BRITISH COLUMBIA’S VOICE FOR THE BRAIN INJURY COMMUNITY FALL 2008
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Struggles in the
A Brain Injury
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BRAIN DAMAGE • QUADRIPLEGIA & PARAPLEGIA • WRONGFUL DEATH • HEAD INJURY • SPINAL CORD • WHIPLASH
The beginning of the school year is a great time to re-
mind your child of some of the safety precautions they
Message from the Editor may have forgotten during the summer months. Many
Janelle Breese Biagioni bumps can be avoided with a few safety precautions on
the playground, on the bus, and in the classroom.
Greetings! The Playground
September is a month to embrace change. Kids return to 4 Always ensure that there are no loose ends on your
school, vacations have passed, summer gardens begin child’s clothing that could get caught.
to dwindle and we celebrate the Autumnal Equinox on 4 Never wear a bike helmet on playground equipment.
September, 22nd transitioning us from the simplicity of
summer cottons to denim and sweaters. It is also a time 4 Check for a soft surface in your playground. It should
be at least 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters) deep.
when local brain injury associations resume their pro-
grams and support groups for survivors of brain injury 4 Watch out for areas where your child’s head or neck
and their families. Be sure to check in with your local could get stuck. Safe spaces are smaller than
organization to see what they have to offer. 3 ½ inches (9 centimeters) and larger than 9 inches
In this issue we continue to look at the “struggles on the
streets.” This time we are looking at convicted prisoners The School Bus
living with a brain injury. You will find their stories fas- 4 Remind your child to get to the bus stop at least five
cinating. You will also learn what supports Correctional minutes before the school bus arrives. Children
Service of Canada provides for prisoners with brain injury should never run after the school bus to try to catch
during their incarceration and after they are released into it if they miss their ride.
the community. 4 When the school bus is approaching the bus stop,
Once again, we are also honoured to share an inspiring your child must take five steps back from the road.
story of a survivor who has taken her experiences with a If you can touch the bus, you’re too close.
brain injury to help survivors and families on their journey. 4 Always cross the street in front of the school bus but
Kala Vengel’s story is reminiscent of so many others who only after establishing eye contact with the school
are left to struggle on their own after sustaining a brain bus driver.
injury. It is also encouraging to learn that people can
overcome significant challenges and return to meaningful 4 If something is dropped near or under the school
employment after brain injury. bus, they should never attempt to retrieve it without
the driver’s permission.
In closing, I encourage our readers to make a personal
commitment to spread the word about prevention. Espe- The Classroom
cially with sports (professional and amateur) resuming, 4 Remind your child that running in a classroom is not
it’s important to remember to wear the gear and to learn safe.
about “Return to Play” guidelines for team members
who sustain a concussion. There are numerous websites 4 Make sure your child understands that standing on
to provide this information if you don’t have it; Google tables and chairs can be very dangerous.
“return to play” for a plethora of information. Moreover, 4 Always make sure that your child has the appropriate
enjoy the cosiness of autumn and stay safe! clothing for their physical activities.
Recycle, reuse, reduce…all buzz words, the bottom line being
“mindful” as we move through our minutes, hours and days.
Recycle, reuse?... Finished copies of Headline are tossed into re-
cycling bins. Reduce?... We’re offering you the option of receiv-
ing our publication online. An increasing number of readers en-
joy Headline this way. Do pop me an e-mail (with Headline in the
subject line) if this method would serve you better than receiving
it through the mail. Also, if you need to increase or decrease the
number of Headline you receive let me know. Thanks!
Struggles in the Streets: Brain Injury and Prison
By Janelle Breese Biagioni
There is no argument that many people living with a The first occurred at the age of 10 when his stepfa-
brain injury slip through the cracks and never receive ther went into a rage after Godkin laughed because his
any supports or services. Instead, they are left to make stepfather smashed his fingers when using the hammer
sense of what has happened to them and to move their to nail something. A 10 year-old boy’s snicker provoked
life forward regardless of the deficits they have. Some such anger that the man pummelled the top of his head
make it and some don’t. Bruce Godkin and Bill Dickson with the hammer. This little boy had suffered multiple bro-
are examples of two individuals who slipped through ken bones in previous incidents with this man, but dare
the cracks. They are prisoners in Mission Institution who to say, this injury was life-altering. Godkin reports that for
have brain injuries and are serving time for significant days following the blow to his head, he was left to drift in
crimes. Here are their stories: and out of consciousness. Taking him to the hospital was
Bruce Godkin not going to happen for the stepfather knew full well that
Bruce Godkin, 52 years-old, the open ‘hammer-shaped’ wound would be cause for
describes himself as a “rather question.
spectacular bank robber” but Godkin’s second brain injury occurred when he was shot
acknowledges that his crimes “execution style” in the back of the head at the age of
were violent and traumatic for thirty. In between the first and second brain injury were
the innocent people involved. years of confusion, abuse, and crime. While the first brain
Godkin, who has an uncanny injury went undiagnosed, the second did not. The 22 cali-
likeness to Jack Nicholson, bre gun discharged a bullet that fragmented and lodged
takes full responsibility for in three different parts of Godkin’s brain. However, after
his actions and has spent the being released from hospital several months later, and
better part of his life within the before any talk of rehab happened, Godkin was arrested
walls of jail. This has provided on unrelated bank robbery charges and sent to prison for
him with plenty of time to think, to review his life, and to 18 years. While the prison system offered programs (e.g.
question why his life panned out the way it did. violent crimes) it did not provide programs or educational
In our conversation, Godkin articulated the events in his supplements specific to brain injury-related issues (i.e.
life that resulted in him sustaining multiple brain injuries. cognitive, social, behaviour, physical and communica-
tion). In fact, until recently, the prison system viewed an
inmate’s claim of brain injury to be an “excuse” and was
not prepared to address it. This is changing.
Forty-year old Bill
Dickson’s story is
similar to Bruce
Godkin’s story; how-
ever, their sentences
are quite different.
Dickson is seven
ACQUIRED BRAIN INJURY (ABI)? years into a “life plus
12” term for murder.
. . . with an ABI, a One-Day Functional Capacity Evaluation is He is eligible for pa-
not enough to determine ability to return to work . . . role in twelve years.
Both men had no positive male influence in their lives;
INTRODUCING THE 3-DAY ABI WORK CAPACITY ASSESSMENT Dickson’s father died when he was 14 years old but had
...a longer assessment allows for a comprehensive evaluation of the multiple never been in contact with his son. Their mothers were
symptoms associated with Acquired Brain Injury.... dealing with their own issues of substance and relation-
ship abuse; they were not present enough to protect their
The 3-DAY ABI WORK CAPACITY ASSESSMENT WILL GATHER OBJECTIVE INFORMATION sons. Both men, as children, suffered physical and men-
REGARDING: tal abuse. Dickson reports that “whoever was my friend
Physical ability to perform work tasks was my friend”. One of his earliest childhood memories
Cognitive skills to complete work demands
was at 4 years old when the police brought him home at
REATMEN three o’clock in the morning. “I was hanging out with the
Behavioural skills to ULTING/T
participate in work LTD. prostitutes…” Sadly he adds, “My mother’s only com-
relationships 0 - 3438 Lo
2A4 ment was how cute I looked standing up in the back of
r, BC V5M
the police car.”
Call us for more information T: 60
F: 604.21 otconsulting.bc.c
E: cons ult@ Dickson’s brain injury is the result of a car crash on the
onsu lting.ca Upper Levels Highway in Vancouver, BC. He was 16
years old and had been drinking all day and night with the way they do, why they have certain behaviours, and
friends. Their car hit a road paver doing 75 miles per hour why they haven’t fit into mainstream society.
(approximately 120 km per hour). Dickson was thrown
Godkin and Dickson are asking for education… for
from the vehicle and landed unconscious on the side of
themselves, other prisoners and the prison staff. Both
the road with massive facial trauma. The cuts and lacera-
men understand that the way they have lived their lives
tions to his face were so extensive he was wrapped up
so far has not worked. I asked what would happen to
like a “mummy” for days. Even though he was found un-
them if the doors of the prison magically opened for them
conscious at the crash, Dickson was never told he had a
tomorrow. Dickson said, “I’m screwed.” Godkin replied,
brain injury. He reports that following the crash, he didn’t
“I won’t make it.” These men are asking for programs
do anything. He was no longer outgoing. His day-to-day
to help them address the day-to-day issues they face:
routine was work, stay in the house, and drink. He was
behaviour and social skills; functional issues; emotional
living in a basement suite with his sister; his mom was
difficulties; cognitive and communication deficits and
not around as she was struggling with her own alcohol
and drug issues. Dickson saw himself as “following in her
footsteps”. Godkin adds, “I would also like information on health-re-
lated issues that I may have as I age with a brain injury.”
When did Dickson learn he had a brain injury? In prison.
Godkin expressed his concern over cognitive changes
He always knew that something was wrong. He tried
he is experiencing and his fear that he is developing
desperately to get help and to have someone make
sense of his behaviours. Once he pleaded with a judge to
send him to a violence prevention program. He paid for Mission Institution Brain Injury Support Group: For
other courses on his own and sought the services of a Prisoners by Prisoners
psychiatrist at least twenty times with the hopes of find- The Mission Institution Brain Injury Support Group (MI-
ing out why he was the way he was. BISG) is not the first brain injury support group in prison.
In 1993, Dean Kinley and Bruce Godkin founded the
Bruce Godkin began giving Bill Dickson information on
Matsqui Brain Injury Support Group (MBISG) which in
brain injuries in jail. Their cells are next to one another.
turn started a chapter in Mission in 1997. The group has
This information was what Dickson needed to put the
been dormant for a number of years and has recently
pieces together. In our conversation, he explained that
been resurrected by Godkin and Dickson. Working along
now he realized he actually sustained a brain injury as
side these two men is Marilyn Whitby, staff liaison.
a child too. He was about 6 or 7 years old when he was
playing with some pipes, stacking them one on top of the The group in Mission Institution is attracting interest.
other. A pipe fell off, hit Dickson in the head and knocked Godkin and Dickson report that 9 other inmates want to
him out. He needed 11 stitches to close the wound. But join the group. The group is waiting to be given official
again, no one told him he had a head injury.
Like Godkin, Dickson has taken it into his own hands to
find information about brain injuries, and to determine
what he can do to move his life forward in light of the
From Prison to the Community
Bruce Godkin was released from prison in May 2004. He
lasted eighteen months before re-entering prison in 2008
for another bank robbery. Shortly after his release, he
found himself back in the alleys of the downtown East- Joseph A. Zak Kevin D. Cowan David J. Marr, Q.C.
side in Vancouver; he didn’t want to be there but it was
“We care about your future”
all he knew. Once he landed there it didn’t take long for
him to start using heroin again. The vicious cycle of des-
peration took over…finding the money to purchase the
next hit. Godkin remembers the day that he decided he
couldn’t or rather, wouldn’t live that way any longer. He A team of experienced professionals sensitive to
said he would rather die then stay on the streets; the only the needs of both the survivor and the family.
way to escape the grips of his down-trodden life was
to go back to jail. He made the conscious decision to
do another bank robbery so he could re-enter a system
that provided clean clothes, bedding on a cot, and three
meals a day. This last crime landed Godkin a sentence of
9 years 2 months.
What These Two Prisoners Are Asking For We travel to you
Godkin and Dickson take full responsibility for their Suite 600-175 Second Avenue, Kamloops, BC V2C 5W1
crimes. In my discussion with them, they didn’t use their
brain injuries as an excuse for what they did. They talked T: 250.372.1221 TF: 1.800.558.1933
about their brain injuries in the way that I have heard E: firstname.lastname@example.org
many survivors (who have not committed crimes) talk. www.hmzlaw.com
They talked about finally making sense of why they feel
I N T E R N E T
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• If you would like your Web Page
Editor listed call 604-274-1251
Janelle Breese Biagioni
2129 Nicklaus Drive BC Brain Injury Association
Victoria, BC V9B 6T3
Campbell River Head Injury Support Society
HEADLINE welcomes letters and relevant Lower Mainland Brain Injury Association
articles for publication, and reserves the right to www.lmbia.org
edit any accepted submissions for clarity and length. A
signature, address, and telephone number are required. Fraser Valley Brain Injury Association
Please contact Janelle Breese Biagioni www.fvbia.org
for copy deadlines.
Central Okanagan Brain Injury Society
Mike Rossiter and HEADLINE editors take no
responsibility for, nor do they necessarily agree Comox Valley Head Injury Society
with, the opinions contained in articles, letters www.cvheadinjury.com
Contact Janelle Breese Biagioni
Nanaimo Brain Injury Society
at 250-592-4460 for information. www.nbis.ca.
Prince George Brain Injured Group Society
Brain Injury Resources
Ontario Brain Injury Association
Brain Injury Association USA
South Okanagan Similkameen BI Society
Vancouver Island Head Injury Society
The Perspective Network
CHANGE OF ADDRESS? The TBI Chat Room
We would like to keep our
mailing list up-to-date!
If you have moved or would like to G.F. Strong Rehab
be on the mailing list, please www.gfstrong.com
contact Mary Lou at: 604-274-1251 BC Eplilepsy Society
or email her at: email@example.com www.bcepilepsy.com
(Please put HEADLINE in subject line of email)
status so they can start meeting. They explained that individualised support as staff engage with offenders
within prison there are many groups such the Chinese to develop release plans and partnerships with various
Group, Celtic Group and Peer Counselling Group. The re- community service providers, ensuring offenders with
quirement is the same for all groups; official status has to mental health disorders receive ongoing services and
be given from the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) supports even when they are no longer on parole.
so they can meet. The delivery of mental health training to various correc-
While a total of eleven prisoners (Godkin, Dickson and tional staff, parole officers and other non-mental health
nine more) may sound like a small number of individuals professionals within CSC is yet another component of
requesting the group, the numbers are expected to rise. the overall mental health strategy.
Godkin says he estimates that about 38% of inmates Conclusion
have sustained a brain injury. John Simpson, an expert in For me, the question is … “are these prisoners asking
the field of brain injury, states, “80% of inmates in Fed- for something unreasonable?” I can only answer it this
eral prisons have an identifiable brain injury.” Furthermore way… Godkin and Dickson have accepted they have a
he reports, “In many cases, these injuries are in addition brain injury and will have for the rest of their lives. They
to pre-existing problems, such as fetal alcohol syndrome have insight into how their brain injury has impacted
or some other neurological problem. What has been them day-to-day and they acknowledge the need to
most troubling to me, after interviewing many inmates, learn strategies to help them cope with memory loss,
is the high number – over 60% - that had their first brain anger and agitation, behaviour and social issues, and
injury as a child.” improving cognition. Moreover, they know that there is
Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) no chance at all for them to reintegrate into mainstream
CSC has declared “mental health” a corporate priority. society without getting the information and support they
Offenders with a brain injury are included in the prison need and are asking for. In that context, they are asking
population identified as those having a mental health for no more than any other survivor that I have met. And
problem. CSC has developed a national mental health to take it one step further, isn’t releasing a prisoner with a
strategy which proposes a comprehensive continuum brain injury into the community without services and sup-
of mental health services that begin when the offender ports to help him or her cope with their deficits the same
arrives in prison through to their release into the com- as discharging a patient with a brain injury from hospital
munity. without any community-based rehab? If CSC implements
The strategy proposes a voluntary screening of the the proposed mental health strategies then offenders like
offender upon intake at the institution to identify the indi- Dickson and Godkin, should receive the services and
vidual’s mental health needs. It also proposes elements supports needed to address the issues they live with
for Primary Mental Health Care within penitentiaries because of their brain injuries. That’s good news.
(mental health staff versed in best practices in correc-
tional mental health); Intermediate Mental Health Care
Units where offenders requiring an enhanced level of
daily mental health services can continue to work on their
correctional plan while receiving the necessary treatment You’re in Good Hands.
and support to manage their illness; Intensive Care – Our goal is to assist our clients
Regional Treatment Centres (new resources to assist the by obtaining funding for all of
RTCs – five in total – to earn or maintain accreditation their immediate needs in order
as psychiatric hospitals). These treatment centres are
to maximize their potential for
designed to provide intensive care for those with acute
recovery, while we proceed toward
mental disorders (e.g. schizophrenia) and brain injury. For
example, Pacific Institution - Regional Treatment Centre obtaining settlement or judgment
in Abbotsford is a multi-level security institution with a that allows a sustainable and
medical hospital, psychiatric unit and a 96-bed rehab unit encouraging new future.
for offenders coping with physical and cognitive deficits.
Admission to the rehab unit is not difficult. Dorothy Reid,
Clinical Psychologist, at Pacific Institution/Regional Treat-
ment Centre explains, “An offender with cognitive deficits
can talk to their parole officer and the parole officer can
make the referral to have the inmate transferred to RTC.
If the offender consents to the transfer they can serve
their entire sentence in the rehab unit, or after receiving
rehab they can transfer back to the institution they came
from to serve the remainder of their sentence.”
Personal Injury & Insurance Law
The strategy also addresses Transitional Care and Com-
munity Mental Health including enhanced discharge
planning services and the addition of small community
mental health teams to transition offenders with men-
tal health issues back in to the community both under 250.360.2500 For more information, contact:
Barri Marlatt or
sentence and beyond. Services include education and www.hom-law.com Lorenzo Oss-Cech
JOB #H103-8527 OPT2 headline 7
CLIENT: HUTCHISON, OSS-CECH, MARLATT
INSERTION DATE : SPRING 2008
PUBLICATION: HEADLINE MAG
By Janelle Breese Biagioni
In 1999, Kala Vengels and her husband completely burying Kala’s face, leaving her
Frank were far from their home of Dart- unable to breathe or see. Frank had minor
mouth, Nova Scotia, for the Christmas holi- cuts to his hands but was able to get him-
days. On December 27th, they left from vis- self out of the vehicle, clear the snow from
iting Frank’s family in Thunder Bay to travel Kala’s face and chest and cut her out of
to Timmins, Ontario, to visit with Kala’s her seatbelt. The vehicle that had hit them
family. Their departure had been delayed was long gone. Fortunately, a passer-by
one day due to poor weather conditions. took the Vengels to a gas station in Hearst
Another storm was to move in, so Frank that had a small café. Frank and the Good
and Kala were certain they were traveling Samaritan left Kala with the waitress and
ahead of the storm. About 40 km outside went back to the crash scene to locate
of Hearst, Ontario (4 hours north of Tim- Kala’s asthma inhalers and any items they
mins) the snow began to blow across the could find from her purse.
road. Kala was driving and became quite
At the café, Kala went to the bathroom
nervous. She told Frank that she wanted to
and noticed a lot of blood but she was unable to make any
stop in Hearst and switch seats so he could drive.
sense in her communication with others, in fact, she wasn’t
Soon after their conversation, Kala saw a transport truck able to get any words out. The waitress was concerned
approaching in the opposite lane. The back end of the truck and kept saying, “She is not alright. She needs to go to the
was fish-tailing and Kala said to Frank, “He’s coming. He’s hospital.” A police officer came to the café to speak to Frank
coming.” The truck came alongside Frank and Kala and as and Kala. She remembers thinking that he must have been
its back end lined up with the back end of the Vengels Ford there to arrest her. She didn’t know what for, but in her mind,
F150, it swiped them sharply like the snap of a dragon’s tail. why else was he there??? The officer asked Kala questions
Kala shouted, “Oh my God … Oh my God!” The last thing and she was not able to answer them verbally. She made
she remembers is Frank saying, “It’ll be okay. It’ll be okay.” gestures and in her mind she was saying the words but she
was actually incoherent. Frank and the waitress again said
The Vengels truck hit an embankment of snow head-on. The
she should go to the hospital. The young officer assured
snow was so compacted it was like hitting a ridge of ice.
Frank that his wife would be okay and that she was just in
Their truck flipped end-over-end before landing upside down
shock; there was no need to seek medical treatment.
and the roof on Kala’s side collapsing onto her head. The
glass in the windows imploded and the snow pushed inside Frank and Kala checked into a local motel for the night. Her
24 years of experience
helping brain injured
victims and their families.
Joe Murphy, Q.C. Joe Battista J. Scott Stanley
Wes Mussio Steve Gibson Brian Brooke 2020 - 650 West Georgia Street
Derek Mah Grace Chen Angela Price-Stephens Box 11547, Vancouver Centre
Irina Kordic Vancouver, BC V6B 4N7
grandfather and uncle were coming down the next morning had groceries in the house, and supported her through the
from Timmins to get them. The clerk at the motel felt bad for darkest of times while Frank was away. Debbie, and Frank
them so she put them in their nicest suite with a hot tub. Kala when he was home, developed their own cognitive rehab
hurt all over and expected that she should given the extent for Kala by having her work through children’s books and
of the damage to their vehicle. Frank, in attempting to soothe exercises. Kala also did lots of puzzle and mazes. She read
his wife’s aches and pains, helped her into the hot tub. children’s books and magazines and practiced reading out
Minutes later, he was horrified to see specks of blood surfac- loud. Frank also helped Kala with compensatory strategies.
ing all over her face. They hadn’t realized that Kala’s face For example, Kala found it difficult to figure out what to tip
(eyelids, mouth and ears) were imbedded with tiny shards in a restaurant, so the strategy was “tip $2 for every $10 on
of glass; the heat from the hot tub was forcing the minute the bill.” The only trouble with this was if the server did not
crystals to the surface of her skin. provide separate bills when Kala was out with others, she
simply paid the entire bill and the tip. However, with Deb-
Getting home to Dartmouth was a challenge. Because of the
bie and Frank’s help and Kala’s personal drive, she steadily
delays related to the crash, Frank had to start work the day
after returning home. Kala was still not making sense and in
tremendous pain, so Frank dropped her off to their doc- In January 2003, Frank and Kala were transferred to Victo-
tor before heading to work. The next thing Frank knew was ria. It was in gathering her medical records for the move that
that his wife was on the telephone saying she was going by Kala learned the truth. She had sustained a brain injury, but
ambulance to the hospital straight from the doctor’s office. her doctor never told her. He had merely talked in circles and
It had been four days since the horrific crash and Kala was dismissed any possibility of her returning to the life she had
just learning that she had broken ribs, a broken pubic bone, pre-injury.
broken wrist, broken jaw and a tear in her bowel, hence the Kala states, “No one was happier than me about the move.
extensive bleeding she was experiencing. No one knew us in Victoria. No one knew about the car
The doctors providing her care in hospital spoke mostly crash. It was the chance of a lifetime to leave behind all the
about her physical injuries. No one told her that she had a pain and hurt.” Moreover, Kala rejoiced that no one would
brain injury. Instead they talked about impairments and the know the doctors had declared her “incompetent” and that
possibility of having to put a shunt in her head to ease the she would never be capable of holding down a job again. For
pressure. The following days and weeks were a blur for Kala. Kala, she could slip into the community and find a suitable
She remembers arguing with the medical staff and waking in volunteer position and no one would be the wiser. That was
the middle of the night to find a psychiatric patient sitting on until her and another volunteer crossed paths.
her bedside touching her inappropriately. Although she tried Janelle Breese Biagioni, Case Manager for the Cridge Center
to convey her upset about the situation to the staff, as did for the Family, met Kala while volunteering with her in the
Frank, the scenario was simply dismissed. Eventually, Kala Rainbows program at the Military Family Resource Centre. “I
left the hospital against the advice of her doctors. was completely taken with Kala’s people skills, her organiza-
Kala’s emotional well-being soon began to crash. She was tion, dedication and super efficiency,” states Breese Biagioni.
frustrated. She did not know what was wrong with her. “She had a plethora of skills that I felt would be an asset
Why could she not remember the simplest thing? Why was to the Networks (a program building social connections for
she feeling so depressed? Why couldn’t she carry out her people living with the outcome of a brain injury) so I asked to
day-to-day living as she had prior to the accident? Why was meet with her. I had no idea that Kala had first-hand knowl-
she perseverating on the time? And why would she literally edge of the impact of brain injury. I just saw a totally compe-
collapse into sleep regardless of where she was or what she tent person who would be an asset to the team.”
should be doing? Pre-injury, she was an efficient, competent The proposed meeting with Janelle had Kala in a heightened
woman well on her way to completing degrees in Psychology state of anxiety. “The cat was out of the bag so to speak,”
and Sociology with a minor in Women’s studies. Post-injury tells Kala. “Frank and I agreed that I was just going to have
she couldn’t cope at her job and eventually lost it. Why? to tell her that the doctors said I am not competent to hold
Furthermore, she falsely believed that all her pain, confusion, down a job because I have a brain injury.” At the meeting,
and inability to read or be in crowds, was because she broke Janelle went through the steps of being a facilitator for a
her jaw. It just didn’t make sense. network. Finally, Kala had to interrupt her. “I should tell you
Kala’s memory was incredibly impaired. As an example, before you go any further… I was in a car crash and I have a
about 2-3 months after the accident, Kala was outside their brain injury.” What transpired next was beyond Kala’s expec-
building heading to a physio/acupuncture appointment (for tations. “I fully expected that Janelle would finally “get it” and
pain related to the accident, specifically headaches and that would be the end of the meeting. Instead, she looked at
pain in her jaw) and was shocked to find that their truck ( the me and cheered, ‘Great, I don’t even have to train you. You
one that was written off in the accident) was missing. She fully understand what happens to an individual and a family
forgot that her friend was picking her up. The friend was very when a loved one sustains a brain injury.’ I was stunned.”
surprised to arrive and to find Kala filing a report about her Since starting out as a Facilitator in 2005, Kala has ac-
“stolen truck”. It also took the friend some time to convince cepted contracts as both Community Support Worker (CSW)
Kala that she had not been robbed. and Case Manager (CM). Breese Biagioni comments, “The
On top of this, Frank, who is an engineer in the military, was individuals and their families who work with Kala are in good
away on average of 296 days a year for the following three hands. She understands brain injury. She is skilled and
years. Thankfully, their friend Debbie Gourlay, took Kala un- talented. She is passionate, compassionate, resourceful, and
der her wing and ensured she got to doctor’s appointments, most of …. COMPETENT.”
The Lookout: A Movie Synopsis.
By Jennifer Murphy
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, (Third Rock from the Sun) and Jeff Many moments in the movie accurately illustrate some
Daniels (Good Night and Good Luck, Dumb and Dumber) of the potential traits of those living with a brain injury. To
give outstanding and mesmerizing performances in Scott orient the audience with Chris’ condition the script has a
Frank’s The Lookout (2007), Gordon-Levitt plays Chris voice-over portion where he describes his morning routine,
Pratt, who suffers a brain injury and becomes involved repetitively. However, during this, Chris mentions some of
in a bank robbery. Frank had written the screenplays for the things he avoids in the morning. “I don’t read the news-
Out of Sight, Get Shorty, and The Interpreter, yet this paper, it confuses me, which makes me mad,” showing the
genuine and absorbing film is his directorial debut. With many layers of a brain injury and the emotions that may
a direction and cinematography that emphasizes the appear. Throughout the film Gordon-Levitt’s performance is
confusion and anxiety that can come with brain injury mesmerizing in his ability to convey a reactive protagonist
and memory loss, the film captures part of the realities of simultaneously dealing with many complex emotions and
everyday living with such a condition. thoughts.
However, the characters convey many of the emotions The film also goes a long way in demonstrating that Pratt’s
that can come along with living a brain injury. Gordon- hurdles are less his brain injury and more the emotions
Levitt’s character, Chris Pratt, was a star high school and grief that come along with a tragic event. Having lost
hockey player, who is the driver in a horrific car accident his lifestyle, his friends, and his family’s understanding, he
that leaves him with a brain injury, several scars and becomes susceptible to someone perceiving his need to
plenty of guilt. Chris is dealing with this trauma while also belong. Enter Mathew Goode’s character Gary who dem-
learning to manage his life which begins to take its toll on onstrates his prowess with women that catches Pratt’s
his self-worth and sets the stage from manipulation. attention. Pratt has found it difficult approaching women
when his brain no longer filters inappropriate statements.
It is 4 years after the accident when we meet Chris again.
Chris becomes attached to ex-stripper Luvlee Lemons (Isla
He is still working to understand sequencing and his
Fisher), a member of Gary’s clique who is not taken aback
daily routine. Like many people living with brain injuries
when Chris blurts out that he wants to see her naked.
he carries a notebook and makes notes about every-
Gary’s powers of persuasion allow him to convince Chris
thing. His roommate is Lewis, a blind ex-criminal, played
to assist in robbing the bank that Chris works at night as
by Bridges. Quite prominently, Lewis is Chris’ foil having
a janitor. He pulls the unsuspecting Chris into his tight knit
come to terms with his condition. Lewis’ pragmatism
group of hoods, and presents him with an opportunity to
contrasts with Chris’ longing for the life that once was.
regain some independence and power over his own life.
Take a Break A D V ERTIS ER ’S P R O FILE
Paine Edmonds L. L. P. – Lawyers
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For more information on the services provided
by Paine Edmonds, or to explain your situation
to them, call 604-683-1211 (Toll-Free 1-800-
669-8599) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may also visit their website at www.paine-
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At JR Rehab Services, our team of Occupational Therapists,
Rehab Assistants and Kinesiologists provide community
based rehabilitation services in:
• Acquired Brain Injuries • Chronic Pain
• Mental Health Conditions • Stroke
A resident care home directed towards meeting the needs of adults recovering from brain injury.
• Orthopaedic Disability • Joint Rehab Replacement
Services include adapted activities of daily living, life skills,
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Vancouver: 604.254.0444 www.jrrehab.ca
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Victoria: 250.704.4437 email@example.com
7887 Jasper Crescent, Vancouver, BC V5P 2N4 We return individuals to active and productive lives!
PRINCE GEORGE BRAIN INJURED GROUP
Celebrates 20 Years
A Big, Big Thanks
On February 12 current board members, survivors and To Tom Bellamy
staff gathered to thank our inaugural board and support- 1966-2008
ers and to celebrate survivors who have been members
for all of these years. Tom passed away unexpectedly on June 30, 2008 as a
result of complications related to his brain injury, sus-
tained 25 years ago.
We know that brain injury does not just affect the per-
son, it affects and changes the whole family.
Tom Bellamy’s brain injury was no different in this re-
spect. But Tom’s brain injury went much, much further.
Tom’s injury affected and changed the lives of hundreds
of survivors and their families.
It was out of the fruitless search for services that Tom
and his family, particularly Carole his mother, created the
Prince George Brain Injured Group. Tom was always so
proud of this fact and so, so proud of his mum.
On behalf of the hundreds of survivors of brain injury
who have benefited from PG BIG in the 20 years we
have existed, a BIG, BIG thanks goes out to Tom and
On September 6 we’ll cel-
ebrate all of the people who In the creation of PG BIG Tom has left a legacy that will
have been a part of BIG at continue to give for many, many years. On behalf of the
our “BIG Family Reunion”. hundreds of survivors of brain injury who will benefit
We’re expecting more than from your legacy in the years to come, thank you Tom.
300 survivors and staff to a
carnival, complete with candy Tom’s injury changed the lives of people living with brain
floss, a dunk tank, carnival injury and their families. In addition, Tom also contrib-
games and special remem- uted greatly to making our community a more accepting
brances!! place for people living with brain injury.
No shrinking violet, Tom lived his life in a BIG way. If
people didn’t automatically notice him when he entered
Sisett & Company a room, Tom announced himself. Though he engaged
people on a variety of topics and in a variety of ways,
Tom’s greatest points of pride were: #1 – he was a BEL-
INJURY AND INSURANCE LAW LAMY, and #2 – he had been in a car crash and as a
I.C.B.C.? Wrongful death or injury? result had a brain injury. Tom taught hundreds of people
that “brain injury” is not a dirty word, that the effects are
Helping the injured since 1971 nothing to be ashamed of, and that brain injury can hap-
pen to anyone. And that that anyone could just as easily
603-601 West Broadway, Vancouver, B.C. V5Z 4C2 be you.
Tel: 604-879-8811 Toll free Tel: 1-800-4-INJURY
Fax: 604-879-7346 Tom, you were a BIG man. You made a BIG difference.
www.sisettlaw.com And you left a BIG legacy. We are ever grateful. We’ll
miss you so much, BIG guy!!!
Americans Study Brain Injury in Correctional Facilities
By Jennifer Murphy
There are many reasons why people end up in prison, lists 12 situations associated with brain injuries, such as
sometimes it is their lifestyle choices, sometimes it’s the vehicle crashes, falls, and assaults. The second section in-
environment they were raised in, and then there may be vestigates the nature of the head injuries reported. Ques-
psychological issues that may bring them to the doors of a tions would delve into the age of the person at the time of
correctional institute. However, when a person ends up in the injury, whether there was any loss of consciousness or
the correctional system there is usually a multitude of rea- post traumatic amnesia, and if care was received. And fi-
sons why they ended up there. One reason that has grave nally the third section assesses the frequency and severity
consequences on any plans for rehabilitation and manage- of 15 different cognitive and physical symptoms common
ment is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). with brain injury, such as trouble concentrating or remem-
bering, dizziness or headaches.
While Canada does not have a lot of research on the
impact of TBI on the inmate population, there has been The study found that a lack of identification of TBI can
some development. In 2004, Correctional Service of Can- have a large impact on treatment and reintegration into
ada opened a rehabilitation unit for those with neurological the community. Applying a program for rehabilitation
issues, including TBI. Those involved with the brain injury developed for those without a TBI would not maintain a
community believe that this unit’s opening has improved successful rate when applied to those who have sustained
the situation for brain injury suffers and their rehabilitation. brain trauma. Programs for substance abuse treatment,
However, the voluntary nature of the program limits its victims of violence and for perpetrators can benefit from
success. identification of those who are inhibited by cognitive prob-
lems stemming from a brain injury.
Studies available within Canada’s correctional system are
limited; however, the United States has begun to research Traumatic brain injury among prisoners is an important
not only the frequency but the severity of TBI within the component to understanding those within the correctional
inmate population. One study by the University of Min- system, as well as providing strategies that assist the
nesota, which questioned 998 inmates, found that the rehabilitation and transition back into society. The cogni-
proportion of inmates with TBI was potentially ten times tive, social and behavioral problems, including aggres-
that of the general population. Previously the percentage sive behavior, that are common with TBI are especially
of inmates that reported a TBI was dramatically less. Upon important to recognize in offenders if rehabilitation is to be
arrival an inmate was simply asked whether they had successful.
ever been diagnosed with a TBI, however many had not
received treatment or were unaware of the meaning of the
term. The University of Minnesota made a point to change
the phrasing from brain injury to head injury precisely be-
cause the term was misunderstood.
The University developed a questionnaire which helped to
identify TBI more accurately and subsequently found that
upon intake only 10, or 1% of the inmates interviewed had
reported a brain injury when they were admitted into the
correctional facility, while after being interviewed 82.8%
reported having had one or more head injuries during their
lifetime. The majority of injuries were reportedly caused by
assaults, followed by automobile crashes, and sports.
The Traumatic Brain Injury Questionnaire, developed by
the University of Minnesota is administered in an interview
setting and is divided into three parts. The first section
Columbia Speech &
Language Services Inc.
Providing speech and language services to
children and adults throughout the Lower
Mainland & Fraser Valley since 1987
1316 - 750 West Broadway Vancouver, B.C. V5Z 1J3
Treatment aimed at community reintegration
SOUTH OKANAGAN SIMILKAMEEN BRAIN INJURY SOCIETY
By Dave Head, SOSBIS CEO
My appointment as the new CEO of SOSBIS is both an the administrative head of the Society. There is much to do
honour and a challenge. The honour is that I was chosen to build upon the solid base that Lisette built. I believe that
to lead the agency that serves individuals with acquired it is important for an organization to evolve and grow so
brain injuries and those that care for them, and facilitates that it can be a vital force in the community. It is clear that
mental health housing in the South Okanagan. The chal- the Brain Injury Society has had a great effect over the few
lenge is that the services we provide can be improved and years of it existence. The large percentage of kids wearing
expanded. their helmets when riding around on their bicycles is one
I have a passion for using my skills and experience in the evidence of that. We will continue and strengthen our “pre-
service of the disadvantaged in our society. I lived that vention” work to ensure that this healthy trend continues.
passion in the past through serving as a volunteer on the SOSBIS is an important player in helping individuals with
Boards of Directors of social agencies. By my count I have acquired brain injuries and those with mental illness in
been on more than half a dozen Boards in the past 20 plus locating suitable housing. Indeed, we have an expertise
years, spending my valuable personal time doing some- beyond that of almost all other organizations in the area.
thing worthwhile – helping those in need. Our clients in- Housing continues to be one of the most prevalent is-
cluded children, youth, families, the urban downtown poor, sues that our clients face – indeed ”affordable housing”
the sick and the dying. I was also lucky enough to be able is becoming a problem that all levels of government are
to do front line work in prison visitation, youth housing, and spending money on. SOSBIS has now taken its housing
with disrupted families. assistance expertise into the streets with the addition of
Much of my past professional life was with the federal a Homeless Outreach Worker. Adda Dostal has joined us
government where I learned a wide variety of management and working with the homeless and those at risk of being
skills. As a public service executive I led small and larger homeless will be her prime focus of action.
groups of employees, had budgets of varying sizes, and In my first month here I have found a number of small
was responsible for a number of funded programs. The steps to take to meet the challenge of leading SOSBIS
public service honed my skills as a leader, in financial man- staff in providing service to members and clients. I look
agement, in dealing with employees, in program manage- forward to increasing those efforts and to finding ways in
ment, and in operational planning. which improve how we can help.
These skills and experiences, and my passion for working
for those in need will serve me well in my present role as
Northern Brain Injury Association Government Resources
Regional Health Authority’s ABI Coordinators:
Fraser Health - Aquired Brain injury Program-604-520-4175
Interior Health Authority-250-870-4664
Contact Name: Deborah Preston
Contact Name: Jana Pirsel
Vancouver Coastal Health Authority-604-714-4159
Vancouver Island Health Authority- 250- 370-8699
Contact Name: Judith Armstrong
Enquiry BC-to locate Provincial Government Departments
• Lower Mainland 604-660-2421
NBIA is continuing it’s injury prevention awareness and • Outside Lower Mainland 1-800-663-7867
safety assessment in communities across the north. July • Victoria 250-387-6121
we focused our attention on “Intersection Safety”. In Au- Ministry of Advanced Education, Training and Technology:
gust we’ll be looking at recreational safety and Septem- Open Learning Information:
ber it’s back to school time so we’re raising awareness • In and Outside Lower Mainland 1-800-663-1633
and assessing safety near school yards. Student Loan Information:
• Lower Mainland 604-660-2610
Volunteers Madison • Outside Lower Mainland 1-800-561-1818- select 1 then 5
Scott and Chris Sia Public Guardian & Trustee of British Columbia:
enjoyed the summer
• 700-808 West Hastings St. Vancouver, BC V6B 3L3
sun while collecting
data for the Northern Victim’s Info Line:
Brain Injury Asso- • 1-800-563-0808
ciation and the Road- Adult and Youth Addiction Services:
health coalition. Data • Lower Mainland 604-660-9382
collected is used to • Outside Lower Mainland 1-800-663-1441
assess the safe use
of Vanderhoof’s busiest intersections by pedestrians,
cyclists and other “vulnerable road users”.
BC Coalition of People with Disabilities
Advocacy Access Program for assistance with provincial
and federal disability benefits
Lower Mainland 604-872-1278
Outside Lower Mainland 1-888-663-1278
Bus Pass for Persons with Disabilities and Seniors
Lower Mainland 604-682-0391
Outside Lower Mainland 1-888-661-1566
Cerebral Palsy Association of BC
NBIA has partnered with local highway maintenance Lower Mainland Voice and TTY 604-515-9455
contractors to erect billboards in several locations in the Outside Lower Mainland 1-800-663-0004
central interior. We’re working with their counterparts in
the northwest to get a similar program initiated. Community Brain Injury Program for Children & Youth in BC
Toll Free 1-877-451-5511
The Quesnel Support Group
hosted a brain injury confer-
ence in early June. Delegates Lower Mainland 604-875 6704
attended from Williams Lake, Outside Lower Mainland 1-866-374-5377
Quesnel, Dawson Creek, Fort Victoria 250-475-6677
St John, Terrace, Kitimat, Information Services Vancouver
Prince George and Abbots- 604-875-6381
Challenges, Barriers and Solutions through Partnerships
By Patti Flaherty
The most challenging issues faced by health care leaders administrator you are accountable for the budget alloca-
and physicians in this day and age are access to services; tion you are given and do what you can to stay within it
availability of inpatient beds, community housing and while at the same time doing all you can to be sure the
supports; and of course the lack of financial resources to best patient care is provided.
meet the growing demands of public health care. There
The cost of a specialized hospital inpatient bed is some-
are no simple solutions to these complex health issues.
where in between $900.00 to $1300.00 per day. The cost
However with some creativity, flexibility and partnerships
for transitional rehabilitation or residential services at Con-
between public, private and non-profit providers there are
nect ranges from $225.00 to $450.00 per day. The people
some simple ways to improve access to services for the
in the health authority did find a way around this issue,
people that require them.
although it took many weeks. Every day that this issue
A story that is familiar to our society and is reported in the was not resolved it cost the health system approximately
media from time to time is the lack of available hospital $700.00 to $1000.00 more than it should have. I am hope-
inpatient services when a person has sustained an injury ful that the next time this same situation presents itself we
or has an illness that requires specific or specialized care. can find a way around the financial barrier much faster and
This is a tragic story for families and a very difficult issue more efficiently.
that health care administrators and clinicians are often
I sympathize with my health authority colleagues. When
faced with. People who sustain a severe acquired brain
the acute care programs take responsibility for paying for
injury often find themselves in this exact situation.
the ongoing care once an individual leaves the hospital,
For the general population the immediate and most they are faced with a budget shortfall. The shortfall is due
obvious solution to this problem is to simply open up an to the fact that they are also responsible for providing
additional bed in the neurosciences unit. A less obvious service to the next patient that occupies the newly vacant
but very real reality is that there are often patients waiting inpatient bed. The community programs are faced with
in the acute care neuroscience unit or neuro rehabilitation similar issues and are often funded at levels that simply
unit who have completed their acute care and/or inpatient do not match the demands that they are working hard to
rehab treatment and are waiting to be transferred to a meet. The bottom line is that the health authority holds
more appropriate location for services and housing. This the purse in a situation such as this. The internal negotia-
has a tremendous impact on the problem. tions and struggles for determining what budget should
be used, only delays the inevitable. It not only costs the
If we can find ways to move people out of the hospital
system delays in access to specialized services, but it also
when they are ready and transfer them a location that will
inflates the cost of an individual’s care by up to $1000.00
meet their needs; then the end result is positive on mul-
tiple levels. This not only benefits the person leaving the
hospital as they will be in a better location to help them These are not simple issues, and there are many good
heal and rehabilitate - it also provides access to inpatient folks working hard to remove the barriers and are work-
services for individuals who are newly injured and require ing on creative ways to partner so that collectively we can
specialized health care. improve the services and supports for people living with
brain injuries in our province. Thanks to all of you who are
Many of my colleagues in the health authorities are work-
contributing to this important cause.
ing on multiple solutions to this complex issue and some
of these solutions include partnerships with private and
non-profit agencies. One of the barriers to these partner-
ships is the lack of funding options. This is where cre-
ativity and flexibility are so important. Recently we found
ourselves in this situation. Connect had a few bedrooms
available in Langley and one of the health authorities had
a few individuals that would benefit from our services
and at the same time they were experiencing inpatient
bed shortages. The problem that the health authority was
having was determining “who” was going to pay for an
individual to be cared for once he or she was discharged Welcome to our Connect Team Jill Koppang!!!
from the hospital. From an outsiders perspective the Jill has joined Connect as the Rehab and Com-
“who” wasn’t the question at all. It was very clear to the munity Coach. She is working at our Langley
health authority and to me that the health authority was Community.
the funder. However, from the health authority’s perspec-
tive the struggle was where were the funds going to come
from within the health authority and “whose budget was
going to be responsible”?
I understand this situation far to well as I was often faced
with it when I worked at Vancouver Coast Health. As an
We’re in the midst of excitement as a construction development in Lake
Country is in the process of becoming 6 homes; offering transitional re-
habilitation and residential services for people living with a brain injury.
To add to the excitement, we’re launching a new name and logo to re-
place Classic Rehab Community! To mark our growth and development,
we will now be known as Connect. Our values include flexibility, creativ-
ity, learning, respect, passion and joy. Our philosophy is to share these
values with everyone we connect with. Our mission remains the same;
to make lives better.
In Langley call In Lake Country call
Janette Jackman Jill Howell
Please visit our website at www.connectcommunities.ca
By Janelle Breese Biagioni
“ Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting
and autumn a mosaic of them all..”
When asked, a person will say they have at least one Morehouse (CVHIS) and Lisette Shewfelt (SOSBIS). From
favourite season. I have two: spring and autumn. For me, reading the introductions of Winna Mitchell (new ED for
one brings a sense of hope and anticipation and the other CVHIS) and Dave Head (CEO for SOSBIS), I am confident
a feeling of completeness and accomplishment. More- their life experiences and passion to support individuals
over, both make the statement that nothing remains the living with a brain injury and their families, ensures that
same – there will always be change. Change can be both both groups are in good hands.
exciting and stressful; however, for individuals living with
We often think that significant change equates disaster,
a brain injury change can be extremely daunting.
but it can also equal opportunity. And where there is op-
You will read in this issue that both Comox Valley portunity to grow, to expand, to infuse new energy and to
Head Injury Society (CVHIS) and the South Okanagan bring a new perspective to the table, it brings a posi-
Similkameen Brain Injury Society (SOSBIS) have new tive boost for any organization. I encourage everyone to
Executive Directors. These organizations are well-en- support these individuals as they begin their journey with
trenched in their community-based work, well-respected CVHIS and SOSBIS. Finally, I speak for many in thanking
for their programs, and left with VERY big shoes to fill Karen, Mina, and Lisette for making such a difference in
following the resignations of Karen Waller and Mina the brain injury community.
The rules of Sudoku are simple. Place a digit
from 1 to 9 in each empty cell so every row, every
column, and every 3 x 3 box contains the digits 1 to 9.
Serving Children and Adults
Behavioral Consultation, Clinical Counseling
Speech Language Therapy
Group or individual sessions for:
Anger management or social skills
Dr. Douglas Lee, R.Psych., ABPP, BCBA
Board Certified Behavioral Psychologist and Behavior Analyst
Dr. Michael Johnston, BCBA
Board Certfied Behavior Analyst
Alberta Surrey North Vancouver
1720 2nd Ave. #205 - 14888 104th Ave. 2114 Cortell St.
Lethbridge, AB Surrey, BC North Vancouver, BC
T1J 0E8 V3R 1M4 V7P 2A7
403.327.1788 604.930.8488 604.980.8395
www.behavioral-solutions.com Solution on page 11
Heads Up HEAD INJURY SOCIETY
My name is Winna Mitchell and it is a privilege to intro-
WHAT’S HAPPENING duce myself as the new Executive Director of the Comox
Valley Head Injury Society.
AROUND THE PROVINCE I have seen the results of brain injury a number of times
in my life. I lost my best friend to an aneurysm that was
COMOX VALLEY HEAD INJURY SOCIETY the result of a brain injury sustained in a two story fall;
CVHIS is hosting the annual G & B Johnson Brain Injury my father in law suffered a stroke many years ago; and
Conference on September 25 & 26 at the Crown Isle Re- having brothers that played sports, I remember as a
sort in Courtenay, BC. For more information, visit CVHIS’ young girl many times my mum had to “keep him awake”
website at www.cvheadinjury.com or call 250-334-9225 after one of them received a concussion while playing
or email firstname.lastname@example.org. hockey.
FRASER VALLEY BRAIN INJURY ASSOCIATION Now I am the single parent of three children, one of
FVBIA is hosting a conference on ABI and Aging: Current whom has special needs. I have spent the last 12 years
Literature Review. The conference will be held Thursday, of my life being an advocate, caregiver, and supporter
October 23, 2008 and Friday, October 24, 2008 at the for her and others. I became active in our community
Cascade Community Church. For more information, call trying to make a difference and to make sure that the
604-557-1913 or toll free at 1-866-557-1913 or visit www. services will be there down the road. I believe that all
fviba.org. people should be treated with respect regardless of their
abilities. I will carry these same philosophies with me at
2008 BC INJURY PREVENTION CONFERENCE CVHIS.
November 19 – 21, 2008. The 2008 BC Injury Preven- I look forward to getting to know our members and their
tion Conference will be hosted at the Coast Plaza Hotel support circles here at CVHIS, as well as those organiza-
& Suites in Vancouver, BC. To submit an abstract, view tions with the same goals. I promise to bring my enthusi-
the program, or to register, visit the website http://www. asm for advocacy and support with me everyday.
injuryresearch.bc.ca and click on 2008 Injury Prevention
Conference. The future will hold many new and exciting experiences
for me and I welcome every one of them.
Difference & Diplomacy
Wondering how to help your child be sensitive towards kids with disabilities?
Here’s what their parents want you to know.
By Lisa Bendall
Mommy, why is that boy walking like that?”
The sudden question pierces the quiet hum of the gro- A simple response such as “his legs don’t work well” is
cery store. Your heart sinks. Your cheeks flush. If a hole often all it takes to satisfy a young child’s inquisitiveness.
were suddenly to open in the floor, you would gratefully Children are marvellously open-minded about what fits
slip through it. The small yet strident voice belongs to into their range of normal.
your five-year-old daughter.
Donna Platt agrees. Platt, who is raising a granddaugh-
How should you respond? Do you apologize to the ter with cerebral palsy in West St. Paul, Man., says most
family who, thanks to your child, has suddenly found other kids are unfazed by the fact that 13-year-old Jes-
themselves in the spotlight? sica doesn’t walk. “The little
Do you haul your daughter ones love her wheels,” says
away by the arm? Or do you Platt, “and the older ones
pretend you are the only love to push her.”
customer in the aisle who
Adds Platt: “I think children
didn’t hear the question,
would accept another child
absorbed as you are in the
with two heads.”
sale price of dog food?
To Ask or Not to Ask
When able-bodied children
meet kids with disabilities, Many parents struggle
most parents want to teach with whether to allow their
them to respond appropri- children to approach other
ately — to understand and families to ask about their
respect differences, not fear child’s disability. Cara Kropp
them. Yet it’s not always of Carleton Place, Ont., is
easy to put principles into often on the receiving end
action, especially for par- of such questions and, like
ents who were raised before Walker, she is “really happy
integrated classrooms and when kids ask.” Kropp’s
wheelchair-accessible public eight-year-old son, Jacob,
spaces became such ac- has autism. Because of his
customed parts of our social affected speech and unusual
fabric. mannerisms, other kids defi-
nitely notice he is different.
So, what to do when your
daughter blurts out her unself-conscious inquiry in the If Kropp hears a parent shush her curious child, “I usually
middle of the pet food aisle? For advice on this and other try to interject at that point and say it’s OK, and take over
questions, we went to the experts: parents whose chil- the explanation if need be.” She’ll tell children who won-
dren have disabilities. der about Jacob that “he has autism and his brain works
Their first advice: Shed the embarrassment. Remind
yourself that your child is merely expressing interest in Keep in mind, however, that while most families are
the world around her. She might as well have asked why comfortable with questions from children, questions from
the carrots are orange. adults can come across as an intrusion. Much as they
too may wonder about a child’s cleft palate or hearing
“It’s just curiosity, which is fine with me,” says Annette
aid, adults should refrain from prying.
Walker of Ottawa. Her 14-year-old daughter, Akasha,
has Rett syndrome. Akasha — called Kai (“Kay”) by her “There’s something about an adult just coming up and
friends and family — is non-verbal and uses a wheelchair. saying, ‘So what’s wrong with you?’” says Kathleen Da-
Her mom is used to kids approaching to ask why Kai vidson, the mother of a six-year-old with delayed speech.
doesn’t talk or walk. And Walker doesn’t mind. In fact, “Kids are kids. Adults need a little bit more tact than
she likes the opportunity to educate them. that.”
“I’ve actually had parents pull their children away from Keep it Simple
my child,” she says. “That’s more discouraging because
that’s where the whole ignorance about disabilities is It’s one thing to encourage your child to ask about other
passed on.” children’s disabilities. Sometimes you’re also the one try-
ing to answer her questions.
Turns out you don’t need a medical degree. “The simple the person with a disability.”
explanation is the easiest,” says Donna Platt. Does your
Kuntz, like many other parents, embraces the opportu-
child wonder why a little girl is in a wheelchair? Try:
nity to promote awareness. “I like to invite them in and
“She doesn’t walk well, and the wheelchair helps her get
say, ‘Hi, what’s your name? Would you like to say hi to
around.” Is your child curious about a boy who is using
sign language? Let her know that “his ears don’t work so
he’s talking in a special language with his hands instead.” But ease up on the coercion. As Platt says, “The worst
thing adults can do is force the child who’s in the puzzle-
Six-year-old Colin Davidson’s apraxia affects the way he
ment mode, ‘Now you go over and talk to her.’ Just let
speaks. When children ask, his mom, Kathleen, usually
kids be where they are because when they’re more at
tells them: “‘The muscles in Colin’s mouth aren’t work-
ease, they’ll make their own move.”
ing properly. It makes it hard for him to speak.’ Kids just
accept that.” Accentuate the Positive
Keep it age-appropriate. Preschoolers do not need One parent suggests that, when discussing a disability,
detailed explanations. Take your cue from the complex- you also point out an ability — perhaps a child’s creative
ity of their questions — kids school-aged and older may artwork or lovely smile.
solicit more specific information. And tone is important.
Answering questions in a matter-of-fact manner will send Pat Tesan’s daughter Erin grew up with an intellectual
children the message that a disability is no big deal. disability, but there was at least one thing she could
do better than many of her peers: swim like a fish. “We
No Pushing or Pulling worked hard to get her safe in the water,” says Tesan,
who lives in Coquitlam, BC. Swimming became an
Parents of children with disabilities stress that families achievement Erin could feel proud of — and which other
should never pull their curious children away. kids admired. By trying to keep disabilities in a positive
When Ted Kuntz is in public with his 19-year-old son, context, you can help children see more similarities than
Josh, who has neurological disabilities, “kids will come differences.
up and touch his wheels or look in his eyes,” says Kuntz. Annette Walker’s favourite comment came not from a
“They come right into his face and they want to engage parent, but from one of Kai’s young classmates. She
him. It’s often the parent who will yank them back and trotted up to Kai in the supermarket to say hi, while
say ‘don’t’ — and discourage their natural curiosity. the mother said to Walker, “Do you mind if I ask what’s
“It becomes something quite traumatic for their own wrong with Kai?” The girl immediately corrected her
child,” says Kuntz, a family therapist in Coquitlam, BC. mom: “There’s nothing wrong with Kai. She has a wheel-
Children learn to associate “an experience of fear around chair like I wear glasses.”
Kirsten Madsen Steve Heringa Brad Garside
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“That’s exactly what I wanted these kids to see,” says Annette Walker says that since her daughter was main-
Walker happily. “Kai was no different from them.” streamed in a regular class, her peers — particularly
in the early years — accepted her as no different from
Find Paths to Inclusion
them. “Kids seemed to pick up on this from day one. It
One of the best ways to help your child learn to socialize wasn’t pounded into their heads,” she says. If, some day,
with kids with disabilities is to make sure they spend time one of those classmates has a son or daughter with a
together. Integrated recreation programs or preschools disability, Walker hopes that Kai’s example will make the
are a good source of opportunities. And Donna Platt journey easier for them.
urges parents not to be daunted by the challenges of in-
cluding classmates with disabilities in playdates or birth-
day parties. Most activities can be adapted. “If people How you speak about disability issues shapes your
put their mind around it for a little tiny bit, then all of a child’s understanding of them. Try to avoid negative or
sudden the ideas start popping forward,” says Platt. Too loaded descriptions, such as “she suffers from autism”
often, “the first response is ‘I don’t know how to — so I or “he is confined to a wheelchair.” Language should be
won’t,’ or ‘It couldn’t possibly work — so I won’t try.’” straightforward and precise: “She has autism”; “He uses
Get creative. Find the path to inclusion. And if you’re not
sure, solicit ideas before surrendering. See “One of the The best rule of thumb is to put the child first, the disabil-
Gang” below for a few to get you started. ity second. And don’t let the disability define the individu-
al. So instead of “a diabetic,” or “a Down’s kid,” try “a girl
Teach by Example
with diabetes” and “a boy with Down’s syndrome.”
Sharon Maric of Winnipeg was pleased when other
It’s important to note that many once-acceptable words
parents made a point of inviting her son Paul to birthday
are not welcome today, and some are downright upset-
parties, “making him know that he was welcome,” she
ting. Parents cringe to hear “the R word.” “‘Retarded’ is
says. When they would speak with and pay attention to
language from the past,” says Sharon Maric of Winnipeg.
Paul, they were also modelling acceptance. “By their own
Other out-of-fashion words that can hurt: “handicapped,”
behaviour they were saying, ‘I like this child. He counts.’”
“crippled,” “invalid. Better still, Maric adds, is “if you can
Pat Tesan agrees that adults’ attitudes play a huge role. avoid the label altogether, and call the child by name. If
“I certainly see that in the school system. If a teacher you are actually talking about the child’s disability, fine.
is comfortable with a child in the classroom, the other But try to make the child more important than the dis-
children will be. If a teacher shows fear or doesn’t under- ability.”
stand how to be with the child, then the other kids won’t
One of the Gang
For birthday parties and other occasions, a little imagina-
Ponder the Benefits
tion can help you come up with activities that include,
The year Josh Kuntz was entering grade seven, two and don’t exclude, a child’s abilities.
teachers at his school flipped a coin to divvy up the class
- Musical chairs might be a challenge for a child who is
list. The winner immediately selected Josh. “I’ve watched
blind, but Pin the Tail on the Donkey could work fine.
the kids when they’re around Josh,” the teacher said.
“When they’re around him, they’re kinder and gentler. - Hockey nets can be moved closer together, basket
And if I have him in my class, I’ll have a kinder, gentler ball nets can be lowered.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel: Adaptations, such as
As Josh’s dad recalls, “What that teacher recognized special ramps for launching bowling balls, already
absolutely came true.” Ted Kuntz points out that contri- exist for many activities.
butions from children with disabilities may not always in-
- Capitalize on technology. Captioned and narrated
volve physical or intellectual prowess. “Josh’s gift is a gift
movies (available from libraries or disability
of being. It draws out those human qualities that make us
organizations) make video watching more enjoyable
into a richer society, a more caring society.”
for kids who are deaf or blind.
- If the child can’t kick the ball, seek out another active
role for her, such as scorekeeper or referee.
- Remember that some children may be able to get out
of their wheelchairs and participate in a floor activity.
- If the child needs assistance in an activity, consider
partnering him up with a willing friend or family
Lisa Bendall is the author of two guidebooks on disability: “After
Disability: A Guide to Getting on with Life” and “Raising a Kid
with Special Needs: The Complete Canadian Guide.” Both are
published by Key Porter Books and are available in bookstores
or through amazon.ca. To find out more, visit www.lisabendall.
BC BRAIN INJURY ASSOCIATIONS &
*This list updated Fall Issue, 2008.
Abbotsford Carol Paetkau 604-557-1913 TF 1-866-557-1913
Acquired Brain Injury Society of the Yukon Anne-Marie Yahn 867-668-5283
Alberni Valley Head Injury Society/Port Alberni Linda Kenny 250-724-6772
Barriere/Merritt Dona Salwach 250-372-1799
British Columbia Brain Injury Association Jan Siwinski 1-877-858-1788
Bulkley Valley Brain Injury Association Eileen Klassen 250-877-7723
Burnaby Survivors Support Group Mary Head 604-435-3125
Burnaby Chinese Brain Injury Support Group Angela Kan 604-877-8606
Campbell River Head Injury Support Society Shelley Howard 250-287-4323
Caribou Brain Injury Society Shilo Toews 250-305-2518
Central Okanagan Brain Injury Association Laurie Denton 250-762-3233
Chilliwack FVBIA 604-557-1913 TF 1-866-557-1913
COBIS - Vernon Contact Stacie Gadsby 250-306-2064
Comox Valley Brain Injury Society Dixon Hiscock 250-897-1255
Comox Valley Head Injury Society Winna Mitchell 250-334-9225
Coquitlam Support Group LMBIA 604-521-0833
Cowichan Valley Head Injury Support Group Barb Grantham 250-748-9338
East Kootenay Brain Injury Association Dawn Widdifield 250-417-6220
Fraser Valley Brain Injury Association Carol Paetkau 604-557-1913 TF 1-866-557-1913
Golden Brain Injury Support Group Donna Madden 250-344-5688
Kamloops Brain Injury Association Helen MacKenzie 250-372-1799
KBIA - Salmon Arm/Shuswap Contact Teresa Wolfe 250-833-0369
Langley/Aldergrove Brain Injury Support Group FVBIA 604-557-1913 TF 1-866-557-1913
Lower Mainland Brain Injury Association Gabrielle Martin 604-521-0833
Lower Mainland Family Support Group Julia Murrell 604-269-2320
Maple Ridge Support Group Ian Moore 604-944-9030
Mission FVBIA 604-557-1913 TF 1-866-557-1913
Nanaimo Brain Injury Society June Herrington 250-753-5600
New Westminster B.R.A.I.N. Tina Suter 604-540-9234
North Okanagan Shuswap Brain Injury Society (Salmon Arm/Shuswap) Lori Watchel 250-833-1140
North Shore Family Support Group Gaeron Caldwell 604-657-6760
Peace Country Society for Acquired Brain Injury Linda Proctor 250-782-7519
Powell River Deborah Dee 604-485-6065
Prince George Brain Injured Group Society Alison Hagreen 250-564-2447 TF 1-866-564-2447
Richmond Brain Injury Support Group LMBIA 604-521-0833
Sea To Sky Brain Injury Program Suzie Beliveau 604-521-0833
Sechelt/Sunshine Coast Brain Injury Support Group Rita Grenville 604-885-8524
South Okanagan Similkameen Brain Injury Society Dave Head 250-490-0613
Surrey / Delta Brain Injury Support Group Douglas Rich 604-537-6303
Terrace Support Group Mark Barnes 250-638-1818
Vancouver Survivors Lillian Wong 604-873-2385
Vancouver Island Head Injury Society Barbara Erickson 250-598-9339
West Coast Support Network Wanda McAvoy 250-726-7459
West Kootenay Brain Injury Association Jackie Kellock 250-304-1259
West Vancouver Joanie MacDonald 604-926-4825
*Please email name and phone number changes to firstname.lastname@example.org to ensure this list is kept as up-to-date as possible.
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