“I See The Road Ahead”

J.J. Legare, 40, lives in a mid-sized urban eastern Ontario community with his father. Together, J.J., his father George, and his independent facilitator, Helene share their experience of hope, fear, courage, acceptance, and joy on their journey of deepening their sense of community belonging, increasing confidence, and growing new beginnings, interests and independence.

When JJ and George met their independent facilitator, Helene, their first meeting was with their Service Coordination Case Manager that the family had been working with since the passing of George’s wife and JJ’s mother, Ursula, one year ago. Together by phone, walking, and driving, Helene’s planning process with the family was informed by common interests, and the hopes and dreams they shared. Gradually they figured out what they wanted to do together. JJ shared his interest in talking politics, shopping, swimming and golfing and trying new things. Helene says, “I thought it was very trusting that George and JJ shared their past with me, sharing the well preserved special remembrances of importance to JJ; special achievement awards, certificates, grad books, photos, and letters from a long-distance friend.” As Helene is getting to know JJ’s hopes, dreams, strengths, and his family, she is able to see their pride in sharing accomplishments and the thoughtfulness they bring to their hopes and dreams. Helene notes that they now work as a team toward increasing independence, expanding activity, and building new relationships.

Working collaboratively with Helene has been an enormous support to George and JJ in imagining possibilities for expanded relationships and growing opportunities. Before this, their contact with the respite support worker that swam with JJ had lapsed. New friendships had not yet been built since their move from Toronto in 2002. They had also faced a time of great transition in their lives, newly living together since the passing of Ursula. Their openness, thoughtfulness, and gentleness in sharing these past experiences are gifts, recognized by the facilitator. Helene notes how much JJ and George contributed to building this trusting relationship. Helene listens for gifts and interests and continues weaving connections in the community with others who share those interests.

Early on in the process, Helene was able to identify JJ’s strengths: “good orientation, he is open hearted, likes to share, is very proud of his accomplishments, and is a good cook.” The shared activities JJ participates in with his father further illuminate his interests and gifts of JJ that will inform new possibilities ahead; gardening, painting, and cooking. In taking the time to understand the family’s hopes and fears, Helene also supports George to talk about what he is worried about for the future. George shares, “This is something that I never expected to happen and I am glad that it happened. We had no idea that JJ was going to have these kinds of experiences.” Both Helene and George share how it is not always easy to balance the feeling of wanting to protect JJ and letting him explore. George adds, “When you weigh the opportunities he has to live, he doesn’t have the experience at working.”

During their planning process, Helene, George and JJ explore steps they could take together and some tools they could use to bridge these goals and dreams at this time in their lives. Helene explains, “Tools that are helpful are the visuals and exploring the Internet together is a good way for us to connect.” This is where the ‘Me’ book came in. The use of a phone camera and computers to support the exploration of goals, jobs that JJ might like to do, and the documentation of activities was also instrumental.

Helene enhances JJ’s existing relationships with Causeway, an employment support program offered through ODSP employment supports, going together with him to explore his interests weekly and taking pictures to contribute to the ‘Me’ book. George adds, “It is new to JJ having someone go with him to explore his interests, having weekly visits, and taking pictures.” JJ and George clearly expressed an interest in renewing the relationship with the respite services support worker for outings and activities like bowling and swimming. Together, with Helene, they were able to successfully re-establish the connection with this worker and plan for the first bowling outing; following that weekly with explorations of connections for volunteering, making friends, swimming and visiting the gym, walking distance in the community. Together, “they add another step in increasing JJ’s independence,” Helene adds.

In reflection, JJ says, “I need to try more things.” George adds, “I know that with Helene that there is something special about her.” With the increase in activity and the helpful presentation of pictures using the computer, JJ enjoys his increased involvement and gets very excited. George explains that it was like a new life. JJ came out of his shell right away. George adds, “It was like an explosion of joy that JJ had when meeting with Helene. JJ waits downstairs and outside when she arrives. He likes to call and phone. I am happier. The facilitation process is a very meaningful thing, the number one thing. I see the road ahead accepting it, receiving it, loving it and rejoicing in it.”

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