Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Forever Never Changing by Zach MacLean-Szwez

Despite being medicated and have gone through therapy and many different alternatives, to say that I am free and clear of OCD would be a lie. This is a reality most people suffering from mental illness have to deal with. It isn’t like a cold that you may get over and over again, recovering in a couple weeks. It is with you everyday, we just try to find tools to be able to manage our thoughts and feelings to get through it and make it as easy on us as possible. The thing is there is a silver lining to dealing with our illness’ that we have been given. In some respect or another it has given us skills others have not honed because they were not put or forced into a position where they had to. I developed a photographic memory by having to remember exactly where people would touch if I thought their hands were “dirty”. I would avoid these spots and when somebody would ask me about it, I was giving exact timelines and locations of where and why they were contaminated to me. Naturally it is unhealthy for my illness but when it came to school it was a skill that became extremely helpful and allowed me to be a little relaxed when it came to note taking. Definitely not a good habit but it gave me the ability to actually be engaged in the classroom and really pay attention to the teacher rather than focusing on whether I got everything written down. 

Thats the positive I take away from my mental illness and I am grateful for it. I think being able to expose these qualities would be extremely helpful for one on one workers or individuals working with clients in order to motivate individuals to recognize the positive aspects of the condition. It is one thing to tell someone to think about everything outside of the illness to make them feel better, but to make the illness positive as well, then you’ll start to achieve something greater than acceptance. It could become an effective tool in treatment and also give the individuals an eye opening experience that may take some stress off always feeling like the world is against you. What do I know right? I don’t have a degree in psychology and I'm not a certified therapist but I have been through the system since I was a little kid which has shown me what works and what doesn’t. 

One of the greatest helpers that I had at the hospital never allowed me to believe I was different. He enforced that I had qualities others weren’t in touch with which made me the way I am, and he was right. It was the perfect way of explaining why I was acting the way I was, without telling me “you have a problem” or “you’re different, here’s a cocktail of pills to make you normal” . The thing is he made me feel included and that is what we as mental illness individuals as a whole, wish for. Not to be given “special” treatment but to be understood that sometimes we may need some more time or a little bit of help but we will get to the same place others are going we just might take the scenic route instead. 

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Educate Kids About Identity Theft - By Jenny Holt

Educate Kids About Identity Theft

It’s difficult to imagine that kids can become victims of identity theft, but a study at the Carnegie Mellon Cylab indicated that children are 51 times more likely to be targeted by identity thieves than adults.  Often, the unsuspecting victims find out that they have been victimized later when they start college, begin applying for jobs or credit. Parents are the first ones to unearth that their kids are identity theft victims when they receive suspicious bills or receive a pre-approved credit card for their child.

Protecting Children Under 5 Years

If your kids are below 5 years and are not using the Internet, it is your responsibility to be extra vigilant when it comes to giving out their personal information. Lock their Social Security number and birth certificate in a safe place. You should only volunteer the information when absolutely needed, such as school registrations or doctor visits. Think about setting a credit freeze for your child. Some financial companies offer the ability to lock and even monitor a child’s credit file. You should consider talking to kids about identity theft and how important it is to keep personal details private.

Teaching Identity Theft to Older Kids

Once kids grasp the concepts of theft, money, and identity (usually from 5-7 years), talk to them about the importance of safeguarding information. With the prevalence of children and teenagers using cellphones and increased online activity (92% of teens use the Internet according to Pew Research Center), protecting them from becoming statistics of identity theft is crucial. You can:
  • Educate them about the importance of the social security number, birth certificate or bank cards. Highlight what can happen if the information can get in the wrong hands.
  • Tell them never to post personal information online, especially on social networking websites.
  • Teach kids to protect devices with passwords and educate them on how to create secure ones. Passwords and PINS should never be shared.
  • Talk about possible scams that they might experience or encounter in the malls, school grounds, social sites, messages and emails.
  • Stress the importance of using safe sites and to avoid unsecured Internet zones.
  • Monitor the sites that your kids visit and restrict Internet surfing.
  • Install anti-virus, anti-phishing, or security software on devices.
  • Limit or scrap a data plan on your kid’s phone.
  • If your teenager has a convenience card, restrict the amount of money they can withdraw daily or monthly and monitor their banking activities regularly to see if there is something suspicious going on.
When children and teenagers are aware of identity theft and its dreadful consequences, they are likely to pay attention to what’s happening around them. Although it is not foolproof, reducing the chances of becoming a victim is already a step away from the clutches of an impostor.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Shouldn’t We Rethink Normal?

By: Renée Cormier

I recently came across a post on where the writer spoke of growing up in a world where he was not considered normal. As someone who has never wanted to be just like everyone else, I can honestly say that I understood what it is like to be different, but I have never felt like my idiosyncrasies made me abnormal.

My son, who lives with a mild form of autism put together a short documentary where he questions the value and definition of normal. He feels perfectly normal, and why shouldn’t he, really? Normal is really a term that is used by ableists to describe anything that doesn’t fit their perception of what is right and good. It takes all kinds of people to make the world go around, so why would anyone not be considered right or good at their core?

It is my personal belief that each of us is on this earth to teach someone something. Whether or not you can speak, or even move has no bearing on your ability to do that. The fact is, that every interaction we have, whether we are aware of it or not, is an opportunity to teach someone something. I would venture to say that most of us do it all the time and don’t even know it. It is our individual differences that provide these teachable moments and have the power to bring us together with more understanding. I like to think that it is our differences rather than our sameness that creates the strongest social glue.

The collective consciousness of the world has always been very negative because people tend to see differences as a threat. Clearly, the world has much to learn about the value of being different. Those who are willing to bear the pain of being different are blessed with having the opportunity to innovate, educate and change the world. They are the leaders, the visionaries, the philosophers and the greatest influencers.

It’s time to embrace what makes you different and love that quality in yourself. Normal is only a word and when we say someone is not normal we shouldn’t think of it as a bad thing. We tend to think of abnormalities as being reflective of an ineptitude, but it doesn’t have to mean that at all. Our personal abnormalities whether they be physical or mental force us to navigate the world in unconventional ways and in doing so we learn and teach more. In essence, we fulfill our purpose. 

Monday, 11 July 2016

A Bigger Issue

By: Sarah Evans

Last week there was a lot of controversy around the Canadian National Exhibition (The CNE). On Tuesday, the CNE decided to cancel it's policy of allowing free admission to people with disabilities. There was such a big outcry that the CNE reversed this decision on Thursday. I am not really a fan of the CNE, but I do have some thoughts about this issue.

The other night, I was listening to a discussion about this on the radio. The host thought the CNE should be free for people with disabilities, saying that they can't enjoy the rides, one of a number of luxuries that they can't enjoy in life. I felt patronized by this comment. Anyway, it's incorrect. Some people with disabilities can go on rides. Besides, many people who go to the CNE don't go for the rides - they go for other things like the food or shopping.

I have mixed feelings about the CNE giving free admission to people with disabilities. I think that it would be ideal for people with disabilities to pay full admission to the CNE and all other attractions. I think it would go a long way towards equality. Unfortunately, many people with disabilities don't have much disposable income. Their sole income is from ODSP and they struggle to afford the basics.

So while we talk about whether people with disabilities should get free admission to attractions, maybe we should really be talking about how to raise the average living wage for people with disabilities so they will have enough disposable income to enjoy going to places like the CNE.

Monday, 30 May 2016

It's Not Either, Or

 By: Sarah Evans

I have a physical disability and a mental health issue. I am an advocate for both. One of the first things people want to know is whether my mental health issues are caused by my Cerebral Palsy. It is interesting how we are always tempted to silo issues.

When I started advocating for mental health issues, I was adamant in telling people my mental health issues were not caused by my disability. I didn't want to make mental health another part of my disability. I thought this would further ostracize people with disabilities in the mental health community.

Now I am not so sure the issues are separate. My mental health issues may not be directly caused by my Cerebral Palsy, but they definitely factor in. Sometimes I feel very isolated. I volunteer from home and sometimes it is hard to go out. I get tired easily at night. Many places are, unfortunately, not accessible. I may find an event online I would like to go to only to find out there are stairs or the washroom can't fit a wheelchair. Sometimes, when I am not sure if the venue is accessible, I could call or email to ask, but I am afraid they will say they aren't accessible or I just feel blah and I don't want to put out the effort. I know that feeling is part of the discouragement and depression. It's a downward spiral.

When a person with a disability has a secondary health concern, its not a matter of one being the cause of the other. It's impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins. We have to see the whole person with both joys and challenges.

By the way, this is a really interesting study about mood disorders in Canada. It speaks to the prevalence of different mental health issues among various groups of people. Sadly, people with physical disabilities aren't even mentioned. That is very telling, actually. We are so often an ignored demographic. 

Monday, 2 May 2016

Mindful parenting: How paying attention to your own thoughts can help you pay attention to your child

By: Jennifer L. Gibson, PharmD

Mindfulness is critical for personal well-being. Mindfulness is essentially a moment-by-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, and sensations. By committing to this focus on the present, people can reduce stress and improve health. Mindfulness is usually an inward-focused practice, concerning an individual and his or her own self-awareness. Now, however, attention is being focused on mindfulness in parenting and, more specifically, mindful parenting for parents who have children with disabilities.

Mindfulness involves purposefully paying attention to how we feel and what we think, but without judgment or criticism. We tune our thoughts to the present moment and ignore calls to the past or imaginations of the future. Mindfulness is often developed through meditation, but even being mindful during simple, mundane tasks (like washing the dishes) can reduce stress and improve positive feelings.

Parents of children with disabilities face increased risks for acute and chronic stress, and many physical and psychological variables affect parenting decisions and behaviors. A parenting couple’s relationship is also strained when a child has disabilities. These stresses can be mitigated with mindfulness, and mindfulness can promote positive outcomes for the child and strengthen all familial relationships. Not surprisingly, parents who focus on such present-centered attention are more involved in the care and support of their children. Parents who practice mindfulness in caregiving also report greater satisfaction with parenting, more social interactions with their children, and lower levels of stress.

Mindful parenting does not only affect parents, though. Parents who mindfully attend to the care of their children with disabilities improve the lives and health of the children. Mindfulness of parents who are caring for their own children with disabilities leads to greater happiness for the children. Mindful parenting also reduces aggression and increases social behavior in children with disabilities, including developmental and intellectual disabilities. Additionally, children whose parents practice mindfulness have increased positive and decreased negative interactions with their siblings.
Mindfulness training and interventions might help prepare parents for delivering the necessary care to their children. Whether you practice formal mindfulness, simply set aside a few minutes a day to calm and quiet your mind, or commit to paying attention to yourself on purpose throughout your day, mindfulness may be a path to transforming how you care for your child. Teaching your mind to ignore distractions and focus on your thoughts and feelings can be difficult – especially for tired, overworked, multi-tasking parents – but what is better to focus on than caring for your child?

Bluth K, Roberson PN, Billen RM, Sams JM. A stress model for couples parenting children with autism spectrum disorders and the introduction of a mindfulness intervention. J Fam Theory Rev. 2013;5(3):194-213.
Harper SK, Webb TL, Rayner K. The effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions for supporting people with intellectual disabilities: a narrative review. Behav Modif. 2013;37(3):431-53.
MacDonald EE, Hastings RP. Mindful parenting and care involvement of fathers of children with intellectual disabilities. J Child Fam Stud. 2008.
McConachie DA, McKenzie K, Morris PG, Walley RM. Acceptance and mindfulness-based stress management for support staff caring for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Res Dev Disabil. 2014;35(6):1216-27.
Parent J, McKee LG, Anton M, et al. Mindfulness in parenting and coparenting. Mindfulness (N.Y.). 2016;7(2):504-13.
Singh NN, Lancioni GE, Karazsia BT, Myers RE. Caregiver training in mindfulness-based positive behavior supports (MBPBS): effects on caregivers and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Front Psychol. 2016;7:98.
Singh NN, Lancioni GE, Winton AS, et al. Mindful caregiving increases happiness among individuals with profound multiple disabilities. Res Dev Disabil. 2004;25(2):207-18.
Singh NN, Lancioni GE, Winton AS, et al. Minful parenting decreases aggression and increases social behavior in children with developmental disabilities. Behav Modif. 2007;31(6):749-71.

Jennifer Gibson is a pharmacist and medical communicator. Dr. Gibson trained as a hospital pharmacist specializing in internal medicine and acute care, and, in this role, helped to implement patient safety initiatives and investigate medication errors and adverse drug reactions in hospital settings. She evaluates and consults on clinical performance and risk reduction in the health care industry and in other high-reliability organizations, and she regularly presents medication and patient safety education and training sessions for health care professionals, as well as parents, children, and caregivers. Find out more about Dr. Gibson at

Friday, 22 April 2016

Caring for patients with disabilities: room for improvement in health care education

By: Jennifer L. Gibson, PharmD

Caring for patients with disabilities: room for improvement in health care education
By: Jennifer L. Gibson, PharmD

As a health care professional, I have interacted with patients of all ages, stages, and abilities. Most of what I learned during my formal education, however, focused on relatively healthy adults. I quickly learned, once I entered practice, that the one-size-fits-almost-all approach to my training did not apply to the real world. Only because of a lifetime of personal experiences with children and adults with disabilities did I have any framework for caring for patients that had anything other than typical medical needs. One “size” definitely does not fit all when it comes to professionalism and caring for patients – all patients – and I wonder where medical training and education can improve to provide the best possible care to patients and most effective support to caregivers.

Families of individuals with disabilities require emotional, informational, and practical support. Parents, especially, want health care professionals to listen to them, educate them, acknowledge their experiences and emotions, and direct them towards resources that can assist them. How and when this support is provided affects service utilization, facilitates understanding of care-giving roles, and addresses feelings of stigma and isolation.

Are health care providers as accessible and supportive as we can be? Of course, there are legal obligations for allowing physical access to medical offices and facilities, but are health care personnel equipped to accommodate the emotional and social well-being of patients and their families? Barriers to proper health care include insufficient time with the health care provider or staff, unclear or incomplete communication between provider and patient and caregivers, and inadequate provider knowledge of disabling conditions.

Overall, patients with disabilities have higher risks of many chronic health conditions, but they receive fewer preventive services and are in poorer health than individuals without disabilities. Children, youth, and adults with disabilities experience disparities in many key indicators of health, and the problem will continue to get worse without access to proper care (and care providers).
Health care providers have responsibilities to understand the laws and regulations that protect and help people with disabilities, identify proper equipment and services, and recognize and mitigate barriers to care and support – not only for the patient, but also for the family and caregivers. Many health care providers, though, have their own barriers to providing care to people with disabilities, including physical barriers (e.g., offices and equipment that cannot accommodate physical, cognitive, or sensory needs), attitudinal barriers (e.g., additional time spent with patients is viewed as a burden), expertise-related barriers (e.g., not having sufficient training or education with complex needs associated with some disabilities), and systemic barriers (e.g., inconsistent and maldistribution of health care services and resources). These barriers can prevent patients from receiving care, not just delay or inconvenience it.

Unfortunately, negative attitudes of health care providers toward patients with disabilities mirror the attitudes of the general public, which deter care and create obstacles for people with disabilities. Health care providers also tend to view a disability as an “illness” – an acute condition that requires a curative response. This view perpetuates the disempowerment of people who are already facing more challenges than average people.

Health care professionals need to recognize the educational opportunities that patients with disabilities can offer. In addition to specific issues or conditions that require medical attention, treating people with disabilities also offers chances to review assumptions made by the professional about overall health and wellness for all patients. New, longitudinal curriculum is needed to teach students in health care education to care for people with disabilities and their families. Training should be coordinated among communities and health care settings and should comprise input and experiences from current professionals, as well as patients with disabilities and their family members. All health care professionals should enter practice with the expertise, consideration, and compassion – and passion – for providing equitable, accessible, quality care for all patients.

Howe EG. Professionalism: one size foes not fit all. J Clin Ethics. 2015;26(1):3-15.
Taggart L, Truesdale-Kennedy M, Ryan A, McConkey R. Examining the support needs of ageing family carers in developing future plans for a relative with an intellectual disability. J Intellect Disabil. 2012 Sep;16(3):217-34.
Frye L. Fathers' experience with autism spectrum disorder: nursing implications. J Pediatr Health Care. 2015.
Blanche EI, Diaz J, Barretto T, Cermak SA. Caregiving experiences of Latino families with children with autism spectrum disorder. Am J Occup Ther. 2015;69(5):1-11.
People with disabilities: What healthcare professionals can do to be accessible. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2013.
McColl MA, Forster D, Shortt SED, et al. Physician experiences providing primary care to people with disabilities. Healthc Policy. 2008;4(1):e129-47.
Symons AB, Morley CP, McGuigan D, Akl EA. A curriculum on care for people with disabilities: effects on medical student self-reported attitudes and comfort level. Disabil Health J. 2014;7(1):88-95.
Satchidanand N, Gunukula SK, Lam WY, et al. Attitudes of healthcare students and professionals toward patients with physical disability: a systematic review. Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2012;91(6):533-45.

Jennifer Gibson is a pharmacist and medical communicator. Dr. Gibson trained as a hospital pharmacist specializing in internal medicine and acute care, and, in this role, helped to implement patient safety initiatives and investigate medication errors and adverse drug reactions in hospital settings. She evaluates and consults on clinical performance and risk reduction in the health care industry and in other high-reliability organizations, and she regularly presents medication and patient safety education and training sessions for health care professionals, as well as parents, children, and caregivers. Find out more about Dr. Gibson at