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From time to time, the Waterloo Region Family Network (WRFN) is asked to distribute information on behalf of third parties. WRFN provides general information to self-advocates and families of children with special needs. The information provided on this website is not a recommendation, referral or endorsement of any resource, therapeutic method, or service provider. WRFN is not responsible for any information or services provided by third parties. You are urged to use independent judgment when considering any resource.



KidsAbility Family eNews

Check out KidsAbility's latest newsletter HERE.



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ACC Conference-Beyond the Nows

Alternative and augmentative communication gives voice to thousands of people who might not otherwise be heard. These communicators, their families, and those who support them look to build communication in the moment, but also expand chances for speech and expression moving forward.


The future is a powerful thing.


To encourage development of broader communication goals and opportunities for EVERY communicator, CoughDrop is sponsoring this free, online AAC conference June 23-24 from 12 - 6 PM Eastern time each day.


Conference attendees will be presented with new ideas, current research, best practices, and personal experiences from accomplished AAC users, supporters and professionals.

We invite you to take part in this AAC focused online conference with sessions addressing dozens of important communication topics. The event includes chances to learn from experts, share your own AAC goals and understanding, participate in contests, and rub shoulders with elite AAC team members who are shaping the future of AAC.


Free online Conference dates June 23-24, 2020.

To register, click here.

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Lutherwood Youth Job Connection

Lutherwood Employment Services is still offering support during the pandemic. While working remotely, they've continued to try to reach out to job seekers as best as possible in our community. Check out these posters and opportunities, if you or someone you know is currently looking for employment.

Youth Job Connection Workshops

Job Searching during Covid19

Job Posting Facebook groups

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WRFN Volunteer Opportunity-Seeking Board of Directors

WRFN is seeking new members for its volunteer Board of Directors.


We are seeking applicants to fill a minimum of three director positions starting September 1, 2020. We have an active, engaged board that focuses on strategic direction, community needs and financial sustainability at the governance level.


For more details about this opportunity, click here.

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Family Pulse-June 2020

Welcome to June! 


Inside the June issue of Family Pulse you will find information on:

Steph's Corner
SEAC Updates
What's Happening at WRFN
Information, Resources, & Opportunities


You can read the online version of Family Pulse here or download a pdf copy

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Equitable Access to Care Now!

The Canadian Government recommends that essential support person(s) be included in 'essential visitor' policies.  Ontario has not updated their recommendation around essential visitors since this updated guidance document was sent to all provinces and territories.  


People and their families in Ontario still have to advocate at the local level on an individual basis to ensure that they have the supports necessary to access care. Granting this access to supports is at the discretion of the person in charge.  It shouldn't have to be this way.  


B.C. just updated their visitor policy to include essential support people.  Ontario must do the same NOW!  


Help get this policy changed in Ontario--it's easy just click the link below, read the open letter, sign on, then forward this email to all your family, friends, colleagues and networks.   


Please Sign on Today!

Equitable Access to Care Now! | Family Alliance Ontario


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Mighty Hawks

 Mighty Hawks is committed to working with individuals with developmental disabilities in the Kitchener-Waterloo community.  Our mission is to help each participant foster a greater independence in the community, build meaningful relationships and feel confident in pursuing their personal goals.


This is achieved through interactive workshops focussed on developing work ready skills with an emphasis on hands-on learning, encouraging participation and social interaction with dedicated one-on-one support from Mighty Hawks facilitators, a passionate group of students at Wilfrid Laurier University. This enables participants to build valuable relationships with facilitators and each other, with individualized support in a fun environment every step of the way.

Learn more about the opportunities to be found through the Mighty Hawks program by clicking here.

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How living with exceptionality has helped prepare me for the COVID-19 Crisis

By Cristina Stanger, WRFN Self-Advocacy Liaison

*This article was originally published in the Family Pulse Newsletter May 2020*


-- My heart goes out to those whose lives have already been touched by COVID-19, to those who are at high risk of infection and complications, and to those who are dealing with other hardships/tragedies that are compounded by this challenging social environment. And my deepest thanks to the frontline workers, on whom we all depend. --
While I may appear composed from the outside looking in, my ‘sky’ is so often falling because I find different aspects of the world around me confusing due to my exceptionalities. But given these unprecedented times of medical threats and rapid societal changes brought about by the coronavirus, I have noticed that I’ve been uncharacteristically calm throughout all this upheaval. And I thought, “Well, this is strange.” And then I got to wondering about why that might be?
A stay-at-home order inherently allows me to bypass many aspects of everyday life that typically overwhelm me. However, I don’t feel this accounts for my clarity of mind. Then I thought, “Is it possible that my life experiences, as an exceptional individual, have helped prepare me to navigate these current events?” My intuition is telling me ‘yes,’ both in terms of weathering the emotional storm and also in finding healthy coping strategies. By no means am I saying that I am handling this perfectly, but I thought it might be valuable to highlight some of the advantages my experience with exceptionality has afforded me in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. And in doing so, my hope is that you will be reminded of your own wealth of experience, your own strength, and your own resilience in the face of adversity.
Some ways of feeling…
Firstly, there is grief. Particularly, the type of grief sparked when reality doesn’t match what you envisioned for yourself or your family. And this is paralleled by what we face today - celebrations postponed, unstable employment, education disrupted. These are examples of how our hopes and expectations for the future have been undermined by COVID-19. I have given myself permission to grieve. In acknowledging my grief, I can move through it, in my own unique, non-linear way, as I have done before.
Secondly, there is the anxiety that comes with uncertainty, with which I am well acquainted. I am sure that many of you reading this now have also had periods of time when you wondered, “What will my future hold?” When you asked, “How much longer can I go on like this?” I am asking myself similar questions again now. And I can employ the same techniques to navigate this uncertainty, such as: (1) identify my feelings and use them as a cue about what I might need, (2) stay present, as I cannot experience anxiety in the now, and (3) seek out support.
Thirdly, there is a familiarity with internal existential conflict. I had a three-year period in my life when I was working very hard to overcome obstacles, yet it felt like I was never getting anywhere, and I wondered what my purpose was. Progress was slow and hard to measure. However, during this time I did learn things, such as: (1) a sense of who I am as a person, rather than valuing myself based on my productivity (‘being’ rather than ‘doing’) (2) a more forgiving and flexible perception of the passage of time (I will get there when I get there) and (3) the benefit of forming a routine to guide myself through unstructured time (pets are immensely helpful in this regard). While it may feel as if I am currently stuck in limbo, I remind myself that I still have value, I still matter.
Some ways of coping...
I also understand the need to be gentle with myself. I try to focus on what I can control and take things one step at a time. There are good and bad days when living with exceptionality. So too have I had good and bad days during this pandemic. Identifying which kind of day I am having is key to weathering this storm. Hard days warrant more self-compassion. Good days allow me to take small steps forward.
Adaptations are something that those with exceptionality work with on a daily basis. I have had to find different ways of doing things that other people might take for granted. So, I am able to view COVID-19 shutdown as an opportunity to use my creative problem solving. Knowing my strengths and weaknesses also comes into play, and I can work within my support circle (while socially distancing) to divide and conquer challenges.
A strategy of gratitude is relatively new to me, but I have found it incredibly grounding. Thinking about what I am grateful for helps actively shift my inner focus from what is negative to what is positive. And whether I am dealing with exceptionality or COVID-19, a lens of positivity can work wonders in finding the courage to carry on.
Finally, there is power in acknowledging the journey. The future may be uncertain but taking pause to honour the struggles I have already weathered, can be helpful. I do not feel that I am strong in spite of my exceptionalities, but rather I am stronger because of them. My hope is the same will be said for the COVID-19 pandemic, both on an individual level, and for society as a whole. Please try to give yourself credit for navigating these unforeseen challenges; let’s become stronger because of them.
If you or your family members would like to discuss this, or any other topic, please reach out to Cristina through the Ask A Self-Advocate program (AASA) via our Online Booking Request Form. As with all WRFN programming, the AASA program is provided at no charge.

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Family Pulse-May 2020

Welcome to May! 


Inside the May issue of Family Pulse you will find information on:

A message from Sue Simpson
How Living with Exceptionality has Helped Prepare Me
Steph's Corner
SEAC Updates
What's Happening at WRFN
Information, Resources, & Opportunities


You can read the online version of Family Pulse here or download a pdf copy. 

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Transitional Care Study

The Centre of Family Medicine, Mobiliy Clinic and McMaster University are conducting a study for transitional youth with physical disabilities in Kitchener-Waterloo.


Youth individuals with special healthcare needs often lose the quality of care they received as children once they turn 18 years old and must transition to the adult healthcare system.

This study will assess the need for a local program that would aim to help youth individuals with physical disability make the transfer from specialized pediatric care to adult care.


Click here for study advertisment.

Click here for transitional alumnus consent.

Click here for youth & caregiver consent.

Click here for youth under 16 years old consent.


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Blog Contributor Portrait
Leah Bowman
June 16, 2020
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Blog Contributor Portrait
Waterloo Region Family Network
November 12, 2019
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