The year 2012 represented the first full year that The Sinneave Family Foundation operated out of The Ability Hub. Against a backdrop of a growing need for effective and sustainable programs, services and supports for adolescents and adults with Autism, The Ability Hub is rapidly gaining respect and visibility as a hub of collaboration and innovation.

We have had enquiries from many organizations in North America and Western Europe asking about what we are doing and wondering how we might add value to what they are providing their clients. More importantly, we have had visits from organizations across Canada and, in particular, many Western Canadian organizations have spent time with us and are keen to use the programs we are building to improve their own programming.

Organizational Highlights

The changes within the organization between 2011 and 2012 have been remarkable. In 2012, the organization has grown from running a small Resource Centre and pilot program of Pursuits to becoming respected as a catalyst for innovation in the community and as a developer of concepts and wellthought-out program models at The Ability Hub. Staff have not only adapted but are thriving despite the significant increase in pace and structure necessary to support programming best practices. The culture that we are building at The Ability Hub is one of respect, teamwork and excitement. We are proud to be a part of something that has the potential to positively impact tens of thousands of families who are touched by Autism.

Program Highlights

At The Ability Hub, expert clinicians in the area of adolescent and adult Autism work together with a team of professionals who bring skill in program design, implementation, evaluation and finance.

Launch

The Launch program functions as our gateway to understanding family needs, identifies service and support gaps, and collaborates with others in the community to identify promising programs to address these gaps. Leveraging on a model that identifies, tests, pilots and exports promising programs, The Ability Hub aims to directly influence the quality of life and independence levels of families in Alberta and is positioned to significantly contribute to global Autism best practices. The Launch concept was tested in 2012 and, by year-end, there were 50 families enrolled. The early Launch families have transition plans and have been navigated into services and supports that will improve successes over the next year. These same families have informed our understanding of service and support gaps in the community. Launch is also the center-point where data will be collected from all of our programs, which over the long-term will help inform outcomes, policy reform and, ultimately, measure the impact of the Foundation.

Pursuits

Pursuits, Life and Work Skills program was the first program run out of The Ability Hub in 2011. In 2012, 226 individuals participated in the program. The Pursuits program has three program streams to better meet the needs of individuals on the spectrum. The Pursuits program is of great interest to Autism organizations nationally, and SAARC has recently implemented some of the data collection methods refined by Pursuits.

Recruits

Recruits is the work experience program that follows Pursuits skill development. In 2012, 17 participants completed supported work experience placements at London Drugs, resulting in five employment hires. The café on the ground floor at the Child Development Centre opened as a food service work experience site, in a concept test phase with four participants in September of 2012. The overwhelming success has resulted in a pilot and the hire of three of the participants. Planning in 2012 also supported the development of an onsite concept test of a business called Compassionista, where program participants work with a small local business preparing a high-end line of bath salt products. Additional partnerships in 2012 were forged with Toys R Us, Resolve and the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation where three additional paid employment placements were earned.

Stepping Out

Stepping Out is a program designed to address social skills and independence through physical fitness programming. Following the concept test as part of a student practicum, a project charter was developed and a pilot began in the fall of 2012 under the direction of Hayley Wickenheiser. Five participants who range in age from 21 to 33 years have participated, resulting in very encouraging early results. Resource Centre The Resource Centre has provided information and navigation to 1,260 families in 2012, which represents at 57% increase over the previous year. The launch of the new website in 2012 saw 16,397 website hits – an increase of 26%. Workshops delivered at The Ability Hub increased from two offered in 2011, to eight in 2012. The Ambassadors who support the work in both the Resource Center and as members of specific project teams continue to be a key ingredient of our success. In 2012, five part time Ambassadors were hired to manage the increased workload in the Resource Centre and take leadership roles on additional projects. Ambassadors have key roles in the planning of upcoming concept tests in iPad technology, Housing website and Education initiatives. Accommodation and Wrap Around Services Committee Formed in the summer of 2012, the Committee has met twice to review and direct the work of the Ambassador assigned to this project. The Committee has representatives from many of the most visible organizations in Alberta that have a focus on Autism. We have created a project charter that envisions the development of several promising practice models to accommodate a range of long-term housing arrangements based of the needs of individuals. Many other organizations have experience with this and we have been able to borrow models from a number of well-regarded providers. Our next step is to begin to examine the financial viability of these models in the Alberta context and identify potential partners. Eventually, we will need to demonstrate to all levels of Government that providing long-term, safe housing and appropriate services is more cost effective than leaving individuals to become homeless, incarcerated or in hospital when their families can no longer care for them.

Adult Day Program

In mid-2012 we were approached to partner with Janus Academy, a small group of Parents and Government funders to explore the development of an Autism-focused, adult day-program that could be exported provincially. Following an environmental scan, we developed a project charter for a concept test and pilot. The Ability Hub will operate as the host site in 2013 to concept test and evaluate the adult day program. We will work closely with Janus Academy, Government funders and Society for Treatment of Autism to develop metrics of success that are meaningful to inform a sustainable model that can be exported beyond the walls of The Ability Hub.

Science, Policy & Practice Highlights

Vocational Conference

In 2012, The Sinneave Family Foundation took the leadership role in working with NeuroDevNet and Autism Speaks to plan and host the Second Annual Vocational Conference on June 6 and 7, 2013 in Calgary. The theme of the conference is: What Will It Take? Advancing Opportunities for Persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders. A National Advisory Group, consisting of key decision makers and partners from across Canada, has been working to make this exciting conference a reality.

Calgary Board of Education Autism Collaborative

The opportunity to work with the CBE significantly extends the reach of the Sinneave Family Foundation and provides an exceptional framework for program export that address the needs of adolescents at times of transition. In 2012, following a site visit to SARRC (who has provided international leadership in this area), several potential projects were identified for collaboration. Early thinking has resulted in a drafted memorandum
of understanding and initial areas of mutual interest include: Asperger’s Disorder Screening, Vocational training and Stepping Out exported into the school setting, Teacher professional development at The Ability Hub, and medical, psychiatric and psychopharmacology resources embedded in schools.

Edmonton Adult ASD Clinic Initiative

We have been working collaboratively with a community advisory and stakeholder group to help establish an adult ASD clinic in Edmonton. The early phases of planning will see site visits to The Ability Hub and then a more formal planning process will follow.

Building Employment Futures for Canadians with Disabilities through Partnerships and Innovations

Since our summer meetings with MP Mike Lake and continued work with Senior Policy Advisors for Finance and HRDSC, we were asked to meet with senior federal officials from the Prime Minister’s Office, Western Economic Diversification and Health Canada to frame a proposal in support of a national employment program for adults with disabilities. A summary of the proposal will be presented at the January 2013 Board Meeting.

A Strategy for Patient Oriented Research (SPOR) on the Transition of Youth with NeuroDevelopmental Disorders into Adulthood

The Foundation was approached in 2012 to partner with NeuroDevNet, Ontario Brain Institute and the Offord Centre to put together a program over five years to address the importance of “Transitions from Adolescence to Adulthood.” This theme is consistent with our framework in the Launch Program. This initiative is in the early planning phases and a more formal planning process will follow preliminary exploration.

Brain Health Collaborative

In collaboration with the University of Calgary and the Alberta Children’s Hospital, the Foundation continues to support the work of Dr. Jeff Buchhalter and Dr. Signe Bray. Drs. Bray and Buchhalter are both showing our team new ways to look into the brain to study the impact of interventions. Our ad hoc Science Advisory has two renowned neuroscientists who have agreed to support the work in this area. We continue to meet with Astrid Eberhart, Director of Partnerships for Brain Canada, about potential funding envelopes that would support our work in this area.

Research Related Highlights

The worked funded by the Foundation with its partners continues to apply innovation and seek transformational impact on the complex landscape of ASD. Annual Reviews for 2012 have all been completed. Each program is re-visited at least on an annual basis and we are encouraged to think about partnerships, discuss the Sinneave Family Foundations 10-year vision and the practical implications of our work for individuals with ASD, their families and caregivers. Through our research funding, we continue to impact individuals with Autism, parents and caregivers, educators, professionals, researchers, trainees and policymakers.

  • The Social ABC’s project is now working with the Calgary School Board to bring elements of parent-mediated training into their Early Learning Centres.
  • The Pathways Project is beginning to discuss measures in the Launch cohort.
  • The Autism Training program has opened its doors to educators, policymakers and our Ambassadors in this year’s Winter ART.
  • Drs Nicholas and Emery are producing lay summaries of their work, which will soon be available on the University of Calgary, School of Public Policy website.
  • The Foundation based researchers have had four presentations accepted at the prestigious and highly competitive IMFAR 2013 meeting. In 2012, the presentations and articles resulting from Foundation funding were well over 250 and involved over 150 trainees. Tom Collins, President, The Ability Hub January 2013

Tom Collin, President

The Ability Hub
January 2013

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