It is Multiculturalism Day #MultiDay in Canada (June 27) and we would like to recognize and celebrate the multiculturalism at ASLS.
We are proud to say we have a diverse team working at this organization and also support a diverse group of Individuals.
In our most recent internal Cultural Competency and Diversity Survey, we found that 23% of our team members that took the survey hold a Citizenship in a country other than Canada and 20% shared that they were Landed Immigrants.
When asked what diversity means to them, some responded with:
“To me diversity is an acknowledgment of the characteristics that make each of us who we are. I feel that what makes me diverse has never been a determining factor of progression in my career with the organization. I feel I have been treated equally and with respect despite any differences.”
“Diversity is full inclusion of anyone’s background or belief system, it’s supporting and encouraging everyone to be individuals and express their differences.”
“Having a wide range of people, race religion, sexuality, or disability, but being as one community.”
At ASLS, we strive to learn more about cultural & religious traditions and customs of the Individuals we support as well as our Team Members, as laid out in our Accessibility Plan and Cultural Competency & Diversity Plan.
One way we are making that happen is by education through Cultural Diversity Training Sessions.
The purpose of each session is to help ASLS Team Members be equipped and empowered, build skills, and gain the tools necessary to be culturally flexible and sensitive to the needs of different people.
Recently some of our Team Members took part in Aboriginal Cultural Training. It was an opportunity to gain knowledge and understanding to further support Aboriginal Individuals in our care. A local Elder taught us about Ceremonies, Traditional Values, Family Structure, past present and future.
Multiculturalism – the presence of, or support for the presence of, several distinct cultural or ethnic groups within a society
Accessibility has more than one meaning to us and as such, we have Implemented an Accessibility Plan.
The plan addresses accessibility barriers in the following areas:
· Community Integration
Just recently, one of our Peace River homes faced an Attitudinal barrier from a neighbour with one concern raised being We no longer feel safe because of many visits by the RCMP to the home.” Our Director of Programs addressed the concerns in front of the Subdivision & Development Appeal Board Hearing and in the end our Development Permit was approved. (You can read more about that in our blog post)
We have tools in place to ensure Individuals receiving ASLS supports are able to access their community without Architectural/Physical, Environmental or Transportation barriers.
That comes in the form of two 4×4 trucks at our rural property in the County of Grande Prairie. This means that no matter the weather or road condition, a safe, reliable vehicle is available to transport Individuals to and from their home.
At Stone Brook, our Designated Supportive Living Facility in Grimshaw, there are two vans able to transport Individuals with their wheelchairs to any location in their community.
Many of our homes are fully wheelchair accessible and have wide doorways with open concept designs.
One of our newest homes in Grimshaw has been renovated to accommodate wheelchairs.
A wheelchair lift gives access to the main level where two bedrooms have ceiling lifts; a system used to transfer a person from their chair to bed by way of a sling-seat attached to tracks on the ceiling. This system is also installed in a bathroom, making for an easier transition to those facilities.
Another main floor bathroom has a fully accessible shower with a movable powerhead.
Stone Brook is fully wheelchair accessible including elevators and two Spa Tubs. The facility is also home to a Community Garden that is accessible. It has raised flower boxes and paths that are wide enough for wheelchairs, walkers and strollers. This Community Garden is accessible to and used by the community.
Les Schur has been working for Rocky Mountain Equipment since November of 2012, going on 7 years.
But he has been at the same premises for over 20 years, as he worked for Houlder Automotive ltd. Prior to the sale of the Farm Division to Rocky Mountain. He started April 29, 1998, for Bud & Ken Houlder so he has been here for 21 years.
Les has always been an eager employee and takes his job seriously. Over the years he has assisted the Parts Department, through Shipping and Receiving, running both the skid steer and forklift to unload the larger pieces from the trucks. He seemed helped the Shipping and Receiving department a lot more when that person happened to be female. He always said, “I’m nice to all my Sweeties.”
For Sales, he detailed the inside of the cabs of equipment and filled in at the wash bay when we were short a wash person. And for all the departments, he is paged often for various duties or assistance. He helps a lot but the odd time you will hear him sigh when he is paged because he doesn’t like to be interrupted from his daily routines.
Besides his janitorial duties, he makes coffee for us every day, opens the Parts and Service yard gates before anyone else gets to work. And Les is the main caregiver of our two resident cats Stumpy and Stripey.
Les is the yard maintenance person also. He runs the lawnmower, whipper snipper and the sprayer when needed. He does not like dandelions and the “white daisies” (scentless Chamomile) and he loves to “fix them” with the lawnmower and sprayer.
From Troy Houlder: Branch Sales Manager
Les has always been a key part of Special events with Houlder Automotive and then Rocky Mountain Equipment whether it was a combine clinic or Canada Day parade. Les was ready to help and participate. Les with his “Santa Suit” is an annual visitor to our Christmas parties along with some special karaoke songs including “North to Alaska”. He is a well-loved and special member of our team.
From Dusty Szmata: Parts Sales Manager
I have fond memories involving Les, but one of his proudest moments that I was a part of was when we all pitched in and bought Les a new TV and I delivered it and set it up for him. Another memory I have is when Les and I built the Tarp Shed together at work. We had a good time and got the job done. I also get to spend a lot of time away from the branch with Les on weekends in the wintertime. He helps with both my boy’s hockey teams. He is very reliable, and I can count on him being there to lend a hand. Les means a lot to me and my family. Thanks, Les!
Over the years we must confess that many a joke was played on Les, some very cute, some not so cute that made Les mad at us. But mostly jokes were in fun like hiding his Owl, greasing his closet door handle etc. But the is when Les tells us these stories again and has all of us laughing with him.
With wildfires unfortunately upon us once again it seems appropriate to share some information on the Emergency Preparedness Programs of ASLS.
The following is a statement from our Health and Safety Coordinator Cori Freemark.
If unplanned events occur, ASLS has plans and processes in place to ensure an effective response. If there’s an emergency, people expect to be notified and provided with guidance to remain safe. This is precisely when our planning and preparation come into action.
ASLS has a very detailed disaster/emergency plans and contingency plans in place that extend beyond normal procedures. Effective disaster preparedness helps alleviate some of the chaos brought on by an unexpected crisis.
ASLS has clearly written policies that designate a chain of command, listing names, duties and emergency contact information as well as checklists and evacuation procedures. Drills are also conducted regularly for practice and to test the plans for problems. Disaster plans are regularly reviewed and revised with the participation of management, employees and third-party representatives to ensure the most effective resources and procedures are in place.
The Stone Brook facility’s contingency plan includes procedures for coordinating with other services such as the Town of Grimshaw Municipal Emergency Plan, the MD of Peace #135 Emergency Plan and Alberta Health Services. It is essential that we can quickly pull together, collaborate, assess and respond to an unexpected event.
With the support and dedication of our employees, management, individuals and our board of directors, not to mention all the outside supports we can and will be prepared for these unexpected events.
The health and safety of our individuals, employees and the public will remain our number one priority.
Inclusion is defined as being “the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure.”
To us, it means that Individuals receiving ASLS Supports are a part of their community and accepted as they are.
How do we contribute to Inclusion? At ASLS, we provide Individuals with the environment that is right for them and provide supports that facilitate community inclusion.
Our rural property in the County of Grande Prairie allows Individuals to be supported with fewer restrictions than those that would be imposed in an urban location. Supports are also customized per Individual so they can be in the community based on their decision to be.
At Stone Brook, our Designated Supportive Living Facility in Grimshaw, many Individuals were isolated in their homes but upon moving to our facility, have created a community within Stone Brook with their peers. There are also numerous opportunities for community members to visit Stone Brook and its residents through events held, booking an appointment with the in-house hair salon or planting and tending the fully accessible Community Garden.
We are providing the tools needed that set up Individuals for successful inclusion.
Inclusion really shouldn’t look or feel like anything, it just is.
It just is going to get groceries, going out for supper, going to the library.
It just is someone living their life in their community the only way they know-how.
Yes, some Individuals we support have complex needs and yes there may be instances when they feel overwhelmed, but that is allowed. That is allowed because every one of us has been in that situation of feeling overpowered by emotion or barrier.
Know that sometimes it is difficult for people to express themselves. What may seem like an act of aggression is an expression of happiness, surprise, frustration or panic.
Sometimes people express themselves by raising their voice, or waving their arms or walking fast, know that that behaviour is not a sign of anger. It is a sign of being human.
Please don’t let it discourage you from reaching out, from saying ‘hello’, from holding a door open, from smiling. That one kind gesture can make all the difference in someone’s day.
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.
– 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
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!
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.