Asher Johnson-Dorman lives for popcorn – bags and bags of buttered and maple caramel crunch, wrapped in plastic and tied up with ribbon.
The 22-year-old, who is diagnosed with autism, has taken advantage of a creative alternative to CLBC’s traditional day programs. Using an option called individualized funding and a family-run project called InclusionWorks!, he has found a way to turn his popcorn passion into his own business, Asher’s Amazing Popcorn.
Individualized funding is a person-centred option that allows people to use their CLBC funding to manage their own services, recruiting, hiring, training and overseeing support workers.
By pooling their CLBC individualized funding (IF), experience, networks and ideas, the families that set up InclusionWorks! are getting more for their money. The approach empowers them to design and manage their own community inclusion services in a way that allows Asher to flourish.
Asher’s mother Catriona Johnson and other family members wanted a more flexible model. “It made sense to come together,” says Catriona.
Since its start in 2010, InclusionWorks! has grown to include 25 adults in three family-governed groups who attend individual and small group activities for up to 35 hours weekly for five years before transitioning out. The groups share common values — inclusion, citizenship, supported decision making, high expectations and dignity that comes with the freedom to take risks.
With over 20 community partners, they organize activities that promote independence, health, well-being and social relationships.
Thanks to a Vancouver Foundation grant, InclusionWorks!, GT Hiring Solutions and contracted employment specialists help participants find and keep jobs. That’s how Asher became one of Victoria’s purveyors of buttery delights.
“He’s grown and become more social because of the interactions around the selling of popcorn,” says Catriona. “It’s interesting and not something I thought would happen.”
Through InclusionWorks!, Asher and his peers have taken advantage of courses offered through the South Island Distance Education School and access the University of Victoria Centre for Outreach Education. And there are weekly workshops that explore self-advocacy, friendships, dating, and sexuality. Because activity groups are small, they are nimble and can change course quickly. Many of the support workers are young themselves. Participants bond easily with them.
For Catriona, InclusionWorks! is a way for Asher to pursue his own interests, like owning a small business. “He can be with other young people with the same interests. And he makes friends!” she says. “Using IF in a family-governed group supports self-determination while also supporting social relationships and being included in the larger community. That’s what citizenship is about for all of us.”
Visit the Individualized Funding page to learn more.