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Katherine Fleming was a
dynamic woman who not only talked the talk of the importance of
being person-centred, she also walked the walk in work and in
everything she did. It is with sad hearts that we say
farewell to a friend and colleague. It is also with grateful
hearts that we, the HSA Canada family, say thank you to Katherine
for what she has taught us.
Katherine, you taught me to follow my dreams; to be patient
and things will work out. I have learnt that when you know in your
heart it is the right thing to do and you are truly being
person-centred, you do not have to justify your work. I have learnt
to be creative and to think outside the box more because Katherine,
you had no boxes! You taught me to never be ashamed to make
mistakes, never apologize for mistakes (unless I have hurt someone
of course); everyone makes mistakes and it is a good thing that
helps us learn and grow. I have learnt to step into the
conflict because, really, what is the worst that will happen? I
have learnt that when someone is valued and truly supported by
another person, they would do anything for them; they would follow
them and work their butt off for them and support all their
ideas! Katherine, your memory and knowing what was truly
important to you, will not only be honored by us at Centerpoint
Facilitation, it will be our guidance in the work we do.
When I think of you Katherine, I think of laughter. I have
laughed with you until my cheeks hurt and tears flowed. When I
think of you, I think of strength and audacity. You were a leader
and never afraid to tell it like it is. You will be one of
those people I never forget, because you shaped my future. At a
time when I was at a crossroad, you helped me see the light down
the terrifying path. You inspired me and continue to inspire me. I
will miss you greatly, but what you have taught me will last my
lifetime. Katherine, in your honor I shall have a glass of vodka
and laugh until I cry no more.
Katherine, your zest for life and your way of taking the
best from every experience has taught me that this world is not as
scary as it sometimes seems to be. Your vision and ability to
put an idea into concrete actions that make a difference have
taught me to go for it and take risks because it is the only real
way to make a dent in this world. I have also learned that it is
better to try and fail than to have never tried at all.
Katherine you were not only a visionary, you were also an
innovative trailblazer and I learned that there is no reason why I
should shoot for the stars when the moon can make a bigger
difference. You taught me that it's important to follow my
gut and to explore new territory; I will be amazed by what I
discover and learn.
How you prioritized family and friends and looked out for
their wellbeing was impressive. You were not only a strong
advocate in your work but also for your family so that they
received person-centred supports and services with their own health
needs. Spending quality time with others was important to you and I
always felt that you were present in the moment with me.
Thank you for listening deeply.
You will continue to be part of my life because you have
left a positive mark on my mind and my heart. Thank you for being
you my friend.
My mother Monique was 64 when her husband of 44 years Gaëtan, my
father, passed away from an extremely aggressive cancer. My
parents were in the process of selling their home and moving into
an apartment when he was diagnosed and then passed away.
My mother was a retired school administrative assistant and my
father was a retired teacher. They were selling the house in
order to have more money to travel and enjoy life. As a
couple, they had lifelong friendships with other couples they
either met in high school or met early in their careers.
When Dad passed away, Mom felt not only lonely from the loss of
her husband but also hurt by the absence and lack of support from
some family members and more importantly, from the lack of support
from some of their friends. She understood that they were
also grieving and that it must be awkward for them as couples to
visit or invite her for visits but the loneliness and hurt was
At that time, I received a one-page profile example from a
Learning Community for Person-Centred Practices colleague who had
lost her husband. She shared this example of a one-page
profile, developed to help family and friends understand what was
important to her in the grieving process, and how to best support
her. I shared this with Mom and that night she went home and
developed her own one-page profile and then next I typed it up for
her and added a picture.
Writing the one-page profile helped Mom sort out the different
feelings she was experiencing and better understand what was
important to her during this difficult time, and what supports she
truly needed and wanted while she was grieving the loss of her
husband. Mom said that putting pen to paper was what helped
her see through the fog of grief and understand herself and the
Mom chose to share the profile
with her sisters (not her brothers) as well as a few close
friends. She was surprised at some of the reactions.
Many thanked her for sharing the profile because it helped them
understand how to better support her. A few others didn't
seem quite sure what to do with the information. One friend
in particular didn't say anything after reading it and Mom was
saddened by it and the disappointment made her contemplate letting
go of the relationship. A short while after this experience,
this friend started visiting Monique and invited her for a
meal. Sharing the one-page profile with this friend actually
saved the relationship.
Many people are hesitant about sharing stories and talking about
the person who is deceased. Mom needed and desperately wanted
to talk about her husband and best friend. Writing a one-page
profile helped her talk to family and friends about this need, even
if she didn't share the profile with them. The profile helped
her find her voice.
Our guest blogger this month is Jill Faber (HSA Canada
associate). Jill shares her experience with what happens when
people are given a chance to take the lead.
As I sit down to write this blog I'm not sure where to begin or
end because the month of March has been a whirlwind. What
happened, what I witnessed - well I needed it. I needed it to be a
better trainer, to be a better person.
It was during this whirlwind in March that a staff member
approached me and said "This day reminded me my job should really
be to work myself out of a job". I was shocked; I've been using
this mantra for myself for years, but have never heard someone else
say it so freely.
So, let me tell you how what started as a simple project to
provide direct learning to people who use services about their
rights and responsibilities when planning with agency staff, turned
into something more remarkable and beautiful. This project
did put me out of a job- at least for a couple of days.
It started with some listening to my friends who have
disabilities. I asked them how to develop a workshop that is seen
as neither condescending nor driven by agency intent. They
gave me some very clear and specific instructions:
"Make sure the people with disabilities are in the
front of the room". Theresa told me how she was sick
and tired of going to conferences or workshops where they were the
token people with disabilities. She wanted to go where she could
hear from and speak to other people with disabilities, not with
support staff and not with family.
"You better tell the truth. I hate planning with my
agency and I wish they understood that I am capable of planning on
my own". Stephanie was puzzled why I approached her
to help me develop a workshop about planning when she had only
negative things to say about it. Of course it was for this reason I
desperately needed her input. Honesty from the person's perspective
had to be a running theme throughout the day.
"You better make it in plain language and you better
use pictures to help people understand what you're
saying". Yvonne, who also could be referred to
as my final editor, scrutinized and critiqued every PowerPoint
slide to ensure the messages were clear and understandable. She is
my jargon sheriff.
And so the workshop was developed and then redeveloped. It
became the My Life - My Plan Workshop. And though
the messages were not new, the delivery and process of learning
was. From all the feedback from staff, participants and the
self-advocate trainers, the following two decisions, made very
early on, had the biggest impact on the positive outcomes for the
The workshops were co-facilitated by a
person with a disability. There were 10 self-advocates who
worked as both table facilitators and some as new trainers.
When I finally realized I needed to step back and let them fully
take over, I witnessed how the trainers' energy and leadership
washed over the entire group and all the participants were suddenly
"in the front of the room".
I have never witnessed a group of people with disabilities
become the majority, the only right ones in the room, the ones with
all the answers. It was spectacular. It was amazing.
Support staffs were not welcomed at the group tables,
nor were they allowed to participate, or contribute in any
fashion. Most of the day was done in-group discussions,
again led by self-advocates at individual tables. Support staffs
were asked at the beginning of the day to remain in the back of the
room or at a separate table. They were asked to not support anyone
in the room unless requested.
So, when left good
enough alone at the tables, I watched as the participants and
self-advocates supported each other: helping each other read,
helping each other learn, helping each other share. What I
saw was support that I have so rarely seen. Support absent of any
judgment, support with honesty, support with true empathy and true
consideration. It's the kind of support we read about in textbooks
and those whom we label as needing this kind of support were doing
it naturally and easily.
It happened over and over again - the less staff in the room,
the more I saw it. Participants eventually stopped turning to the
back of the room to their staff and turned to each other. One woman
grabbed another woman's puffer and set it up for her, another woman
decided she was going to help a man with a visual impairment all
day, guiding him through the room and setting up his meal. I could
see the amazement on the staff faces - for which I'm sure I had a
The remarks from the staff were equally compelling. "I can't
believe they're doing this all on their own". "It's so hard to step
back, but I can't believe what I'm seeing".
And then there were the conversations. Participants who had
never spoken to a group before stood in front of strangers and told
their stories. By the end of most sessions almost all the
participants willingly stood and spoke out. It wasn't because
I encouraged them - I had nothing to do with it. It was the
encouragement and faith from their fellow self-advocates at each
table that made them feel they were capable and worthy to speak
stepped back. I gave up my reigns as co-facilitator (I know
now anyone who has facilitated with me is having a good laugh - I
don't let go of the room easily). They asked it of me. The
self-advocates kept saying, "We want to do more. Jill you need to
do less". Then it was like watching super heroes reveal themselves.
I know this is a silly analogy, but truly it's what I saw. In all
my desire to believe in them, they proved they were so much more. I
was ashamed of the assumptions I had made and equally delighted for
being so so wrong.
So I sat and watched. I sat and listened. I sat…and I sat in the
back of the room. I watched them lead, tell stories, take care of
the group. I sat…and watched as they put me out of my job
because they asked me to, because I did, because they can.
Note: In Canada "self-advocate" is how
some people with disabilities have asked to be referred as when
doing work such as described above.
I just love it when I read or hear something that makes me think
and reflect. These last few weeks I have been meeting
with parents to explore their thoughts on what it means to them to
be part of a supportive community. These sessions have been
very interesting and have helped me do just that - reflect on my
beliefs, values and views.
For years, support services agencies have been working hard at
changing their language because they realize that words have power
and meaning and can hurt others even if unintentional.
Parents of children (or adult children) with disabilities have also
been struggling in describing their child's disability and/or
support needs in a way that is respectful and celebrates their
loved one's differences rather than place a judgment on them.
Sometimes the word 'normal' is used to make distinctions between
people who have physical or intellectual abilities and people who
might have greater support needs. I must admit that I cringe
every time I hear that word. I always wonder what is meant by
'normal'. I don't know two people who are the same and I am
glad for this. Life would be so plain and boring if we were
Yesterday, during one of my family sessions, a father talked
about his son in a way that put a new light on the word
'normal'. Paul described his son and other people with
developmental disabilities or other differences as being
normal. Paul said that 'everyone is normal for their DNA'.
I find this simple statement very powerful and thought
provoking. This morning I read this quote by Albert
'Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on
its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing
it is stupid.'
I think we need to celebrate people for who they are as unique
individuals. We also need to celebrate ourselves for who we
are. It is great to learn something new or challenge
ourselves to grow but it is not okay to do it in order to change
our measurement of ourselves in comparison to what some would call
'normal'. I am not a fish and I don't want or need to learn
how to climb a tree to be considered 'normal'. Who I am is
who I am. I am normal for my DNA. People with
disabilities are also normal for who they are. Let's
celebrate this and focus on what they bring to our world rather
than try to teach them to climb a tree.
I have always been a foodie. I love cooking, eating,
watching cooking shows, looking at cookbooks, swapping recipes,
browsing kitchen appliance stores and even getting kitchen gadgets
at Christmas and my birthday! Anything food is exciting for
Last spring, my husband Gerry and I attended a local fundraiser
(yes it was a dinner gala). A childhood friend was sitting at
our table and we started talking about how we both liked cooking
and baking. Dominique said that she always thought that it
would be fun to have a dinner club and I jumped at the idea!
Yeah! A foodie buddy!
A few weeks ago, Gerry and I were the first to host
a dinner party and I decided that our theme would be Thai food, my
favourite. I have to admit that I had the greatest time
planning it: searching for new recipes, shopping for food,
exploring my town and the city next door for exotic ingredients
(well exotic for January in Ontario). I even watched cooking videos
on YouTube and dreamed about cooking and eating Thai food.
The dinner was a success. The food was fabulous - we ate from
7:30 to 10:30 and had the greatest time talking and laughing late
into the night
What strikes me the most in all of this is how many new people I
connected with while searching for my ingredients and how my energy
was different while talking about the dinner I was planning.
One day my mom pointed out how fast I was talking and how excited I
seemed. It had been a while since something had me that
excited - and yes, it was just food and friends but very
different than simply having dinner guests.
Community Connecting courses, participants often talk about how
difficult it is to help people connect and build
relationships. One exploration and planning tool that we work
with during the course is the Presence to Contribution tool (click
on the image to see how my dinner club experience has impacted my
life). I think that this experience with the dinner
club is an example of how uncomplicated we need to keep it.
Starting with common interests and building on these is the best
place to start. I am excited about our next dinner club
evening. I hear that the theme is comfort foods.
It seems that these last few weeks, people are getting busy with
Holiday Season preparations. Many people hold family
traditions close to their hearts. This can bring out the best
in people and the worse in people. People don't always agree
with their loved ones about traditions including religious
practices, decorations, baking, gift exchanges, parties, visiting
schedules and getting everything ready.
When people agree about Holiday Season events and customs, it is
most likely because they have similarities in terms of what
is important to them. The other
explanation is that their priority in terms of what is
important to them is their relationships and getting
This year November has
been and December will be an especially busy time for me, and what
is important for me is not to overdo it
and burn myself out with the baking, decorating, shopping and
visiting. Listening to my own important for my
health priorities has also made me re-examine my own
list of what is important to me for the
holidays. Instead of making 3 to 4 dozen
each of our 8-10 favorite cookie and squares recipes, I will be
making only three recipes, one for each of my children and one
recipe for my husband. This year, I will enjoy tourtière
(meat pie) at other people's homes and not make my
own. I also asked my husband for help with shopping and
we've simplified gift exchanges with our extended families.
Decorating my tree with loads of lights and hundreds of ornaments
that I have collected over the last 25 years was also always very
important to me. This year, I asked
my children to make decisions about where to place the tree and how
to decorate it.
The differences this year are that we will have our favourite
baking, but not loads so this will definitely be better for our
health and waistlines. My husband was glad to do some of the
shopping and we feel like a team this year and we are only
exchanging gifts between my children and my brother's children and
eliminating the exchange between the adults.
The most valuable lesson
I learned is that it is important for me
to better listen to others, even when my own priorities are
extremely important to me. In
letting go and relaxing about the holidays, my children had more
fun decorating the tree and told me that in the past there had
always been too many decorations. The tree is a bit different
but just as beautiful. In talking with my brother and
listening more closely to his own priorities for a gift exchange, I
have understood better. He is happier about us focusing on
the children and not exchanging between adults. And I am
truly okay with this. I resisted in the past because I only
heard his words (why do we need to do an exchange anyway?) and not
the message behind it (children okay, adults not so much).
The Holiday Season will still come whether or not we do things
the same way every year and it has been a blessing to do what is
important for me instead of
what is important to me. I am grateful
for the opportunity to listen more deeply and learn more about
others. Season's Greetings everyone!
I hope you are all enjoying the fall weather and getting ready
for winter. I have to admit that I absolutely love the
Ontario maple tree colours in fall. The only thing I don't
like about fall is that winter is just around the corner.
In this blog, I would like to introduce you to two new members
of our HSA Canada team. Tammy Ouellette is our new associate
in Alberta and Barb Swartz-Biscaro joins me in Ontario.
I met Tammy in
2009 when I first delivered the Person Centred Thinking and Person
Centred Teams courses in Alberta. Tammy works with our very
own Katherine Fleming at Centerpoint Facilitation and is a strong
advocate of person centred practices. Tammy provides
independent facilitation and has been part of the innovative work
being done with people who are homeless or those who are at risk of
becoming homeless. Tammy also provides person centred
planning facilitation to older people and people who have a
disability. HSA team members appreciate her attention to
detail and analytical skills.
Many of you have already met Barb through our facebook
page. Barb regularly
posts her learning and examples from using person centred practices
in her own personal life. Barb leads our work with school in
Canada and last year supported teachers in helping 500 students
develop One Page Profiles. Appreciation activities are common
place in her family and her children's One Page Profiles and
stories have been topics of my past blogs. Recently, Barb
developed a 'mommy profile' and a friend will be hosting an evening
with friends where they will be developing their mommy
profiles. Barb is passionate about making a positive
difference in people's lives. Her creative approach to
introducing person centred thinking tools in new settings is
appreciated by the HSA team.
are interested in getting to know Tammy and Barb, have a look at
their One Page Profiles on the HSA Canada webpage by clicking the
maple leaf to the right. You can also find Katherine, Jill,
Hilary and my own profile on the same page. Have a great Halloween
Two years ago, an inspiring man by the name of Wayne Mills
crossed my path. In his Personal Profile on his work website,
Wayne describes his focus in the following manner:
"Health is a personal matter. Only by focusing on the
person will we transform the unsustainable health system into a
sustainable ecosystem. Changing the provider centred service
to Person Centred Health is my passion, vision and commitment".
Wayne's passion in promoting person centred health makes him a
strong advocate for the value of personalization in health care
system settings and systems. When our paths first crossed a
few years ago, Wayne invited me to participate in webinars focusing
not on patient centred health care but on person
centred health care. Wayne is clear about the
At that time, HSA's main work in the
health sector focused on the cancer journey and the Think About
Your Life website and resources. It was difficult for us to
even imagine the introduction of person centred thinking and tools
in places such as large medical hospitals but Wayne planted the
seed and we have started sharing our ideas with
hospitals. Two years ago, I never imagined that last
week I would be sitting at a nurse's station introducing the idea
of One Page Profiles. Our 'rounds' that day included the
Social Work department and six medial units. One unit wants
to implement this as part of their new HELP program that is
starting this fall for people who will be staying at the hospital
I called Wayne today to thank him for his leadership and for
inspiring us to see how we can make a contribution to health
care. Wayne said that he plans on sharing our paper Using
Person-Centred Practices within Organizations and Teams with
hospitals and organizations that also believe in the importance of
this (click on the document picture to access this paper).
I look forward to connecting with more Canadian health care
providers that share our vision for person centred health
Last Friday, Barb Swartz-Biscaro (newest HSA Canada
associate) and Erin from Community Living Parry Sound and I, spent
the day with 14 young people between the ages of 13 and 19.
Barb facilitated a module from the Coaching Youth for Success
program that originated in Australia and Erin facilitated
activities to help develop One Page Profiles in the afternoon.
It was my first experience with the Coaching Youth
for Success module and I was impressed with how it helps youths
think about who they are, what is important to them now and in
their future and the supports they need and want to help them
accomplish this. I was also very impressed that so many young
people agreed to
take time out of their busy summer school break to spend the day
with us and help us learn. The picture above shows Corey,
Dominique and Joey looking at red information cards showing
examples of different career paths. Other activities included
considering personality types as well as the question 'what drives
you?' (picture of Humour example on the right).Young people
said that these exercises were helpful in reflecting on what
is important to them.
Mikayla and Cassandra said that they will be
sharing their One Page Profiles with their high school teachers
when school starts next week. Mikayla was quite clear that
doing boring exercise sheets (i.e. grammar sheets) that are not
challenging frustrates her and make it difficult for her to focus
or want to participate in class. She said that the profile
will help her talk to her new teachers about her need to be
challenged as a way to stay motivated. Cassandra on the other
hand has a way with words and poetry. She gave me a glimpse
of her profile and each section was written as a poem. This was
very interesting and very personalized! Cassandra says that
the style of her writing also says a lot about what she likes and
how she communicates best. I look forward to seeing Mikayla
and Cassandra's finished profiles and possibly sharing these with
Thank you to all the young people who participated and we wish
you success in your studies, activities and relationships!
In my small town, it seems that whenever we start hearing of
more pregnancies than seems usual, someone always blames it on the
water. Well, could there be something in the water
internationally? There is definite excitement about
pregnancies in the International HSA team. And No! I am not
Some of you have been following the Personalization in Pregnancy
work either on the HSA Facebook or by
reading Rowan's blog (Click here to see Rowan's blog). Well, I got the bug to see it in
action and find out first hand what this looks like. By first
hand I mean sitting down with a mom to be … not getting pregnant
and finding out directly. Lol.
Over the last few weeks,
I spent a bit of time with Kristen and introduced some of the
person centred maternity templates to her. Kristen was
willing to give it a try even though she is in her very last
weeks/days of pregnancy. We first started with a One Page
Profile and a few other tools (hopes and fears, past experience,
delivery coach job description).
When we met again,
Kristen said that it was helpful to think and talk about some of
her experiences, wishes and worries. Even though she had been
thinking about some worries and what is working and not working
right now, she felt kind of stuck. Kirsten said that sitting
down and putting pen to paper helped her sort out what mattered
most and how others can best support her. It also helped open
the door to conversation with her partner. Small things have
already started to change in how they support each other on a
day-to-day basis. They are both benefitting from this. Click
on Kristen's One
Page Profile image to see the full size pdf version.
Kristen also prepared her birth plan and will
be bringing it with her to the hospital to share with the nurses
when she is in labour. She has also talked with her husband
about the last experience when their son was born and reviewed the
birth coach description with him. There were no surprises but
having it in writing helped them review how he could best support
I really enjoyed meeting with Kristen and appreciate her
willingness to give it a try this late in her pregnancy.
Thanks Kristen! I was also really pleased to hear that
she found it helpful. I wish that I had this type of
opportunity years ago for each of my pregnancies!