the volunteers years ago that really put in the effort to establish that type of organization and for all those who follow.”

Sterling is a proud member of the LGBTQ community and has always felt included, respected and as valued as anyone else in the community. “I feel so happy with life, that I’ve been able to come here to Northern Alberta and be able to fit into the community despite any of those different diversities I might have in comparison to my neighbour on one side or my coworker on the other.”

In his spare time, Sterling enjoys spending time with his family, camping and researching his family history and traditions passed on through the generations through his English, Inuit and Irish ancestors.

Changes Are Coming to Behavioural Supports

Recently, our Behavioural Supports Team asked for some feedback from our staff and the response was fantastic! The suggestions, concerns and comments were evaluated, and some changes have been made as a result. Have a look!

Behavioural Community Support Worker – Schedule Change:

· BCSWs will be moving to a four on two off rotation, including afternoon and evening hours to ensure there is better Behavioral Support coverage

Monthly Conference Meetings:

· Behavioural Support Coordinator will hold a monthly meeting with BCSWs, Residential Coordinators and Teams Leads

· Behavioral issues will be reviewed, and interventions will be discussed to ensure consistent protocols and communication

Behavioural Support Coordinator:

· Twice a month the Behavioural Support Coordinator will provide one on one feedback with CSWs in a private and distraction-free environment, CSWs can request to meet via ShareVision

· Will attend staff meetings to introduce, train and review protocols and other behavioural material

Front-Line Behavioural Support:

· 24-hour Behavioural Support will continue to be available to all staff

· Look on ShareVision for the on-call phone numbers, there will be one number to be contacted between 7am-11pm, and a different number for overnights from 11pm-7am.

Thank you to all staff for participating in our survey, your feedback is valuable to our continuous mission to improve our program.

Erika Gilroy, Program Manager

Sterling Andrews, Director of Programs

Saying Goodbye and Thank You

Today we say good-bye to a few of our programs at ASLS.

The Brain Injury Supports, Community Access for People in Continuing Care (CAPCC), and FASD Support Program/ Parent-Child Assistance Program (PCAP) programs are moving under the umbrella of other local service providers.

“It was a fantastic experience over the past decade to be involved with the programs and to be a part of the successes and growth of the Individuals accessing those supports throughout the region. We are confident that our colleagues at Blue Heron and the agencies will continue the work and facilitating those success stories, and we appreciate their interest and willingness to take on these contracts as ASLS turns its focus to providing 24/7 residential supports to Individuals with Complex Needs.” – Rilla Websdale, ASLS CEO

“We have seen a lot of amazing progress and changes in the individuals that we have served throughout the years. I always tell our brain injury clients that they are my heroes because I get to watch them as they’re persistent and resilient and working through phenomenal incredible life-changing things to make themselves the best that they can be now. And although we will no longer be with ASLS, which has been our home for a good many years now, we will continue to work with the individuals who are part of our programming now and the new individuals who will come in the future to do the very best that we can do to support them to be the very best that they can be. Working at ASLS been has been a lot of fun. We have had a lot of good staff through the years and a lot of very incredible amazing individuals.” – Laurel Christensen, Brain Injury Team Lead

Leading up to today, all current clients in these programs, as well as their legal guardians, were made aware of and involved in the transition to different service providers.

Thank you to all the staff over the years who provided guidance and support to the many Individuals involved in these programs. Your dedication and passion not only inspired the Individuals, but co-workers as well. Thank you.

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