I entered the Child and Youth Work Diploma program at Centennial College, Scarborough, Ontario in 1995. I completed my first year with top grades and loved my work placement experience in the classroom. Unfortunately, I became intimidated by the stories I heard about second year placements in residential programs and dropped out (I was very timid back in those days). Due to my recent family break-up at the time, I had no place to go ‘home’ to that summer. I decided to join my brother in Victoria, BC and enter Camosun College with the idea of eventually doing a Journalism program at University. Those plans didn’t work out either as I became increasingly insecure about what I wanted to do with my life. Fortunately, a friend told me about teaching opportunities in Japan. It was a huge, scary step for me but just what I needed to boost my confidence and broaden my world. I stayed for 7 years learning the language and immersing myself in the culture. In 2005, I decided it was time to come back to Canada and reconnect with my family. While teaching children in Tokyo over those 7 years, I reminisced about my time in the CYW program and thought that I should give it another try. I asked Centennial College if I could rejoin the program and was immediately welcomed back into the field. I commenced my second year in Child and Youth Work exactly ten years after I started! Since graduation in 2007, I have been working full-time at the Toronto District School Board in autism programs and part-time in residential care. I also completed my Bachelor of Arts in CYC at Ryerson University in 2013. I am now looking forward to starting the CYC Master’s program at Ryerson in the Fall of 2016.
I came into this field after getting support from my high school’s Special Education department when my mother passed away. I was 16 years old at the time and on the verge of dropping out. The Child and Youth Worker and teacher in the program were so instrumental in my successful completion of school that I wanted to give back and help others the same way they helped me. My CYW told me about the program at Centennial College and I got accepted.
“...if it’s something a single book can explain, it’s not worth having explained” Haruki Murakami, from the novel, ‘Sputnik Sweetheart’. I love this saying because it reminds me of our profession’s continued struggle to define ourselves and what we do. It can also be applied to so many things, like, trying to describe the labels given to the children and youth we care for.
This is not the last thing I read but one of the most important summaries of ‘Neuro-diversity’ that helps frame my practice. Written by John Elder Robison, famous author and advocate in the autism community: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/my-life-aspergers/201310/what-is-neurodiversity
I have gotten into the habit recently of writing down my favourite experiences with youth in a journal. I highly recommend this to everyone. My most recent favourite experience is when a young lady of 16 years old put me in my place when I started to say, “People struggling with disability...” This young woman immediately interrupted and said, “You mean people striving with disability”.
Influences on my work include Lorraine Fox, Thom Garfat, Karen VanderVen, Mark Krueger, Kim Snow and the many contributors to CYC-net. Others include the children and youth who have taught me the true essence of our work. Finally, the many contributors and advocates in the field of Disability Studies including Jennifer Paterson, professor at Ryerson University.
I am honoured to call myself a Child and Youth Practitioner and look forward to connecting with others who feel the same. I hope to see you at the next conference ;)
Last updated October 2016