Linda Bonise’s first experience with the Association came about as the result of a course requirement for her program in Social Work at Grant McEwan College. She was advised to get some experience working or volunteering with people. Linda says that the work she found at the Association was just right for her and she decided to stay in the field.
Linda has found more that just a career in her the time with the Association. When she was supervising the 96A residence, her future husband, Tony Bonise, was placed as a residential worker there.
Twenty four years later, Linda says she has grown and matured with the organization. Her first full time position was as a residential worker. From those early days in 1982 to the present day, Linda moved through positions in different group home environments, learning the skills she needed to progress to her current position as Day Programs Co-ordinator. Linda co-ordinates and manages a caseload of several clients and supervises four Individually Funded programs.
Coming to the Association with no previous experience in the field, Linda learned as she went along and looked for guidance from her co-workers. Judy Tremaine, a fellow residential worker at the time, used to comment on how “wild” Linda’s log notes were; the unique way in which she wrote down her thoughts. Linda laughs at how young and inexperienced she was, and says that over time she soon developed a more appropriate vocabulary with which to document her work.
Linda has seen many changes in the way the Association delivers services over the past twenty five years. Group home programs have evolved to a more natural way of doing things. When Linda first began working in the group homes, the clients used to be “programmed to death.”
The residences themselves have become more comfortable and “homey” than they once were. Physical surroundings in the group homes are now more reflective of the individuals who live in them and Linda says that goes a long way in creating a desirable living environment.
Day programs have also changed dramatically. In the 1980s, the approach was quite strict compared to the newer methods currently utilized. Today the focus is more on looking below the surface of behaviours to determine the message behind them. “We’ve made great progress with this.”
More clients are out in to the community on a regular basis. The Community Services Option (CSO) program has been implemented successfully and is a major connection to new opportunities for the clients. Employers in the community are so much more accepting of of people with developmental disabilities in recent years.
Clients are encouraged to build relationships within their peers as well as in the community at large. Attitudes have shifted somewhat so that now the idea of clients dating, and possibly even getting married, is supported by staff and families more frequently than it had been in the past.
Families vary. Some are more “with the times”, allowing their children to be a part of the decision making process concerning their own lives. Others have difficulty seeing their handicapped child as an adult and continue to make decisions on their behalf. It is frustrating at times to see the clients’ opportunities narrowed by these decisions, even when the families involved are just trying to do the best for their child.
Working residentially gives the staff an opportunity to develop some bonds with the clients in the group homes, especially with the overnight shifts that were popular in the early years. The clients become very much like family.The Association has grown so much that those close knit connections have been lost to a certain degree.
Staff turnover is far greater now than in earlier years and the Association has grown so much that those close knit connections have been lost to a certain degree.
One thing that I’ve noticed about the Association is that we’ve grown, of course, we have become so big and I really miss the special relationships that you can develop when your organization is small and when you just know everyone.
Linda’s move from Residential Services to Day Programs brought about a marked difference in her daily interaction with the clients. She was so much more involved with the clients’ lives when she worked in the group homes. She has had to develop a different level of relationship with clients, one that is not as personal and that is something she learned to overcome.