By Brendan Shea, Wood’s Homes Team Leader
Earlier this week I got to chat with Christopher Tuma, a Youth and Family Counsellor with Wood’s Homes Temple program. Check out the below Q&A to hear what Christopher had to say about his experiences at Wood’s Homes!
How long have you worked at Wood’s Homes? How long have you been a part of the Temple program?
I began working at Wood’s Homes in March 2017 and was immediately referred to work in the Temple program.
What are your experiences working with young people with developmental disabilities?
I’ve worked extensively with at-risk youth over the past five years and have encountered several clients with developmental disabilities during that time. The majority of clients I’ve worked with have been affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Of course, many of the clients I had the opportunity to work with had not been affected by any developmental disabilities, so distinctions between the two types of clients were very easy to notice. I realized that communicating with clients who were diagnosed with developmental disorders required more thorough and personal approaches. The type of language, intonation and body language used is much more influential on clients affected by those disabilities.
What are some of your experiences, specifically to the Temple program?
Temple has ‘opened my eyes’ in terms of working with clients with multiple disabilities, varying developmental stages and cognitive abilities. I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with two clients over the last eight months – both are affected by developmental disabilities, but are individually capable of so many different things. One client requires simplified communication and direction, as though you’re addressing a preschooler; however, if that client had the opportunity to talk about fishing, cooking or lakes throughout multiple provinces, you’d likely feel like you were being educated on the topics. The other client I’ve worked with is capable of more streamlined and detailed communication, and is influenced by our ability, as staff, to remain composed, calm and confident. With that said, his ability to notice staff’s vulnerabilities is simply amazing.
What draws you to working with young people with developmental disabilities?
First and foremost, it’s the learning curve and experience. Learning new ways to communicate with our clients and understanding how their developmental diversity prevents us, as counsellors, from becoming complacent and having a universal approach to all clients. There hasn’t been two days spent working at the Temple program that I’ve been able to treat the same – these daily differences are correlated to the depth, detail and complexity of the needs of our clients. Wood’s Homes gives us the opportunity to build on our previous skills, as well as acquire new ones, as the environment is always changing and we’re always learning news ways to support our clients.
What advice do you have for future staff considering working at Wood’s Homes, specifically in the Temple program?
Come in with an open mind. Future staff should understand that working at Wood’s Homes is just that – working at Wood’s Homes. Each agency that supports and provides for youth with developmental disabilities will appreciate different therapeutic approaches, ideologies and practices that are best suited for their particular clients. The bottom line is that we’re here to help youth who are affected by these disabilities and that we, as a collective, must work together in discovering how to best support them. It’s also important to understand that things are constantly changing and our ability to adapt to change is just as important as our ability to show up to work every single day ready to make a difference for a young person who needs you.
Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends, family and community – let’s work together!