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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.



Family Pulse-December 2020

Welcome to December! 


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

All Feelings are OK 
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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Celebrate Your Way

By Carmen Sutherland, Coffee Club Facilitator

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


I wanted to start this "essay" by asking you how you will spend your New Year's Eve. Or, if you are a parent who has to get children in bed by 8 P.M. maybe the question is: how would you LIKE to be spending your New Year's Eve? When you had fewer commitments, was New Year's Eve a big deal to you? Or was it just another day? Did/do you feel pressure to set a really big goal for the new year and live up to it? Well, maybe this is the kind of wisdom you get from somewhere other than our newsletter, but I am here to tell you: You don't have to do that if it's not for you!

I remember the first time in college that I made it from my class to the accessible bus stop all by myself. I need to tell you that you could literally see this bus stop from the steps of the building, but for this directionally-challenged woman, this was a victory! At the time, I didn't tell anyone, because I knew no one would really understand. It was my accomplishment, it belonged to me alone.

I tell you this not to discourage you from celebrating conventionally or with other people, but to tell you that you are allowed to celebrate as you choose. If goals for the new year inspire and excite you, then please set some! If they bring you down, forget it! If you want to set a fun goal like "wear more earrings!" or "do more crossword puzzles" you can do that, too!

I am still learning that life does not need to be on anyone else's timeline, or be played by anyone else's rules except yours - and those you love, depending on the circumstances. Your story does not belong to anyone except for you, and that means that sometimes your celebrations will belong only to you as well. So, set the goals that are right for you, celebrate in ways that work for you, and this new year, please know that even if we don't know about all or any of your goals, or you don't have them, WRFN is cheering for you every step of the way. 



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Love What You Love

By Carmen Sutherland, Coffee Club Facilitator

*This article was originally published in the Family Pulse Newsletter October 2019*


I don’t care about Halloween. I much prefer the coziness of Thanksgiving or the holidays. While I love candy as much as the next woman, I’ll take a turkey dinner over treats any day. I have friends, however, who are wild about Halloween; they wait all summer for it to come and while it is here they celebrate with all their might. This upcoming holiday has got me thinking about how much I enjoy that everyone’s preferences are different. One of my favourite things about all people is figuring out the things they love, what makes them happy. If you know what makes a person happy, you can build on that to build a relationship. Sometimes this can mean learning to love something that you didn't care about previously like football or the theatre, or that can just mean you use something you don't have a passion for in order to connect to someone who has trouble connecting.


At Coffee Club, this happens naturally. Coffee Clubbers know that I love food, so they will sometimes tell me what they had for supper before they came, or tease me if I don't remember what I brought for the last potluck (YOU ALWAYS REMEMBER FOOD, Carmen!) We have someone else who loves history, and it genuinely makes my heart dance to listen to this person and my friend Lyn who is always at Coffee Club with me discuss history and different parts of the world. So, if you like Halloween, feel free to tell me about it. It would be a great vehicle for us to get to know one another. :) If you have a person with an exceptionality in your life, find out what they love and build on that! It will be fun, and could lead to a richer relationship.​




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"What if We All Said Congratulations?"

By Carmen Sutherland, Coffee Club Facilitator

*This article was originally published in the Family Pulse Newsletter April 2019*

My favourite book of 2018 was called This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel, about a little person who discovers at about age 5 that he/she is transgender. At the beginning of the journey, the child’s loving but nervous parents go to the mother’s social worker colleague and after telling him the situation the social worker says: “Congratulations! You have a child with gender dysphoria!” The lump in my throat was immediate. This fictional social worker was telling these parents to do something many parents with “typical children” take for granted: celebrate who the child is. Not only that, but he was celebrating, too! What if we all did that? Or, maybe a better question is: What if all the people in the community did that? What if our first response to a parent telling us that their child has a disability or challenge is: Congratulations! It doesn’t mean we are ignoring the challenges that the child or parents could face. What if it meant, we see the possible difficulties this family may go through, but first we are going to celebrate the fact that this child is here, and whenever we can we will keep celebrating.


If this was our goal, and we really wanted to implement it, think what that could mean? It could mean that maybe retired people who have time on their hands step up to help parents take their kids to appointments. It could mean that places of worship and community gathering places actively work to make their spaces accessible. It could mean that the culture is changed so that people who are typically-developing learn to embrace having those with disabilities in their community, instinctively thinking about how to support them and use their gifts and talents.

I have seen parents do this well. A dear friend of mine who has worked with people with disabilities for years, and has disabilities herself, gave birth to a daughter with a rare chromosomal disorder. The first post I saw about my first “heart-neice” on Facebook said something like: “Our beautiful daughter and the beginning of our journey!” Of course, it is likely that my friend and her partner dealt with some surprise and perhaps even sadness in private, but even I, someone who has been celebrated by this woman my whole life, was surprised at the pure joy in this post, and the fact that she constantly celebrates her daughter to this day. I have zero doubt that she celebrates others with disabilities whenever she meets them, both in her words and actions. I highlight her to point out that she did not begin to do this once she met her daughter, she was already doing it beforehand! I hope we can all – including myself – learn from her example and tell the world “Congratulations!” whenever possible.

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WRFN Family Pulse October 2019

Welcome to October! 


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

What's Happening at WRFN
Coffee Club update
Managing Back to School Mental Health
Upcoming Community Events


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


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WRFN Newsletter - April 2019

The April 2019 issue of Family Pulse is now available.


In this issue:

  • WRFN's Evening of Elegance
  • SEAC updates
  • What if We All Said Congratulations?
  • What's happing at WRFN
    • Focus Group - Peer-Led FASD Caregivers Support Group
    • A New Chapter
  • Coffee Club update
  • Upcoming events in the community and beyond

Read the April issue of Family Pulse online here or download a pdf copy.

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