Developmental Disabilities Counsellor Program – A Student Perspective

DDC Graduation 2016 I have been immersed in the special needs world for 15 years. When my son was diagnosed with autism at age four, I was thrown into a whirl of psychiatrists, therapists and specialists.

I quickly developed a strong appreciation for all of the professionals who put so much effort into supporting my son and our family. I also developed a strong sense of solidarity for individuals with special needs and a keen interest in the field more broadly. Enrolling in the Developmental Disabilities Counsellor Program at Reena enabled me to bring these facets together.

The fact that my son currently lives in a Reena Home presented some challenges. Some of my instructors work directly with him, and I would often reference my own experiences as a mother of an individual supported by Reena in class.

I often found myself switching hats from the viewpoint of a mother to that of an aspiring professional. One example was when I needed to interact with my son’s Reena Home Supervisor the same day that he was instructing in the program. My son’s staff also had to adopt a critical distance when interacting with me in a classroom setting. Overall, I believe my fellow students benefited from hearing a Reena mother’s perspective in the classroom.

I am grateful to Reena for the quality of care my son receives, and for giving me the opportunity to enter the field as a professional. As a mother, I was grateful for an opportunity to observe the quality of education my son’s caregivers support staff receive. I will use the skills and knowledge I acquired in the Developmental Disabilities Counsellor Progra to treat the individuals who I care for professionally with the same dedication and compassion that I would want my son to receive.

- Sylvia, 2016 Developmental Disabilities Counsellor Program Graduate

To learn more about the Developmental Disabilities Counsellor Program at Reena click here.

ReelAbilities | May 11-18, 2017

ReelAbilities Toronto was the first international city to host a ReelAbilities Film Festival in 2016. This Festival is returning to Toronto this year, to champion and create opportunities to showcase disability and Deaf cultures through film, and the art and talent of artists with disabilities and Deaf artists. This years line-up includes Canadian and International premieres. The 2017 ReelAbilities Film Festival will be held on May 11 - 18. To view the full lineup of events click here.

Chag Sameach

Passover Card

We wish you health, happiness and peace this Passover!

Interested in performing a Mitzvah for Pesach? Open your home to an individual supported by Reena! Contact us for more information by clicking here.

Need Passover Cards? We got you covered! Click here to order cards designed by individuals supported by Reena.

Ontario Government Boosting Housing Supports

Reena and the Intentional Community Consortium (ICC), wish to commend Minister Ballard and the Ontario Government on their welcome initiative to boost Housing Supports for up to 6,000 families as announced earlier this week. We all recognize the need of vulnerable communities and are further pleased that Ontario is playing a leadership role in assisting Indigenous communities.

We are also most appreciative of the Province providing funding to our group of more than a dozen developmental services agencies known as the ICC to develop an inclusive, community-based housing strategy for adults with developmental disabilities. This funding is a welcome starting point that we believe will be instrumental in the creation of much-needed housing across Ontario for persons with developmental disabilities.

Looking forward, we would appreciate similar support for the over 18,000 individuals across Ontario with developmental disabilities who are currently experiencing similar needs for secure affordable housing with appropriate supports. The ICC is guided by a vision of creating housing options in communities across Ontario while leveraging collaborative partnerships.

Reena, as lead agency of the ICC, is a non-profit organization which promotes dignity, individuality, independence, personal growth and community inclusion for people with developmental disabilities within a framework of Jewish culture and values.

For more information click here.

York ASD Partnership York Region Needs Assessment

The York ASD Partnership in collaboration with researchers at Brock University and York University are conducting a survey to understand the service and support needs and perceptions of adults with ASD, parent/family caregivers of individuals with ASD, and professionals working with individuals with ASD in York Region. This survey is funded by the generous support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

The survey will be open until April 1, 2017. It will take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete. If you are unable to complete the survey in one sitting you can return to the survey and complete it where you left off at any time.

We apologize in advance that you may receive the survey more than once as it is being distributed by multiple partners.

If you are an adult with ASD, a parent/family caregiver of a person with ASD, an educator or professional who works with people with ASD living or working in York Region you may be eligible to participate. Please take the survey via the link below:

Take the Survey 

This study has been reviewed and received ethics clearance through the Brock University Research Ethics Board (file #16-094) and York University (certificate # e2017 - 013).

If you have any questions or concerns please contact the study’s Principal Investigator, Dr. Priscilla Burnham Riosa (Assistant Professor, Centre for Applied Disability Studies, Brock University) by phone [(905) 688.5550] ext. 6376 or email (pburnhamriosa [at]

Thank you in advance for your interest.

Learning To Do Something You Could Be Great At

Kyle Salami Wrap Kyle is a 17 year old young man with an infectious personality. People are just naturally drawn to him. As a teenager with Autism this can be tricky. Kyle has created his own way of getting to know people which he calls a “salami wrap”, where he rolls his tongue and then asks you to do the same. It’s his way of gaining social interaction.

Kyle attends Outreach and Respite Programs at Reena, a non-profit agency which promotes dignity, individuality, independence, personal growth and community inclusion for people with developmental disabilities within a framework of Jewish culture and values.

Just like any other teenager Kyle craves independence. All parents want to teach their children fundamental life skills that will ensure they are successful in becoming an independent adult. Kyle’s parents are no expectation. They believe that "you can’t learn to do something you could be great at if you are never given the chance to try it”.

Reena is a place where Kyle can be himself and reinforce his independence, whether it is an activity he is participating in, interacting with his peers or practicing and gaining life skills. Kyle won’t even allow his family to walk him into the building where he attends program. Reena, for Kyle, means independence. It is where he gets to spend time with people his own age; playing sports, arts and crafts, learning new recipes, going to parties, swimming and Canadas Wonderland.

Reena Ready to Play Recently, through a generous donation from the Toronto Raptors, the group was able watch a courtside practice, game and meet a player. While his family was concerned about how being in an entirely new space with new people would impact Kyle, they knew it was opportunity they couldn’t deny him. Going to the Toronto Raptors game would enable him to test out new social skills.

The most impactful moment of the entire game was when Delon Wright joined the group to answer questions. Kyle stepped out of his comfort zone to greet Delon with a “salami wrap”. Watching Kyle introduce himself to someone new, in his own way, was huge. This gentle moment truly touched the staff team at the game who knew it was so much more than just a simple expression.

Jaime, Kyle’s favorite staff member at Reena, who has watched him mature over the years felt that this moment at the Raptors game with Delon Wright “was a great example of how there is no limit to what a person with Autism can do”. You have to allow people to try new things, even though they may fail, so they can learn to do things they could be great at.

Employment Advice Column: Five techniques to be a successful employee

Employment Advice Column Artwork provided by an individual supported by Reena.

Dear Joanna,
After a long and hard road, I finally got a job offer of my dreams as a receptionist. I am so excited and want to make sure that I can keep the job, and learn how to be a successful new employee. I would like to stay at this company for the rest of my working life! Do you have any practical suggestions?

Signed: Excited employee

Dear Employee,
Congratulations on your new job! Patrick, Resource Supervisor of Reena's Downtown Toronto Day Programs, as well as, an expert job developer and job coach with job seekers with developmental/intellectual disabilities, presents the top five most important practical techniques that can help you get started with turning your job into a long term and meaningful career.

    1. Be eager to learn. At the beginning you will be learning how to solve problems, how to use the computer software and phone lines, how to multi-task, work in a team, and use your time efficiently, to name a few. Consider yourself as an adult learner or student. Ask lots of questions to learn about the job. Participate in as many training opportunities as possible on the job. If you need to more time to learn a task, ask for a mentor or an opportunity to job shadow another employee in the same or similar role. Be as self-directed as possible with learning new tasks even if it means staying after work to study. Be open to feedback and constructive criticism.
    2. Understand the workplace culture. Follow the companies’ policies and rules. Listen very carefully to the conversations of your co-workers and managers. For example, what do we say on the phone? How do the co-workers interact? Does everyone have lunch together? Do employees socialize after work? How do employees interact between departments, from office to office? What is the preferred way to communicate with each person and your manager? Make sure you understand the expectations of your manager and team regarding your tasks. You may need to ask for clarification from your manager. If you have to write it down, do so.
    3. Be friendly, positive and meet new people. Treat everyone with respect. Don’t swear or tease or tell racists or sexist jokes or flirt. Stay away from any gossip or negative conversations. Always have a smile, be positive and ready to help out. And keep growing your network within the organization and externally as well. Use social media like Linkedin to continue meeting professionals in your field. Share information that you think would be valuable to your team. For example, if there is a new app for scheduling that you know about, pass it along to your manager and then see about circulating it around to the other employees in your department.
    4. Be punctual, reliable, responsible. Show up for work on time. If you can’t because you are sick or late, then let your manager know by calling or texting him or her. Make sure the manager has confirmed receipt of your message.
    5. Go the extra mile but be careful. Do more than you are asked once you have learned the basics. If you don’t have anything to do, ask your managers for additional tasks or permission to offer your assistance to other employees who could use your help. Don’t assume that you can do this. Again, this is an unspoken rule of conduct in the workplace culture. Look for ways to make your team or manager’s work easier. For example, if you are a finished your data entry duties, suggest to your manager that you are available to help with the filing for your co-worker who need s help.

Good luck with your new job and don’t forget to celebrate your success!

For more information on Reena’s Supported Employment Programs for People with developmental/intellectual disabilities, please contact Patrick, the Supervisor at To submit your questions and comments to this column IN CONFIDENCE, please email

Joanna Samuels, B.A., B.Ed. (AE), M.Ed., CMF, is an Employment Resource Specialist at Joanna’s expertise is in providing customized employment support services and job search skills training to unemployed and underemployed individuals with disabilities and multi-barriers from diverse communities. She also helps employers with inclusive/diversity recruitment. Joanna is a certified Life Skills Coach, Personality Dimensions Facilitator and is a guest speaker and published author and blogger on related topics.

**Cancelled** MyCommunityHub Is Coming To Reena!

**Please note this event has been cancelled.**

Join us on March 29 from 6:30 - 8:30PM at the Toby & Henry Battle Developmental Centre to learn more about how Reena is using MyCommunityHub!

MyCommunityHub is the place to go for great activities offered by Developmental Service Agencies across Ontario. You can browse, register and pay in a few simple clicks.

Please let us know if you will be joining us by clicking here. Deadline to register is March 5, 2017.

To learn more click here
To visit MyCommunityHub click here


Reena Membership It’s time to renew!

Members - please don’t delay we appreciate your renewal today.
Not a member? Join us.

Why join? Reena members can...
  • Sit on a committee
  • Nominate board members
  • Vote to elect nominated board members

  • Reena membership dues...
  • $36 single annual membership
  • $180 single life membership

  • Click here to sign up online
    For more information contact us by clicking here

    Spotlight on Transformation – February 2017

    The February 2017 edition of “Spotlight on Transformation” is available. This bulletin is provided by the Ministry of Community & Social Services and covers the developmental services transformation.

    In this issue:

    • Basic Income for Ontario
    • New Guidelines Help Adults with Challenging Behaviours
    • Ontario Launches New Pilot Marketing Campaign to Promote "LifeShare" Housing

    To view the bulletin click here
    To view previous editions of the bulletin click here

    Take Action for Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month!

    Graphic with text calling for you to take action to reinforce the importance of accessibility and inclusion.

    Will you join us to reinforce to the federal government the importance of accessibility and inclusion?

    Recently, in partnership with Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA, CIJA brought a delegation of Jewish federations, service agencies, and community volunteers to Parliament Hill for the first ever lobby day on disabilities and inclusion. Reena is proud to have been a member of the delegation for this historic event!

    The group, comprised of representatives from Vancouver, Calgary, Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, raised a number of important issues with elected officials from the Liberal, Conservative and New Democratic Parties. Reena was involved in the planning of the event, and was present at Parliament to advocate on behalf of the individuals we serve through our employment and housing programs, and to lend our support to others in the community.

    As February’s Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month comes to a close, the federal government’s consultation on national disabilities legislation is also nearing its conclusion.

    We need your help to reinforce the importance of accessibility and inclusion with the Minister responsible for disabilities.

    ACT NOW: Send an email to Carla Qualtrough, Minister for Sport and Persons with Disabilities.

    Reena Foundation Receives $180K Gift!

    On February 22nd, 2017, Reena Foundation received an incredibly generous gift of $180,000 from the Robbins Family. As a lifetime Leaf’s fan, Monty Robbins has brought 60 Carlton St. and 11 Stanley Cups back to life in his basement. Monty dreamed about the day when he would meet his sports hero, Darryl Sittler. Reveling in the dream that one day, his favourite player would make it to Maple Leaf Gardens and sign his wall. Monty’s wish had come true. Darryl graciously joined Reena Foundation for the cheque presentation and autographed the wall in Monty’s basement, dedicated to him. Darryl reminisced about his time as a Toronto Maple Leaf, the crowd was in awe. The original pledge for the donation was $90,000. The Robbins Family was so touched by the experience that they doubled the gift. A portion of the gift will be directed towards the purchase of a wheelchair accessible van. The Family will direct the balance towards another important initiative.

    Leafs Fan Donates to Reena Foundation

    13,000 Adults with Developmental Disabilities Receiving Support

    Ontario Newsroom Bulletin | Ministry of Community and Social Services | February 14, 2017

    Ontario will eliminate the 2014 Passport waitlist by the end of next month -- one year ahead of schedule -- providing direct funding for 13,000 adults with developmental disabilities.

    Passport is a government program that provides direct funding to adults with developmental disabilities so they can take part in community programs, develop work and daily life skills, hire a support worker and live independently.

    When the Passport program was first launched in 2006 it served 1,700 people. Passport now supports more than 19,000 people with developmental disabilities and will continue to grow, supporting an estimated 24,000 recipients by 2017-18.

    As the number of eligible people for Passport funding continues to grow, addressing the waitlist is critical to ensuring that people with developmental disabilities across the province receive the supports they need as soon as possible.

    Supporting adults with developmental disabilities is part of Ontario’s plan to create jobs, grow our economy and help people in their everyday lives.

    To learn more click here.

    Program Closure Notice

    Due to the weather Reena's Toby & Henry Battle Developmental Centre Day Programs, Older Adults Program and Workshop at The Schwartz Reisman Centre will be closed tomorrow February 7, 2017.

    Pathways and Channels, North and South, will remain open for Fee for Service individuals only. Please note Reena's Toby & Henry Battle Developmental Centre will have limited staff available for individuals who live with their families and need to attend programs. Training's remain open.