Monday, October 7, 2019

More than just a dislocated knee:
McGill’s Congress on ‘Whole Person Care

By Randy Pinsky 

Busy hospital rooms, rushing medical staff...who has the time to consider patients as people? Is it not simply more efficient to approach cases as ‘the dislocated knee in room 4B’?

While a common reality, this does not necessarily need to be the case, argue the coordinators of McGill University’s Third International Congress on Whole Person Care. Guest speakers and participants from more than 12 countries will focus on the theme of “Exploring Compassion, Addiction, and Culture Change” at the McGill New Residence Hall, 3625 Avenue du Parc from October 17 to 20. While organized by the Faculty of Medicine, the team reinforces that the messages conveyed are relevant for all. 

“Medicine has become so technical, so complex, that we sometimes forget that there is a whole person there,'' shared Dr. Tom Hutchinson, congress director and head of the Programs in Whole Person Care at McGill University. In striving for efficiency, the patient as an entity has faded from view. As a result, they are routinely identified as pathologies and conditions to be fixed, rather than humans with ailments.

A lack of resources combined with managerial struggles can understandably lead to harried workplaces where patient input is under-sought. But in being considered as a passive recipient of care as opposed to an active partner in the process, recovery can be compromised.

“The energy for healing comes from the patient. They need to feel validated - as a person - to get better,” reinforced Hutchinson. So it is back towards this relationship and way of thinking the congress is striving for; one “medicine can either get in the way of...or else contribute to.” 

The concept of whole person care was popularized (though not coined) by Dr. Patch Adams, proponent of using humour in medicine, and focus of the film by the same name, powerfully portrayed by the legendary Robin Williams. When confronted about his unconventional approach to treating patients, Adams responded, “Is not a doctor just someone who helps someone else?” 

This simple yet profound truth cuts through the efficiency and alludes to the frequently forgotten essence of medicine. The emphasis on helping and healing over curing and solving is among the take-away messages for the participants (be they fresh out of med school or with decades of experience), to return home, renewed and recommitted. 

The message of viewing the patient as a whole was also evocatively expressed in the film when a woman suffering from diabetic complications was being examined by a buzz of med students. While discussing her condition as one would a chunk of marble, Adams quietly inquired from the back: “What’s her name?,” hinting at what medicine had become.

The Whole Person Care Congress seeks to directly address these issues, starting with a book launch on MD Aware: A Mindful Medical Practice Course Guide,discussing the need for humanism, self-care and compassion in medical education. This will be followed by a presentation by Dr. Gabor Maté. 

McGill is already ahead of other medical schools with its compulsory Programs in Whole Person Care integrated in its curriculum. To have both such a program as well as host this conference, adds further legitimacy to the concept. 

In reflecting on the motivation for coordinating congresses such as these, Hutchinson shared: “It is to remind practitioners - both new and old - that we are dealing with people, and they are who give what we do, life.” 

For information or to register, visit

Monday, September 16, 2019

#1000joursAH social movement to 
map accessibility,
200 volunteers needed!

This is an important initiative launched by that we want to share with you!

The #1000joursAH social movement aims to map all public locations before 2022.

On September 24, 25 and 26, will hold a 400-location mapping event in downtown Montreal. The first event of the #1000joursAH movement, it aims to map the actual accessibility of downtown Montreal's public locations. They will then share the information with the public, allowing them to discover a whole new world of accessible locations that may fit their needs. 

Downtown Montreal, with its 5,000 stores and businesses, is vital for greater Montreal’s economy and social life. That is why it was deemed the best place to officially start #1000joursAH movement.

200 volunteers needed!
In order to make this event a success, OnRoule is looking for 200 volunteers. Come for just the morning, afternoon or full day. A lunch will be offered, and you will receive you own brand new, humorous OnRoule T-shirts :)

Register here

See the full schedule below.

Cartographier 400 commerces en 3 jours : 
200 bénévoles recherchés!

Le mouvement #1000joursAH, vous connaissez? Lancé par, il vise à cartographier la totalité des lieux publics d’ici 2022.

Les 24-25-26 septembre prochain, organise 3 jours de cartographie de l’accessibilité de 400 commerces du centre-ville de Montréal, dans le cadre du mouvement #1000joursAH. Le but est de faire un état des lieux de l’accessibilité actuelle des lieux publics et de rendre l’information disponible aux citoyens afin que ceux-ci puissent découvrir une multitude de nouveaux lieux dont l’accessibilité (souvent partielle) conviendra à leurs besoins, même si celle-ci ne peut convenir à tous (concept d’accessibilité humaine - AH). Une cartographie simple et rapide à mettre en place, offrant une solution complémentaire aux efforts de l’accessibilité universelle. 

Fort de près de 5 000 commerces en tous genres, le centre-ville est un incontournable de la vie économique et sociale du grand Montréal Métropolitain. C’est donc l’endroit idéal où réaliser le premier événement du mouvement #1000joursAH.

200 bénévoles recherchés!
Pour y arriver, OnRoule recherche près de 200 bénévoles. Vous pouvez vous impliquer le temps d’un avant-midi, d’un après-midi, ou encore toute la journée, selon vos disponibilités. Un lunch vous sera offert, et vous recevrez l’un des T-shirts humoristiques OnRoule.

Inscrivez-vous ici :

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Rick Lavoie teaches parents, educators 
to give positive messages, build on strengths 

By Cindy Davis and Wendy Singer

Christopher Simeone, Rick Lavoie, Linda Aber and
Pam Wener at Ruby Foo's Hotel in Montreal on June 1.
(Photos, Sana Nakleh)
The Montreal Centre for Learning Disabilities brought world-renowned special educator Rick Lavoie to town June 1 to share his teachings in a daylong seminar with nearly 200 teachers, special educators, professionals and parents. Author Lavoie is known for his popular video How Difficult Can This Be: The F.A.T. City Workshop, which allows viewers to experience the frustration, anxiety and tension that children with learning disabilities face in their daily lives.

With his warm sense of humour and gift for story-telling, Lavoie had the audience captivated right from the beginning. He recounted how he was punished often as a child due to his “tremendous” ADHD. The principal and I shared an office!” His experience, and that of a family member who struggled with learning difficulties, provided him first-hand insight into the challenges that children with learning disabilities face on a daily basis, both at home and at school.

Lavoie’s morning session focused on strategies to help improve the behaviour of children, sharing powerful messages that encouraged participants to look at discipline and reactions to behaviour in a different light. He used the example of the “attention seeker,” who may be relentless and is therefore viewed as annoying and ripe for punishment. "The squeaky wheel gets the grease because the squeaky wheel needs the grease,” he said. “We can ignore the behaviour, but not the need.”

                                      Lavoie describes three axioms of the child with learning disabilities:
Rick Lavoie
   1. They don’t want your power; they want some of their own  power.
   2.  If you wouldn’t do it to an adult, don’t do it to a kid.
   3. The pain that a troubled child causes is never greater than the pain that he feels.

According to Lavoie, a child’s identity is completely wrapped up in school, and if he is not succeeding at school, then his impression is that he is failing every day. And, he is probably being punished for his school results and behaviour. Lavoie explains that direction should always be positive. “This hurt runs deep .Negative feedback stops the behaviour, but only in that iteration. Plus, the message gets lost in the fear and anxiety surrounding the punishment. Positive feedback changes behaviour. Changes are gradual but the stress of failure is eliminated."

In the afternoon session, Lavoie focused his conversation on strategies for educators working with parents of children with learning disabilities. He compared the struggle that some parents have with their children’s social issues with that of professionals with patients in crisis mode: their concerns must be taken very seriously, but the child or patient’s actions must not be taken personally. Lavoie said that learning disabilities are often characterized as being classroom problems, but they in fact have an impact on every moment in a child’s day, including sleep. He spoke of some of the 15 areas he identifies in his book It's So Much Work to Be Your Friend in which children with learning disabilities may struggle, and that by lacking in some of these areas, children sometimes break what he calls “social contracts.” He then detailed a process he developed called a “social skills autopsy,” which  is a process used to analyze and correct a break in the social contract.  With the child, he determines the cause of the break, evaluates the extent of the damage, and then gains knowledge which will prevent recurrence.

Lavoie was engaging and relatable, and used personal stories, as well as stories from his practice and career, to solidify his points. One of his most effective analogies was the family of five sleeping on a waterbed. “They are all feeling the waves created by the movement of each member,” he explained. 

The Montreal Centre for Learning Disabilities team. 
Lavoie’s teachings provide deep insight and direction on how to better the lives of children with learning disabilities and the overall health of the family. Stay positive, build on strengths, use “could” instead of “should,” and avoid expressing disappointment, because, he said, your child is probably already overly disappointed in himself.

Lavoie is also the author of  Helping the Child with Learning Disabilities Find Social Successand The Motivation Breakthrough.

Thanks to the MCLD for an enlightening day!

Listen to our Inspirations podcast 
with host Mark Bergman and Rick Lavoie
 right here!

Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Autism Monologues, AWKWARD HUG at the St-Ambroise Montréal Fringe Festival

The Autism Monologues 
and the Montreal premiere of 
Awkward Hug
 at the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival


The Autism Monologues

By Cindy Davis

See me. Hear me.

That is the fundamental message in The Autism Monologues, a play written by Christine Rodriguez and directed by Jen Viens, playing now as part of the St-Ambroise Festival Fringe de Montréal. A follow-up to Rodriguez’s award-winning play Dreaming in Autism, which is an auto-biographical account of her own experience having a son with mild autism, this play widens the lens and brings audiences into the lives of more than two dozen characters, each impacted by the disorder in some way.

“Autism is diverse,” says Rodriguez in a press release. “There is a spectrum of symptoms that range from mild to severe. There is far more than one story to tell. Through The Autism Monologues, I’m able to present autism from many different points of view.”

The cast of The Autism Monologues.

The play consists of a series of short vignettes portraying the multiple faces of autism. From a parent dealing with the diagnosis and struggling to access services, to a therapist detailing the difficulties in her work, to a police officer describing the takedown of an erratic four-year-old with autism at a press conference, every scenario shows a real and raw look at the disorder. Distinctly Montreal, the play makes several references to local spots, government agencies, and reminds the audience on several occasions that it understands the nuances of the city and province in which we live.

The cast of five actors do a wonderful job in taking the audience on the journey with them. Most commendable are the portrayals of individuals with autism – from a nonverbal child, to a likable teen with Asperger’s syndrome lamenting the fact that he believes the disorder is responsible for his restricted iPad use – this play does a fantastic job in demonstrating how autism affects every one differently. 

On its opening night, the audience was visibly taken with many of the scenes, with some nodding in agreement at the anguish of family members. At one point, an audience member shouted “just show them love!” in response to a scene with a character who did not know how to properly engage with a child with autism. Crying was audible during several dramatic scenes dealing with accidental death and suicide.

This play does not sugarcoat autism and its impact on those living with it, and genuinely demonstrates the ripple effect it has on family members, caregivers and society as a whole. It is powerful, well acted, and relatable to so many.

The Autism Monologues runs until June 17 at Studio Jean-Valcourt au Conservatoire. For information, visit and for tickets go to


Don't miss AWKWARD HUG, playing until June 17. With laugh-out-loud humour and heart- breaking honesty, AWKWARD HUG transports us to the discomfort of navigatingadulthood for the rst time. Through masterful storytelling and intimate reflection, Cory explores what constitutes “normal” in our world, and how having two parents with cerebral palsy forces his family outside those margins.

In the summer of 2009, writer and performer Cory Thibert was a quiet 19-year-old living in his parents’ basement. He was working as a server to pay his college tuition, spending time with his animal-loving girlfriend, and starting a theatre company with his best friend. When the Ottawa Affordable Housing Unit informs his parents that they have to move out of the only home Cory has ever known, it sets in motion a series of events that uncover the truth about whathas set his family apart, and force Cory to nd hisvoice...with a scream.

AWKWARD HUG has its Montréal premiere at the St-Ambroise Montréal FRINGE Festival, June 11th to 17th at MAI (Montréal, artsinterculturels). Stay tuned for Cindy's review!

twitter - @corytbear
instagram - @corytbear5
website - 

email -
phone - (613) 724-7093

Monday, May 21, 2018

Autism Awareness at Edward Murphy Elementary School

 Autism Awareness inspires #newfriendships at 
Edward Murphy Elementary School

This past April during Autism Awareness Month, Edward Murphy teachers Ms. Alana Goodings and Ms. Cynthia Fugnitto decided to change things up. Their goal was to create programming that involved all students and staff, and give them the opportunity to get to know, understand  and befriend their peers with autism. Their creative, multiple programs not only heightened awareness about autism, it created new friendships. Here's what they did!


Autism class teachers Ms. Alana Goodings and Ms. Cynthia Fugnitto initiated Fun 15 with Friends, a reverse integration program where mainstream students and staff spend time with students with autism to increase awareness and social interaction. Over 80 students and staff volunteers spent their morning recess, on a rotating basis, interacting with students in their two autism classrooms. 

Goodings and Fugnitto held a sensitization session prior to starting Fun 15 with Friends, where Issues like how to be a friend and sensitivities that a person with autism may have were discussed. Each of the 17 “friend groups” created an artistic tree that was displayed on a wall board outside of one of the autism classrooms, symbolizing new friendships. Goodings and Fugnitto would like to see this type of initiative continue, and hope to do so next year.


Teacher Alana Goodings with logo winners Daniella Alessi, William Campbell,
Jacob Caligiuri, and teacher Cynthia Fugnitto
Fifty-eight Edward Murphy students participated in a logo contest to promote autism awareness. The goal was to have students think about autism and what it means to them, and put it in their own words and drawings. The logos were displayed on a wall board, and reviewed on May 10 by judges Krista Leitham, coordinator of the Autism Speaks Canada – Montreal Walk, Wendy Singer, managing editor of Inspirations News, and Dolores De Michele, school secretary at Edward Murphy. 

The judges were impressed and touched by the sensitivity and beauty of each logo. The winning logo depicting a super-hero style “A” was created by Grade 5 student William Campbell. It was chosen for its message of strength and encouragement, and its replicability. Campbell’s prize was a pizza party for his whole class! 
Logo winner William Campbell beside his winning design "A"

Second prize went to Grade 2 student Daniella Alessi for the sincere message of help and friendship that her logo portrayed. The third winner was Jacob Caligiuri, Grade 1, whose logo shared love and friendship, synonymous with Fun 15 with Friends. It also had no words, representing the many people with autism that are non-verbal.  
2nd prize -  Daniella Alessi
3rd prize -  Jacob Caliguiri

1st prize - William Campbell


Edward Murphy has also embarked on a fundraising campaign to create a book and resource collection of autism-related material in their library. These English and French-language publications are for kids with autism, their siblings, and teachers. Edward Murphy teachers have also began sharing lesson plans. They welcome your support by either donating at Go Fund Me – Autism Awareness Library Initiative 2018 or purchase a book on their wish list at – Autism Awareness Library Wish List or Chapters Indigo Wishlist – Wish List: Alana Goodings. 


Join Team Inspirations EMSB to walk and raise funds and awareness for autism, and have a fun Sunday morning! This year, Team Inspirations, EMSB is co-chaired by Alana Goodings and Cynthia Fugnitto. To register, visit, and search for Team Inspirations EMSB. Walk dollars raised support access to resources, inclusive programming, services for young adults, community grants, and world-leading research. For information, contact Alana at or

Ms. Gooding and Ms. Fugnitto would like to thank the Edward Murphy team for helping to make these projects work. They include Ms. Joyce Palmer  (behaviour technician from the ASD class), Ms. Fatima Beg (ASD child care worker), Ms. Karina Macri (school child care worker), Ms. Melissa Cacchiotti (school child care worker), Mme Aurore Chategnier (grade 1 teacher), Mrs. Alana Byer (grade 3/4 teacher), Ms. Elisa Giampa (Phys Ed teacher), Mme Alex Rubino (Resource teacher), Ms. Shirley Douglas (ASD behaviour technician took over additional supervision duties so we could run groups). A special thanks to Principal Mrs. Cristina Celzi for her supportive efforts, and Ms. Dolores, school secretary. Goodings adds: "We also had several student help set up the bulletin boards etc. I was so overwhelmed by all the people who offered their time and help."

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Journée Nationale de l'Audition - 2 mai / National Hearing Day - May 2

Free hearing tests on May 2 from JNA

Hearing loss is not only a "problem of the elderly.” Our sense and quality of hearing profoundly affects every aspect of our lives. It is essential for language development, for communicating with others, and has a deep impact on both physical and psychological health. It is essential to talk about the prevention of hearing loss and to help people of all ages and abilities who struggle with it. And that is exactly what Journée Nationale de l'Audition du Québec, or JNA, aims to do.

JNA is a non-profit organization which began in France, and has grown to include members from around the world. Their first Canadian branch recently opened in Quebec. 

They have great news to share! JNA Québec has declared May 2 as "Hearing Day” and will offer free hearing screenings all across the province. 

For appointments at your nearest location, check the web site at the "Participants" section here:

JNA Québec committee member Nechama Surik calls on health care professionals, teachers, media personnel, parents and everyone around to help spread the word and to take advantage of this offer for free hearing tests. 

“I suffer from profound hearing loss, and it is only through using two hearing aids that I can really enjoy life. But I also know that many feel that there is a heavy stigma associated with this,” says Surik. “Together, let’s fight this stigma and send as many people as possible to take advantage of the free hearing screenings and other activities on May 2. Together, we will build a better quality of life for everyone.”

For information, contact Nechama at, or Chantal Brodeur, Director, Journée Nationale de l’Audition du Québec at 450-278-7828 or cbrodeur@journé or 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Finding a summer camp for your special needs child

Finding a summer camp for your special needs child

By Fay Schipper

‘Tis the season to put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and search for a summer camp that your special needs child will enjoy and benefit from. Yes, summer is coming quickly and you ought to be ready to embrace it.

Camp is a win-win situation for everyone in the family. It provides you with respite, and the opportunity to spend more quality time with your other children. It also frees you from having to think of activities to do so your child doesn’t spend all of their time watching television, playing on the computer, or listening to music. You may even luck into finding a great camp counselor who can become your babysitter during the year. Your child is the real winner here as she/he practices social skills, improves personal identity and makes new friends while at camp.

Sending your child to a camp can be a frightful experience for you on many levels. Rest assured, camp staff receive ample training on caring for special needs children.

Selecting the camp can be a daunting ordeal. Inspirations is happy to help you look for a camp that welcomes your child. A camp resource directory has been created and can be found on the Inspirations website, Click on the database section, and look for Section 10. It lists day and sleep-away camps. Happy investigating, Sherlock.  
If you have a resource, be it a camp or anything else, that you’d like to add to the database, please email Fay at  

Fay Schipper is the volunteer database consultant at Inspirations.