Included Every Step of the Way

Published: May 5, 2023

At Family Services of Greater Vancouver, we understand how important it is to uplift all members of our community, particularly children and youth with support needs (CYSN). Our PRIYD program – Providing Resources and Independence for Youth Development – is designed for children and youth between the ages of 7 and 19. PRIYD’s Integration Support Workers (ISWs) work with a wide range of young people, with the goal of helping them develop life skills and independence.

To get a better understanding of PRIYD’s approach to service delivery, we asked our ISWs a few questions about misconceptions of autism, activism, resources, and more. Here’s what they had to say.

On misconceptions

Many of our staff have observed misconceptions around communication, like assumptions that people with autism (particularly those who are non-verbal) can’t understand other people or choose not to communicate with others or make friends. Our ISWs recommend not making assumptions about a young person’s capacities, and instead focus on giving youth the time, space, and tools, so that they can use their own ways of reaching out and expressing themselves – whether that’s through key words and sounds or prompted by gestures, body language, or other behaviours.

On supports

Autism is a wide spectrum, and each individual has different experiences, strengths, and challenges. That’s why our ISWs provide tailored support. We take the journey alongside participants as they learn important life skills and build confidence and independence. Depending on client needs, it may include approaches to practice communication, social skills, and mobility. Through outings in the community, youth get to have fun while they work on community safety and exploration, taking transit, confidence and self-esteem, money skills, and making peer connections, among others.

On activism

As with any issue, having a range of owned voices in the activism conversation is important. Autistic-led groups like the Autistic Advocacy Coalition of Canada provide a centralized framework to amplify the voices of smaller member organizations and strive to include autistic voices in policy and rights work. It all starts with empowering youth with autism to participate in community and present their viewpoints. Want to see this in action? Check out this TED talk by Temple Grandin, a prominent author and speaker on autism.

On resources

As public dialogue about autism continues to gain momentum, figuring out the best resources for children and youth with support needs is top of mind at FSGV. Our ISWs are trained to support youth with various support needs and are well connected to regional and provincial resources. We regularly create opportunities for clients to participate in meetups, collaborate with community partners, and arrange access to community resources such as community centers, museums, and sports centres – all to increase community engagement levels and encourage human-to-human connection.

On values

At FSGV, we describe our approach at the PRIYD program as client-centered and strengths-based. This means we develop individualized goals and empower clients to be involved in developing plans that fit their own learning style. For example, many youth have a goal to practice their social skills, but the approach is different for each client because everyone grows and learns differently. We actively involve clients in the goal-setting process. We cater to their strengths. For some clients, this may mean using art as an entry point to develop social interactions with staff and other youth at an art class.

Participants and their families play an active role in everything from activity planning to goal discussions. From intake and introductory sessions, we can build a strong rapport based around participant interests. Then, when participants feel self-empowered and heard, working on their goals in the community becomes a natural extension of that rapport.

Want to learn more about PRIYD?

Visit our PRIYD page for more information about how to get involved. A referral from the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) is required for participation and you can get more info about the MCFD assessment process here.