Learning to build inclusive lives
The Canadian Inclusive Lives Learning Initiative (CILLI), is a one of a kind learning program for people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Developed by the Centre for Inclusion and Citizenship (CIC) at the University of British Columbia, this pilot project is designed to teach, support and inspire people to build their own skills and vision for having an inclusive life. It is based on the ideas of human rights, inclusion and innovation, and supported by a number of partners, including a development grant from CLBC.
“CILLI came out of an idea of trying to do a very pragmatic program for families and individuals. We wanted to give them a broad but fairly intensive set of knowledge, tools, and information around key aspects of life. It would allow people to have the kind of life and quality of life they wanted,” says Dr. Tim Stainton, co-founder of CILLI and Director of the UBC Centre for Inclusion and Citizenship.
The program began with an initial in-person retreat in White Rock over the weekend of September 30 to October 2, 2011. This provided an opportunity for the 22 members in the initial cohort to meet, get to know each other, and form connections. Participants in CILLI include self-advocates on their own and those with a support worker, parents on their own, parents with their adult children, and two self-advocate couples.
“The mixed cohort was a great learning experience. To see self-advocates working independently was great and self-advocates who came with parents wanted to be more independent themselves. For parents, talking with other family members was a great opportunity to learn,” says Dr. Stainton.
“I really liked meeting the other people in the group,” says Jerry Laidlaw, one of the CILLI participants. Jerry is taking part in the program along with his wife Laura, “It’s been good studying together. We both do it at our own pace.”
Following the initial in-person retreat, participants then work through a series of 8 online modules, completing one per month. Module topics include: putting your plan into action, supported decision making, community connection, employment, financial literacy, lifelong learning, creating a home and transitions.
“Some modules are specific while others are more cross cutting. We knew not everyone would be interested in every aspect but that’s okay because they can focus on the higher interest areas for them,” says Dr. Stainton.
“The module on employment (Module 4) was my most interesting because I’d like to work more steadily in the future and this could help me. I get to focus on what’s important for me,” says Jerry.
Each module is also evaluated by the participants with surveys at the beginning and end. In addition, participants take part in telephone calls with experts and consultants on that month’s topic. Program co-ordinators help them incorporate what they’ve learned into their life plan.
“Putting together their own plan is kind of the overarching project which ties the modules together. Each module is about 8 hours done over a month and at end of each module, you update your plan related to that topic,” says Dr. Stainton.
Participants are also active on the program’s online discussion board. Spread over 8 months, the Web-based curriculum allows individuals and families to cover a lot of ground without getting overwhelmed.
“Originally we were unsure if we could develop an online curriculum that would be universally accessible. We actually haven’t found it to be a big issue. It was a nice revelation, to have a detailed, in depth curriculum that is accessible and works for everyone. And if they ever need help, they can get it,” says Dr. Stainton.
For the first group of participants, CILLI will wrap up with a final in-person retreat over the weekend of June 22 to 24, 2012. At this final meeting, everyone is able to present the life plan they have created and developed through the 8 modules. “They come out with a very tangible, practical tool,” says Dr. Stainton.
“I think it’s a really good program that helps people know more about what’s out there. Some people just don’t know what’s available and CILLI can help them think and learn about it,” says Jerry.
The Centre for Inclusion and Citizenship is exploring partnerships and funding opportunities to offer a second cycle of the program. You can learn more about the Canadian Inclusive Lives Learning Initiative at www.cic.arts.ubc.ca/learning/course-development/the-canadian-inclusive-lives-learning-initiative.html.