Sunbeam News & Events

Who We Are Today: Collaboration at Sunbeam

At Sunbeam Centre, we are committed to providing collaborative services to individuals with developmental disabilities, their families, and caregivers. We provide shared services through  Waterloo Region and the surrounding area. Sunbeam Community Living Services, Developmental Services Resource Centre (DSRC), and Developmental Services Ontario Central West Region (DSOCWR) are all part of the Sunbeam Centre family sharing common vision, mission, and core values.  

Our mission: Providing innovative opportunities that enable the people we support to reach their goals and achieve recognition of their value in the community.

Our vision: Inclusive communities where people of all abilities are valued.

Both DSOCWR and DSRC – offer community supports and system navigation for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families – DSRC for those under 18 years old and DSOCWR for those over 18 years old.

The way in which we collaborate may not always be obvious to individuals and families using our services, however we share many resources, including facilities, administrative supports, and operational guidelines.  The ultimate goal of all of this is to share resources, reduce operational costs to keep services affordable and accessible, and provide strengthened supports for the individuals and families that access our services.

More about DSO – Central West Region

DSOCWR LogoThere are 9 DSO locations across the province of Ontario.

As of 2011, Sunbeam Centre was selected by the Ministry to host the operations of the local DSOCWR.  

DSO is the access point for adult developmental services. DSO is responsible for determining if individuals are eligible for services and supports, as funded by the Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services. DSO can also assist connecting individuals and families with many different services provided by other organizations and community partners. Services might include, but are not limited to, community participation supports, caregiver respite, and residential supports.

Nancy Plater, Director of Development Services Ontario Central West Region, says, “Each DSO builds on the strength of its host agency. Sunbeam Centre is a strong identified leader in the developmental services sector. The uniqueness of Sunbeam has given the DSOCWR an opportunity to learn and grow and gain a fuller understanding of the challenges faced by service agencies in providing unique supports to families.”

More about DSRC – Waterloo Region

DSRC LogoDSRC provides clinical supports, such as therapies and programs, in families’ homes and out in the community for children with developmental disabilities. As a single point of access for children’s developmental services, DSRC helps families and individuals navigate the systems in place.

When a child comes in, DSRC will connect them to the services they need until the age of 18. In many communities across Canada, a resource like this is not available. Families must navigate many systems and organizations in order to access the services they need on their own. With DSRC, and the extended partnership to Sunbeam Centre, children can get everything they need in one place – a team of experts to work together to deliver services and access to community partners’ services.  

Collaboration is Crucial

Sunbeam Centre – Sunbeam Community Living Services, Development Services Ontario CWR, and Developmental Services Resource Centre, are working together to help individuals navigate the systems in place more easily and ensure that every member of our community is cared for and has access to the services they need.

Posted in Sunbeam News

Addressing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder at DSRC

For 10 years, Karen Huber has worked closely with community partners to lead the development of local Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) programming and services in the region, as well as curate information on www.fasdwaterlooregion.ca to help parents and caregivers support their children. Karen said, “these kids found a place in my heart – because there was little support.”  

In 2017, Karen Huber moved from Lutherwood to Developmental Services Resource Centre (DSRC) due to new ministry funded positions. Previously, there was no government-level support; everything was accomplished with the help of grants. Through grant funding, Karen and her colleagues created a community of practice, established a diagnostic clinic, and advocated to the government.

Thanks to individuals like Karen and her colleagues, the ministry has now allotted 26 million dollars over 4 years to accomplish a few goals: hire 50 community-based, FASD workers across the province, develop a one-stop shop website, and establish caregiver support networks. Karen is one of those FASD workers, and is actively supporting families in Waterloo Region. This support includes community and caregiver training, navigating services, making referrals for families to new services, and answering questions about FASD.  As well, Karen sits on many committees and working groups in Waterloo Region to ensure work is not being done in isolation.

It was primarily through the development of the new, one-stop shop website that Karen Huber was recognized for her great expertise, insight, and accomplishments. Earlier this year, she and a colleague, Judy Kay from Thunder Bay, were asked to speak at the Best Start Conference. Karen was thrilled that two ministry representatives were in attendance at their presentation. The question on Karen’s mind then was: Why are we funding single-focused, Autism clinics? Why aren’t we funding clinics that will see all kinds of kids’ brains? “It’s a better use of funds and we’ll be getting the diagnosis right.”

About FASD, Diagnosis, & Prevention

FASD describes the range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. The primary disabilities associated with FASD are difficulties with attention, filtering sensory information, language, memory, planning and initiating activities, regulating emotions and life skills. Often these children and youth have normal intelligence but have difficulty using the information they have in an organized fashion.

FASD InfographicFASD affects approximately 4% of the population. It is 2.5 times more prevalent than Autism. It’s highly suspected that the diagnosis rate is low, due to a lack of understanding and awareness, and an ever-present stigma around the diagnosis.

Educated women over the age of 35 is the growing population with alcohol exposed pregnancies. This is not something that is happening only to marginalized individuals. There are many, many kids out there who are misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. “We need to start getting that right before we can start providing services,” said Karen. “Even though it’s a sad day [when a child receives an FASD diagnosis], as it’s a permanent disability, you now know what the areas of strength and need are for the individual and you can start planning accordingly.”  

There is no known safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy. To learn more about why and how to have an alcohol-free pregnancy visit here.  According to Karen, alcohol use is on the rise, particularly women’s alcohol use and accessibility of alcohol is also on the rise. Just because a woman drinks alcohol during her pregnancy, does not mean their child will have an FASD, but it’s a risk factor. A sober pregnancy is a safer pregnancy.

Learn more:

If you have questions about FASD you can get in touch with Karen Huber here, or visit any of the resources listed below:

Posted in Sunbeam News