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Staff Heads To Big Apple: Neurodiversity Awaits!

YAI-LiveWorkPlayFriday afternoon the LiveWorkPlay staff team (minus Anthony Stratton who stays in Ottawa with his wife and newborn but including Grace who takes a break from her own maternity leave to join in!) departs for New York City for participation in the YAI International Conference. With the tagline “Seeing Beyond Disability” the conference has a leading-edge tone with an emphasis on neurodiversity, which is a fancy way of saying that people with intellectual disabilities should be welcomed and respected members of society.

LiveWorkPlay co-leaders Julie Kingstone and Keenan Wellar will be opening the Community Inclusion stream on May 7th with a presentation entitled “From Social Programs to Social Change: Building a Welcoming Community.” They will talk about the LiveWorkPlay transition from 2008 to the present, during which time day programming was phased out an eliminated, replaced by the current community-based focus on supporting people in homes of their own, employment, volunteerism, education, sports, hobbies, citizenship, and friends!

Since participation in the conference was announced back in February, we’ve received some great questions, so here’s an FAQ!

How can the whole staff team attend?

This has been planned out carefully for about 6 months. A combination of paid staff replacements and volunteers will be providing support, and family members (where appropriate) are on board with helping members manage a revised schedule. This conference is an important opportunity for LiveWorkPlay staff to take part in one of the world’s top conferences and to be around leaders and organizations that can help push us to be all that we can be. Our members and families have always been highly supportive of professional development opportunities for staff, because what the team learns gets passed on as better service and better results.

How can LiveWorkPlay afford this?neuro

We have covered travel expenses with points earned on organizational credit cards for routine expenses incurred in the previous year. The team is sharing a vacation rental¬† (yup, all ten of them in the same space!) to minimize accommodation expenses. YAI organizers provided a significant group discount for registration. The team normally has an annual staff retreat (some years we just can’t fit it into the schedule) and attendance at the conference will be combined with evening discussions where staff members share what they have each learned throughout the day.

Why is LiveWorkPlay of interest to an international audience?

There will be thousands of delegates at the conference and many of them are interested in helping the people they support have success in the community and transition away from systems dependencies. In many countries including the USA system infrastructures are failing and by necessity they must learn how to do things differently-  and they need to learn about it quickly. The fact that LiveWorkPlay made a choice to pursue a person-centered and community-based approach as a values proposition and not a financial decision is a unique story that many people want to hear. We have now been living this new and better way of supporting our members for more than 2 years, and we are ready to share.

What about emergencies?

New York City has internet and telephones and back in Ottawa we have a dedicated board of directors. If it proved necessary, it’s a short flight and lots of availability for returning to Ottawa on short notice. There has been a lot of planning in anticipation of this trip in an attempt to minimize the possibility of any urgent needs while the team is away.

Will the team share this experience when they get back?

You can count on it! Watch for a post about it later this month.