Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Life after 18 seminar

Life after 18: 
 Transition planning for youth with disabilities

On June 8, we were delighted to welcome over 70 guests to the EMSB to address the concerns that parents, teachers and caregivers are facing when it comes time for their children with special needs to transition from the support of the education sector into adult life. 

This free seminar aimed to redefine what is possible for people with disabilities, providing educational support and resources for families of children with special needs between the ages of 12 to 22 and beyond. 
Nathan Liebowitz

The seminar included a presentation by Nathan Leibowitz, senior investment advisor with Manulife Securities, who informed about financial, legal matters, and government benefits that are available to families.

Leibowitz provided a wealth of information, such as answers to questions such as who will take care of my child after I am gone, and what money will be available for my child to live, public curatorship, and disability tax credits.

Linda Mastroianni, Life Coach and founder of Speaking Autism spoke about the importance of transition planning. "Young adults with special needs require different support and resources than their neurotypical peers. Securing the righ support for them requires proper planning," she shared. "A transition plan will also help prepare the 
youth for the changes and opportunities that lie ahead."

A transition plan will include: helping the youth identify their likes, skills and develop these abilities during their school years; help identify opportunities while setting short and long term goals; detailing and implementing strategies to achieve these goals; and ensuring the individual secures the right support. Transition planning should begin a few years prior to the individual leaving school, usually between the ages of 14 and 15. 
Linda Mastroianni

Key individuals that Mastroianni recommends be involved in the planning are teachers, principals, resource teacher, child care worker, therapists such as speech language, occupational or psychotherapists, etc., parents and caregivers, and their health and community workers such as CLSC, CRDI, CSSS, rehab centres. The plan will integrate everything from transportation to self-care, socializing, sports and leisure, and housing.

Jacques Monfette

Jacques Monfette, principal of Marymount Adult Education Centre in Cote Saint-Luc, spoke about the programs that are available for adult students with special needs at the centre, including Social Integration Services (SIS) and the Social Vocational Integration Services (SVIS) programs. In addition, the school houses a collaborative program between the EMSB and Giant Steps School for students with autism, and the C.A.R.E. Centre for people with physical disabilities.

Monfette stated: "In education we tend to forget something very important. It's called happiness. Many of our students have gone from failure to failure to failure. We try to find something that will make them happy and change this cycle." Galileo Adult Centre also has SIS and SVIS programs, as will John F. Kennedy 
in the coming school year. Consult the EMSB website to see more adult and vocational centre 

To round off a most informative evening, social workers Natalie Correia and Alexandra Leblanc Etienne, from CSSS de la Pointe-de-l'Ile, Equipe DI-TED, spoke about the multitude of resources available to families to access through their CSSS, CLSC or CRDI, to help navigate through the transition years. 

Natalie Correia and Alexandra Leblanc Etienne

Special thanks to Marla Vineberg for bringing this seminar to Inspirations and the EMSB and organizing the seminar, and Pina Evangelista, TEVA (Transition école vie active) Consultant, Student Services Department, EMSB for her support in planning the event. 

Guests had the opportunity to visit exhibitors prior to the seminar including representatives from Action Main-D'oeuvre, I Can Dream Theatre, The Big Blue Hug, and Inspirations.

  It is safe to say that seminar attendees left with a great deal of information in hand. What was clear is that the discussion has only just begun, and must be continued. Stay tuned for a feature article about TEVA in our Fall 2016/Winter 2017 edition.

Read our Spring / Summer 2016 print edition at

Friday, June 3, 2016

Front to back portrays beautiful lives of people living with spina bifida

Front to Back:
Steve Kean explores beauty, stories, and 
Spina Bifida through photography

In honour of National Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Awareness Month and Quebec's week honouring persons with disabilities, l’Association de spina-bifida et d’hydrocéphalie du Québec (ASBHQ) has launched an extraordinary photography exhibition called Front to Back, featuring the work of Toronto-area photographer Steve Kean.

The exhibition includes 18 portraits of nine people who have spina bifida, each of which were eager to share their stories and body for the sake of exploration, awareness, breaking down barriers, interpretation, and beauty. 

Steve Kean at the vernissage of Front to Back, at Café L'Auditoire

Photographer Steve Kean, who was present at the show's vernissage on June 2 at Café L'auditoire on St. Laurent Boulevard in Montreal, is a commercial photographer who also has spina bifida. He is passionate about showing the inner and outer beauty of people born with the neural tube defect. In Front to Back, he focused his work on showing his subjects "as they are and how they want to be seen every day."

A unique concept, each of the nine participants is displayed in two photographs. The first is a colour portrait of their 'front', meaning their faces and front of their bodies. Front photos were taken in a setting that was most meaningful to them. The second photograph, portrayed in black and white, are nudes. They show each participant's back, where the effects of spina bifida are visible. 

Laurence Leser, Director General of ASBHQ
and  photographer Steve Kean

Spina bifida is part of a group of birth defects called neural tube defects. The neural tube is the embryonic structure that eventually develops into the baby's brain and spinal cord and the tissues that enclose them.Normally, the neural tube forms early in the pregnancy and closes by the 28th day after conception. In babies with spina bifida, a portion of the neural tube fails to develop or close properly, causing defects in the spinal cord and in the bones of the spine. Spina bifida occurs in various forms of severity. When treatment for spina bifida is necessary, it's done surgically, although such treatment doesn't always completely resolve the problem.
With Front to Back, Kean is expanding the idea of what is beautiful, asking people to rethink beautiful. "I want people to see us. That's where society needs to start," shares Kean, adding that people are too quick to see a disability and make judgements. "Well over 50 percent of people with spina bifida are unemployed. Employers see a body broken, someone who will need to take time away from the office. They don't see the skills first."

Kean showcases the stories of each individual who posed for his exhibition. These include why participants chose to have their portraits taken. Laurence shared, "I was really happy to have the opportunity to participate in Steve's project. I did not hesitate one second before agreeing to be a part of Front to Back. I saw a beautiful way of showing spina bifida. In the difference lies strength. I did not think putting the focus on my scar and my deformity would give such great pictures and that what comes out of these pictures the most is the beauty of my personality."

Kean portrays the 'front' in colour as it shows real life. The black and white 'backs' make you stop and take another look. "Black and white gets right to the theme artistically," shared Kean. The photographs help reclaim the dignity of people living with spina bifida, taking them to a place of beauty and out of the medical disability model."

Montreal is the second stop of Front to Back. It premiered in Toronto. Kean hopes to photograph people in every major city across Canada, show his exhibition, and end his tour with a grand show in Ottawa.

Kean's impactful, beautiful, thought and discussion-provoking exhibition will be on display at Café L'Auditoire, 5214 Boul. Saint-Laurent until June 9, 2016.

For information contact or 514-340-9019. For information about AHBSQ, visit