Friday, November 28, 2014

Rick Hansen: Difference Maker in Motion visits Montreal

Linda Mahler and Wendy Singer with Rick Hansen at the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers convention

Rick Hansen: A Difference Maker in Motion
"You never know when the penny will drop"

By Wendy Singer

It is not every day that we get to meet a true Canadian hero. And when we do, it is a true privilege. After a day of meeting and greeting teachers at the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers convention on November 27, Linda Mahler and I joined hundreds of Quebec teachers to listen to Rick Hanson deliver the key note address of the convention.

After being greeted with a standing ovation, Mr. Hanson got right down to the meat of his story, which is laced with optimism, love, support, and dreams for the future. Hansen was injured in a truck accident when he was 15 years old. The diagnosis: a spinal cord injury (SCI) that paralyzed his physical functions below his waist. 

"My whole life felt like it was shattered along with my spine," shared Hansen to a captivated audience. "It hit me like a brick. I was ready to give up on the most important thing in life - hope."

After spending months in a Stryker bed that turned him every three hours, Hansen came to a realization that would change the course of his life: "I knew that if I  could start working my arms things would happen."

And so they did. Hansen tells his story with such passion that his energy is contagious. I'm certain I am not alone in saying that I had goosebumps throughout his entire presentation. It was energizing, inspiring, real.

Hansen's change of focus from stagnation to recuperation led him to his greatest obstacle: overcoming his own view of his challenges. The moment that he realized that he was still the same person, he still wanted to teach physical education to kids, and that "it's not about your legs, it's about your heart" was a pivotal one. 

As Hansen wheeled himself across the stage with varying degrees of strength that matched the tempo of his thoughts, he rolled his audience right along with him, providing inspirational nugget after inspirational nugget.

"This chair is not a symbol of disability, it's my chariot."

"It's not what happens to you, it's what you do with it."

Hansen's family and teachers never let him off the hook. They continuously inspired him to remove the handicap he was putting on himself. In turn, he encourage every teacher in the room to continue encouraging their students to follow their dreams.

Best known for his Man in Motion World Tour - a 26-month trek that logged more than 40,000 km through 34 countries and raised $26 million for SCI research and quality of life initiatives, Hansen was one of the final torchbearers in the 2010 Winter Olympics, and was profiled and spoke during the opening ceremony for the 2010 Winter Paralympics.

Like Terry Fox, who was a close friend of his, Hansen is an international hero. His Tour taught him that no matter what, you never give up. It taught him how to shift attitudinal barriers that don't need to be there, and that shifting views is possible. As he learnt as he was carried up the Great Wall of China (which now has a wheelchair access ramp), "there are no barriers, no walls that can't be climbed."

Married with three daughters, Hansen is busy with the Rick Hansen Foundation ( which focuses on improving the quality of life for people living with SCI and other disabilities; addressing conservation and preservation of the world’s resources; creating a fully inclusive society, where every person can contribute in meaningful ways to their community. 

The Rick Hansen School Program is a comprehensive set of resources for administrators, teachers and students designed to increase disability awareness, accessibility and inclusion, and empower young people to make a difference in their school, community and the world.

Teachers and administrators say that the Program decreases bullying, improves student attitudes and perceptions of people with disabilities, and results in student initiatives to improve classrooms, schools and communities. To learn more, visit

Hansen's presentation is full of genuine emotion and humour. From anecdotes of his acceptance as the first person in a wheelchair into the Phys Ed program at the University of British Columbia to bungee jumping with Rick Mercer, he made us feel like we were sitting in his living room on a casual afternoon.

Hansen continues to grow and inspire. He has moved from supporting SCI to finding a cure. "The World Health Organizations states that there are 1.3 billion people living with disabilities. We need to live while we dream for cures. We need role models and leaders to lead the way." This Man in Motion is all that, in every sense of the word, and more. He is a Difference Maker.

Visit for more information.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hannibal The Musical: I Can Dream Theatre Group

Hannibal is magical with the I Can Dream Theatre Group 

By Wendy Singer

I am a theatre buff, and look forward to theatre nights with great excitement. But nothing compares to the anticipation of the yearly production of the I Can Dream Theatre Group's musical comedy.

Now with it's third production under its belt, it is safe to say that the I Can Dream troupe has  developed a loyal following. A following of community members that can't wait to be entertained by this group, that cheers from their seats during performances, and that starts the countdown of days until the next production the moment the curtain falls on the current show!

As Inspirations's Coordinator of Educational Outreach Linda Mahler exclaimed after bringing two friends to this year's musical comedy Hannibal the Musical: "It only takes one show to become a fan of I Can Dream."

This year's production included 20 cast members, five of which were new to the troupe. All have different abilities, be they singing, dancing and acting, and have various special needs from autism to Down syndrome. And once again, the triple threat of Ada Masciarelli (Writer and Director), Michele Matthews (Musical Director and Choreographer), and Tricia Bartley (Production Manager) provided outstanding direction to all cast members, ensuring that all actors had the opportunity to shine on stage.

The cast of I Can Dream's Hannibal The Musical. (Photo credit, Katherine Meyendorff)
In a mere six months, the trio of Masciarelli, Matthews and Bartley brought the cast together to spoof the disreputable Hannibal Lecter, who was masterfully and comically played by the talented Andrew Raymond Perez.

The scripts of I Can Dream Theatre are known for their comical twists and turns that reunite us with pop culture, from characters from the Brady Bunch to Gilligan's Island. Their plots unwind while intertwined with musical numbers that get the crowd moving and cheering in their seats.

All numbers were fantastic. We were particularly excited to see Maxwell Po (playing Adam Cartwright) leading the number I Saw Her Standing There with a beautiful voice and great dance moves. Max had joined us at Inspirations just two days earlier to help us distribute our Fall / Winter edition. He was relaxed and excited about the show, but didn't let the cat out of the bag and tell us what a talented performer he is!

Maxwell Po and cast.

Steven Atme, long time friend of ours at Inspirations, played Father de Bricissart and Fred Lecter, father of brothers Hannibal and Harry Lecter (wonderfully played by Gabriel Fadda). In the role of Fred Lecter, Atme presented a captivating monologue that explored his character's feelings after his wife left him and his sons. It was intense, moving, and had more than one audience member in tears. But what followed blew the roof off of the show! Atme and Paul Baloukas (nailing the role of cowboy Ben Cartwright - hillbilly accent and all), performed a resounding rendition of The Prayer. This performance is not to be missed as they mingled English with Italian in their perfectly pitched operatic tones. The audience ate the performance up, breaking into applause half way through the number. Treat yourself to a watch of this video at It has already gone viral with 130 shares and counting on Facebook alone! Is a visit to the Ellen Show the next step for these two prodigies?

Paul Baloukas and Steven Atme singing The Prayer.

Backstage with some cast members. (Photo credit, Katherine Meyendorff)
Congratulations to the entire cast, crew, directorial team and The Dreamers Band for an exceptional production. Hannibal the Musical not only gave people with special needs a platform to develop their abilities and entertain, it subtly addressed the issues of difference.

Ainslie MacDonald (playing Jan Brady) and Kelsey-Love Armstrong (playing Marsha Brady)
(Photo credit, Katherine Meyendorff)
Steven Atme, Paul Baloukas, Jamal Thomas, and Maxwell Po.

Auditions for next year's production will take place in December. Contact I Can Dream at Connect with them at I Can Dream Theatre Group-Montreal on Facebook, @icandreamMTL on Twitter, and their website:

Check out I Can Dream's Happy video at

ps. Rumour has it that Michele Matthews has already begun choreography for next year's show. Stay tuned for details!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The C.A.R.E. Centre hypnotizes for funds

The C.A.R.E. Centre hypnotizes for funds

C.A.R.E. Program Director Olivia Quesnel, with C.A.R.E. client Donna, and hypnotist Ariel Sherker.

By Wendy Singer

On Sunday, November 2, we attended a stage hypnosis show and fundraiser for The C.A.R.E. Centre at the Harold Greenspon Auditorium in Cote Saint-Luc.

A grassroots group founded by parents, the C.A.R.E. Centre is a day-centre for adults with physical disabilities. Located at Marymount Adult Education Centre, English Montreal School Board (EMSB) in Cote Saint-Luc, they offer recreational and educational activities to adults over 21 with physical disabilities. Services are provided in English.

C.A.R.E. has been in existence as a non-profit organization for the past 16 years with the help of the EMSB, SACA and the SOC. Clients are offered a wide range of recreational and educational actives from arts and crafts to music, current events, baking, yoga and meditation, outings, and more. Their high client-to-staff ratio allows them to offer individual help with activities, which enables clients to participate to the fullest of their abilities.

C.A.R.E. also helps clients contact the necessary resources to help them live full and enriching lives, from adapted equipment, wheelchair repair, to housing information. The nature of the centre enables staff and clients to really get to know each other and form  special bonds and long lasting friendships. It is a place to learn, to socialize, to communicate and have fun.
Many of the C.A.R.E. clients were out on November 2 to support the organization. The crowd was warmed up with a hilarious opening comedy act by local comic Dan Laxer.

Comedian Dan Laxer performs at the Harold Greenspon Auditorium in Cote Saint-Luc

And then..the talented Montreal hypnotist Ariel Sherker took to the stage with a group of volunteers who were eager to be hypnotized, and subsequently become the highlights of this afternoon show.
Volunteers with Ariel Sherker at the Harold Greenspon Auditorium 
Through an intricate and gentle hypnotic procedure, Ariel gradually focused on four of her volunteers who were deeply hypnotized. Under hypnosis, these volunteers had fun freely expressing themselves. From dancing various styles of dance to Elvis impersonation, to fly swatting, these four people were ready to accept any suggestion that Ariel put forward. This, of course, provided excellent entertainment for the spectators! Deeper than the laughs, it was quite fascinating to see how hypnosis can reach parts of the brain that we so rarely access.

The four volunteers who went the deepest into hypnosis are captured dancing, with hypnotist Ariel Sherker

Congratulations to the organizers for a wonderful event, raising funds for an important Centre. For information about the C.A.R.E. Centre, visit or call 514-383-7200 #6205. For information about hypnosis visit

Monday, October 20, 2014

The All Abilities Expo brought 70 exhibitors together 
to share their services and expertise

On October 19th, 70 exhibitors gathered at Stade Uniprix for the largest annual gathering of individuals, families, advocates, organizations, and agencies that cater to individuals with special needs and disabilities.

We were proud to be a part of the Quebec Special Needs Association event, which showcased  exhibitor services that included Assante Capital Mangement Ltd, ABR Canada, iLoc Technologies,  Michele Perry, Physipro, Island Hyperbarics Centre, The Big Blue Hug, Lakeshore Soccer, Yaldei, Centre Neuropsychologie et de Psychologie de Laval, Rekinéxion, Giant Steps, Étoile de Pacho, and Proset Autism.

The organizers chose a perfect venue,  with ample space for expo attendees to leisurely visit exhibitors. The Stade Uniprix was well located, fully accessible, and well attended by families and individuals with special needs. Kudos to Marla Vineberg, Event and Exhibition Manager, Quebec Special Needs Association, for seeking out so many reputable and varied services, who shared their expertise with the hundreds of guests that came in search of new services, ideas, and support.

Master of Ceremony Barry Morgan, host of CJAD's The Barry Morgan Show was on board to facilitate the event programming, which included entertainment by Steven Abadi, who sang at the opening ceremony, The I Can Dream Theatre Group, which serenaded guests upon arrival, Luca "Lazylegz" Patuelli and his dance troupe who offered hip hop demonstrations, and Andre Langevin, who shared a karate demonstration and lesson.

Karate classes for children with autism and their parents have been developed, adapted and based on the personal experience of teachers karate André Langevin and his wife Nathalie Paré.

Children were treated to a babysitting service, which looked like tons of fun, and they probably enjoyed perusing many of the 'kid friendly' exhibitors, who sets up a wonderful spread of toys that children are welcome to try out.

The Expo gave us the opportunity to catch up with old friends, and meet new ones! We were particularly pleased to end the day with a visit from three delightful visitors from The Action Centre. We enjoy every opportunity we get to connect, exchange stories, and share a laugh or two with the community we strive to support. Thanks you to the Quebec Special Needs Association for providing us this invaluable opportunity. We encourage everyone we met to keep in touch and share your stories. They are all, well, inspirational!

Erika Tencer and Ann Crabtree
                                                              The Big Blue Hug
                                                               Jennifer and Robin

For more photos, check out our Facebook page :

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tips from Dr. Raby Bouras, Ph.D. Pediatric Neuropsychologist

Tips to assist higher functioning students with 
autism spectrum disorders achieve their potential

Guest Blogger:
Dr. Raby Bouras, Ph.D. Pediatric Neuropsychologist

When trying to support their special needs child or student, the first and most important issue one
needs to address is to try to understand what their “special needs” are. Two children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be very different. Needs, services, accommodations or any other interventions should be tailored to that child’s specific profile. To complicate matters further, a child’s profile varies throughout the years, and can vary by leaps and bounds after years of plateauing. Having a child assessed every few years by a paediatric neuropsychologist allows one to understand where the student’s strengths and weaknesses lie at each stage.  

Knowing reliable and pertinent measures such as their intellectual profile, true reading, writing and math skills, attention and executive functioning, and general level of social and adaptive functioning, are critical.  This knowledge helps us to understand the student’s needs at each stage of their general academic development.

With the basic knowledge that a neuropsychological follow-up provides, you can determine what resources to put in place. Although all  students on the spectrum can be supported, the following thoughts are specifically aimed at those that are “higher functioning”, meaning those who struggle through grade school, persevere through an adapted curriculum and are able to begin high school with at least a 3rd cycle reading and writing level. Whether they need six or seven years to achieve that level should not matter. What matters is that you can support their efforts, and are able to gage YOUR expectations and personal time table.

Special tools, therapies and minor accommodations to their learning environment can have major positive impacts. Knowing your student’s true academic level allows you to adapt their curriculum appropriately. For instance, typical cognitive profiles of students on the spectrum closely resemble those of students with learning disabilities (LDs). Although we cannot speak of LDs proper (i.e. dysorthographia, or ADD, etc.), accommodations used for students with LDs can have the same positive results on those with ASD.

Electronic dictionaries, computers with specialised software that help with reading comprehension and speed, additional time to finalize assignments and exams, and even separate testing environments can be game changers.

A pharmaceutical intervention is at times recommended. By addressing their inattentiveness and impulsivity, some prescriptions gives students the opportunity to make use of their intelligence, reach their potential, succeed, and follow their peers.

Social skills vary greatly from one student on the spectrum to the next.  Direct contact with an experienced practitioner can offer an objective measure of their social knowhow. Options available include social skills training, distant shadowing, or even joining a theatre company. All present new horizons and further inspire academic integration. Sometimes, simply allowing a student to repeat a year, to give them time to grow and mature, spontaneously solves some of the problems. Always remember that a child’s education is not a 100 meter dash, but rather a marathon. It is not necessarily the first one out of the gate that wins.

Dr. Raby Bouras, is a neuropsychologist specialised in paediatric care. He holds a doctoral degree from the only neuropsychology program in Quebec fully accredited by the Canadian Psychological Association. Having completed post-doctoral level training at such prestigious institutes as Havard Medical School and the Montreal Children’s Hospital, Dr. Bouras has extensive knowledge of childhood development. He is currently the director of the Laval Centre for Psychology and Neuropsychology. For information, visit or call the Centre at 514-312-7046.

*Ideas shared in this blog are those of the guest blogger.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Amazing Adventure of Relationships: a musical ethnodrama by The Centre for the Arts in Human Development at Concordia University

The Centre for the Arts in Human Development at Concordia University presents:
The Amazing Adventure of Relationships:
a musical ethnodrama

June 12, 13 & 14, 2014

The Centre for the Arts in Human Development at Concordia University (CAHD), established in 1996, is an educational, clinical and research centre serving adults with developmental disabilities and other special needs populations. Located at the university's Loyola Campus in Montreal, Quebec, the Centre is under the auspices of the Department of Creative Arts Therapies in the Faculty of Fine Arts.

Under the direction of Dr. Stephen Snow, every second year CAHD presents a musical ethnodrama. As Dr. Snow describes, "an ethnodrama is a research play because it asks questions. The audience becomes co-researchers as they watch the show. The play is the research report." Actor Amanda explained how the six month process of creating the ethnodrama worked: "We dealt with the issues with perseverance. We didn't give up. We were taught to give 100 percent. And that's what we did."

I had the honour of attending the preview of this show this morning. Produced by Lenore Vosberg, The Amazing Adventures of Relationships is played by 17 actors, who, with enormous courage, share their innermost thoughts and experiences about relationships. It is honest, endearing, and thoughtful. It is not often that we are given the gift of exploration. And this group was fortunate enough to work together to ask, and answer their questions about relationships, intimacy and love.
The show is broken down into three parts.

In the first part, the actors explore issues that include the importance of family, friends, pets, conflict, love, being hurt. All the nitty gritty ins and outs of relationships. Intertwined with catchy and moving musical numbers, the honesty was touching, and I'm certain, due to their reaction, that everyone in the audience (myself included) could relate the material to their own life experiences. 
The second part brings us right into a sex education class where lessons about sexuality, that are often kept hidden, are openly discussed, cleverly including the audience in the 'class'. This bold experiment worked extremely well, opening up an important discussion, particularly about safe sexual health. In addition, by using a baseball analogy, they cleverly demonstrate the participants varying views on intimacy, sexuality, love and relationships.
The third part was most touching to me, where each actor shared their dreams for the future. I won't share those with you, I think you will see what I mean when you see the show. It will make you think hard about your own future dreams.
The ethnodrama concludes with a talk back with the actors. Audience members loved the show, and had a lot to share. 

This ethnodrama is bold, provocative, powerful, emotional, serous and seriously funny. Be prepared to laugh and cry, and share the lessons you will learn! Congratulations to all involved. And thank you.
The show runs from June 12 to 14 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Ignatius of Loyola Church, 4455 West Broadway. 
Unique in Canada, CAHD uses four types of creative arts therapies – art, drama, music and dance/movement – to promote autonomy, improve self-confidence and social skills, and enhance overall quality of life for its participants.
The Centre's mandate is fourfold: providing a setting for therapeutic programs in the creative arts therapies, facilitating student education and training, fostering research, and educating the public, by creating awareness of the abilities of persons with special needs.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Le Défi Sportif Altergo is about to begin!

Le Défi Sportif Altergo - April 28 - May 4

World unique, Le Défi Sportif Altergo is an international event that gathers athletes from elite to newcomers, with all types of disabilities. From April 28 to May 4, about 4,600 athletes from approximately 15 countries compete in Montreal, Longueuil and Boucherville. This event values the success of athletes with disabilities and contributes to spreading the notion of universal accessibility.

In honour of this event, we are spotlighting two elite Quebec athletes - Marco Dispaltro, and 'Capitaine' Bruno Haché. We think you'll enjoy reading their profiles.

Check out the Défi Sportif website at for the schedule of events. It's an amazing experience, so try to get their to cheer these awesome athletes on! And follow their news on Facebook: Profiles provided courtesy of Défi Sportif Altergo.

Marco Dispaltro: on his way to the top

He has practised wheelchair rugby and tennis at the highest levels. Marco Dispaltro has been practising boccia for four years now and is vying for the title of best player in his category in the world, nothing less.

Presently second in world rankings in the BC4[1] category, the London Paralympics bronze medalist in doubles is on his way to the top. And he hopes the points he accumulates at the Défi sportif AlterGo will propel him to the first rank.

A Canadian first: a World Open Boccia event

This is the first year that the Défi's international boccia tournament will be sanctioned by the Boccia International Sports Federation (BisFed) and that the points will go towards world rankings. Athletes from Brazil, Russia and even Australia will be coming to Montreal.

Should he finish among the first six contenders, Dispaltro could overtake the number one, Chinese athlete Yuansen Zheng. The Saint-Jérôme athlete knows only too well  he will face stiff competition. " The Brazilians are very strong and they will do their best to stop me from becoming number one".

 "2014 is a big year for me", says Dispaltro. He will be participating in his first World boccia championships next fall. He is ready: "I have worked on some technical details and mastered even more difficult throws. I function well under pressure so the table is set", he acknowledges.
Photo credit (Marco Dispaltro) : Associação Nacional de Desporto para Deficientes / ANDE
New recruits and elite coming together at the Défi sportif AlterGo

Although he has only been practising boccia for four years, Marco Dispaltro has been following the evolution of the sport at the Défi sportif AlterGo. "At the international level, the number of athletes has been growing year over year. I especially like to see the level of interest at the school level. They are the future of our sport and I understand how important it is to them to rub shoulders with the elite. It is inspiring for them, but also for us. I am touched by their sense of wonder", adds Dispaltro, who is very involved in different aspects of initiation to the sport.

The sport has also gained in popularity on the world scene. "People are taking us more seriously. There has been a vast improvement in the depth of the teams. Boccia is in full swing and it is probably one of the fastest growing paralympic sports in the world", he observes.

Suffering from muscular dystrophy, Marco Dispaltro knows that only sport can slow down the progress of the disease. "Sport has changed my life. Were it not for sport, I would probably be in a power chair and have difficulty moving", he insists.

At age 46 , he hopes to enjoy a long career. When he can no longer throw, he knows he will be able to use ramps and is already working on customized designs. "Some people pity me when they see my condition deteriorating. I see it as an opportunity to practise new sports", he concludes.

[1] This division is for players with a severe locomotor dysfunction on all four limbs and little dynamic control of the trunk. These players can't be assisted although they can ask for help from the referee to pick up a ball or to get on the court, for example. Source : Association québécoise de sports pour paralytiques cérébraux.

Capitaine Bruno

Dès sa nomination de capitaine de l’équipe nationale de goalball, l’été dernier, Bruno Haché a conduit ses coéquipiers vers la médaille d’or aux Championnats panaméricains. « C’est le point marquant de ma carrière jusqu’à maintenant », admet l’athlète de 36 ans, qui a pris la relève de son mentor, Mario Caron, maintenant à la retraite après sept participations aux Jeux paralympiques.

« Jouer à ses côtés a toujours été intimidant, mais évoluer auprès de lui a aussi été une fierté. J’ai beaucoup appris sur les tactiques offensives et défensives grâce à lui. Il nous laisse un grand héritage. »

Le talent de Bruno traverse même les frontières. Il l’a appris à son insu  lors d’un tournoi au Michigan, l’hiver dernier. « Les Américains parlaient de mes lancers, de ma puissance et de la difficulté de jouer contre moi. C’est une fierté pour moi de voir mes qualités de joueur reconnues à l’extérieur du pays. Cela démontre aussi que je continue à progresser », se réjouit-il.

Un coup de pouce du Défi sportif AlterGo
Son intégration au sein de l’équipe nationale, Bruno Haché le doit un peu au Défi sportif AlterGo. Deux ans après ses débuts, c’est un camp d’entraînement qui l’amène à y participer en 2003. Bruno impressionne les dirigeants de la formation canadienne et obtient sa place, ce qui le mènera partout sur la planète.
Photo credit (Marco Dispaltro) : Associação Nacional de Desporto para Deficientes / ANDE

Trois Jeux paralympiques plus tard, le Montréalais a toujours rendez-vous avec le Défi sportif AlterGo. Mais ce n’est plus à titre de joueur. Il reste sur les lignes de côté et côtoie la relève. « Je suis sur place pour parler avec les athlètes et leur partager mon expérience au sein de l’équipe nationale. »

Cette année, Bruno Haché sera particulièrement attentif aux séances d’échauffement des équipes participantes. Une initiative de la fédération provinciale et de son préparateur physique le met en vedette dans une vidéo qui reproduit une séance d’activation d’avant-match. Cette vidéo a été distribuée à travers la province. « Il y a trois niveaux et c’est spécifique au goalball pour éviter les blessures », explique celui qui espère reconnaître l’application de certains procédés. Pour Bruno, c’est une autre façon de partager son expérience. « Je trouve ça important d’aider la relève. Lorsque c’était moi qui débutais, j’ai eu cette chance. C’est à mon tour de redonner. »

L’histoire d’un sportif
Actuellement ouvrier de maintenance à l'Institut Nazareth et Louis Braille, Bruno Haché a commencé à perdre la vue à l’âge de 18 ans en raison de sa condition génétique. « J’ai peu de vision centrale ». L’année suivant son diagnostic, le Québécois n’en mène pas large. C’est grâce au hockey sonore qu’il renoue avec le sport. « L’entraîneur de l’équipe de goalball jouait aussi et m’avait remarqué, même si après un an d’inactivité, je n’étais pas en super forme. Il a réalisé que j’évoluais rapidement et m’a invité à essayer le goalball. »

« Au premier entraînement, j’étais vidé après l’échauffement. Mais ça m’a donné le goût de me mettre en forme et d’évoluer. Ça m’a aussi redonné confiance. »

Bruno Haché n’a pas fait une croix sur le hockey sonore et a récemment recommencé à chausser ses patins. Puisque le sport se développe, il ne dirait pas non à un changement de cap. « Reste à savoir si la discipline sera au programme des Jeux paralympiques de 2022! » conclut-il.

Check out our Inspirations EXPRESS for more information about the Défi!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Montreal Autism in Motion Conference and Exhibit: Forward thinkers advance autism

Montreal Autism in Motion Conference and Exhibit: 
Forward thinkers advance autism

It was an uplifting weekend for the over 200 people that attended the Montreal Autism in Motion Conference and Exhibit on March 30, 2014 at the Crowne Plaza Montreal Airport.

Organizers Andre Pereira and Tracy Pennimpede, in conjunction with Giant Steps School, handpicked a list of speakers that shone an encouraging light on autism; shifting from what conference presenter Dr. Stephen Shore described as “the closed door of ‘disability’ and ‘disorder’” to a mindset that leads to lifelong success.

 Andre Pereira, Tracy Pennimpede, Nick Katalifos, and Nick Primiano (Director of Giant Steps School)

The day began with a keynote address from Nick Katalifos, Chairman of the Giant Steps School and Resource Centre, who shared his family’s journey from the moment their son was diagnosed with autism, and the role that the schools play in their community. Katalifos’ story resonated with many, particularly when he shared his closing remarks, “We’ve got a long way to go, but we are very proud of how far he’s come.”

Presenters included medical professional Dr. Laurent Mottron, Soma Mukhopadhyay, who Skyped in to discuss the methodology of the Soma Rapid Prompting Method, and Lucila Guerrero, an artist who has Asperger's Syndrome.

Presenter Dr. Stephen Shore was diagnosed with “Atypical Development and strong autistic tendencies,” and deemed “too sick” for outpatient treatment. He was non-verbal until he was four years old. With much support, he is now a professor at Adelphi University where his research focuses on matching best practice to the needs of people with autism.

There is no one better to explain autism than someone who has it. “Before any teaching begins you have to create a trusted relationship with the learner,” said Dr. Shore, whose anecdotes of bathroom etiquette engaged his audience in a lively discussion about the trickiness of rules. “We spend so much time telling people the rules and that they aren’t doing things right. We need to show them what they are doing right so we can increase their self-esteem."

Specialisterne Canada sees integrating people on the autism spectrum into the Canadian workforce as a series of opportunities rather than problems to overcome. This 10-year-old company that began in Denmark finds jobs that people with autism can succeed at, and creates an environment within businesses in which they can be productive. They eliminate the traditional interview process that proves to be so difficult for people with an ASD. “We focus on talent and what people can do,” says Alan Kriss, CEO of Specialisterne Canada during his presentation. "We go to businesses and inform early adapters of the opportunity before them in hiring people with an ASD."

Kristine Barnett, author and mother of 14-year-old Jacob, who has an IQ higher than Einstein, addressed a crowd that included many who had read her book The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius. Barnett also discussed ‘rules’…a recurring theme over the course of the conference.. and how beneficial it can be to break them.

Nobody knew Jacob had autism when the book was published because of Barnett’s awareness of the power of labels. “First thing you get is ‘can’t”, she shared.

Jacob developed an original theory in Physics when he was 12 years old. “They said that he should learn social skills in hopes of avoiding an institution. Guess what? He is in an institution now – The Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario,” says Barnett.

Barnett shares a potent message on the power of unearthing the hidden abilities in all children with an ASD: “Look for their special skills and talents. Ask them what they want to do. It is important to let them tell you what they want. It’s time to see kids with autism in the way we finally should be looking at them.”

45 exhibitors enjoyed sharing their services with the public in a lively, open space.

 Mi & Stu and their delicious gluten-free treats

On March 30th, Montreal Autism in Motion, in conjunction with Giant Steps School, hosted a Roundtable on Advancing with Autism that brought over 30 stakeholders, including government, service providers and parents, together to exchange ideas and collaborate on future projects to benefit the community at large. The agenda included creating an Autism-Friendly city, education and employment, and housing and respite.

It was an engaging weekend that brought much needed light to the future of autism, on the eve of Autism Awareness Month.

Posted by Wendy Singer, Managing Editor, Inspirations Newspaper

Check out the news in the inaugural edition of the
Inspirations Express!

Featuring a full page of Autism Awareness Month activities