Strategic plan focuses on strengthening family, community relationships
Lisa Bailey

Recent training for posAbilities staff on Down syndrome and dementia welcomed some invited families, who heard from the Down Syndrome Research Foundation about best practices to use with children that could help reduce their risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease.

“The learning in that was amazing,” says director of community engagement Monique Nelson, as she cited an example of how posAbilities connects families with information and other people.

These opportunities grow relationships and are key to developing family leadership, which is a pillar of posAbilities’ strategic plan.

“Family leadership is centred around providing access to other families and knowledgeable professionals to assist with personal and financial planning,” Monique says.

With planning in place and self-sustaining support networks to help carry it out, families can better advance their dreams for their children who have a disability.

“Family leadership is about having the vision, having the access to knowledge and other people to support you in your journey, and then being able to articulate that vision,” Monique says.

“And it does take leadership and lots of other skills to navigate systems,” she says.

One way that posAbilities helps families gain personal and financial planning tools is by offering workshops, often at little or no cost on evenings and weekends.

Families “can meet others, share a bit about their journey, as well as get good, solid information first hand from which to work,” Monique says.

Many learning opportunities are offered in partnership with other organizations, such as the Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion, PLAN (Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network), the Family Support Institute of B.C., Vancouver Parents for Transition and the Spectrum Society for Community Living.

A newer program has posAbilities sponsoring spots in the University of British Columbia’s Canadian Inclusive Lives Learning Initiative. Families and self-advocates receive in-person and online training in personal and financial planning, employment, housing and other areas.

“Feedback from the first session has been fantastic so we continue with this and we have another family that will attend this year,” Monique says.

To strengthen family leadership, posAbilities aims to offer more workshops in Richmond and Maple Ridge.

Other efforts are made for maximum reach and convenience, such as providing translators when possible.

“We’re looking at developing new content as well,” Monique says, adding feedback is a key contributor. Families provide input through questionnaires distributed by Laurel Behaviour Support Services and posAbilities’ family advisory committee and senior parents group.

The organization is also developing an online resource kit and a greater online community through social media.

“We’re continuing to build on the number of resources we can provide as well as having a robust list of other organizations and what they offer, so we can refer families to get the information they need when they need it,” Monique says.

Fostering family leadership not only benefits the people supported by posAbilities in their own lives but they continue on to push the envelope on policy and with funders, Monique says.

“We’ve had a very strong family movement here in B.C. that’s precipitated a number of major changes over time,” she says, citing the creation of the Registered Disability Savings Plan and government funding for autism intervention.

There’s a history in B.C. of families getting together and being very effective in shaping services,” Monique says.

“Positive change can happen.”

For learning opportunities coming up this fall, visit posAbilities website and read its September newsletter, which will also be online.

If you have a story to share or feedback on this article, please contact the newsroom at 800-294-0051, ext. 25, or e-mail lisa(at)