In this week’s episode on the Empowering Ability Podcast we welcome guest Dr. Annick Janson, who resides in NZ. Dr. Annick Janson is a clinical psychologist, and a mother of 3 children. Her youngest child, Yaniv, is on the spectrum, and life changed quite a bit when he came into their lives. Annick carries the deep personal experiences of being both a family member and a service professional.
As a professional, clinical psychologist, Annick followed a typical pathway, and became dissatisfied with the outcomes they were getting.
On the podcast Annick shares:
“4 years ago, I met Sylvana Mahmic, CEO of PlumTree service provider for young children that have a developmental disability in Australia – serving 700-800 people per year. [Both Sylvana and Annick have a child with a disability.] (They asked) if we had to scrap everything, what could we offer to families to make a serious difference?”
They took a design thinking approach, including an ethnographic research approach and rapid prototyping to build a learning program called ‘Now and Next’. Read more in the Now and Next Blog about how the design thinking approach was used.
Annick shares, ”(We looked at) how can parents use their learning to build on success, and get better, and better results for their children. We started with 18 sessions, and it is now down to 8 group sessions, and 1 one on one session.
The learning program shifts the mindset of parents to understanding the power of their own agency, and the control they have over their wellbeing and that of their family.
Why a Learning Program?
Paraphrasing from the podcast Annick shares:
We are using a learning program because we found people (parents) are feeling overwhelmed and they need new solutions whereas our ‘traditional’ interventions use therapeutic lenses that focus on elements of their experience framing them as (grief, denial, etc.). Whereas can be necessary to address in certain cases, Annick found is that teaching parents strategies and solutions to get the results that are meaningful to them equipped parents with knowledge that they could use throughout their lives. This is why Now and Next is a learning framework, rather than a therapeutic framework.
The Now and Next Program VS. The Traditional Model
There are 5 areas of differentiation that the Now and Next Program focuses on Vs. the traditional model.
Paraphrasing from the Podcast Annick shares:
1. The Initial Interview:
In the initial interview with a professional they ask you “Tell me about your child?” This was a stressful situation as a mother. You eventually say… “my child can’t do this, and can’t do that.” The research is starting to emerge that this is disempowering to parents. Until now we haven’t really had a better way.
In the Now and Next Program, we used the theory of gamification and created a game called, ‘Pictability’. We chose pictures for the game based on our research of what people had used their individualized funding for. We designed the game so that people are brought straight into the strength domain using projective identification. People are able to identify a great future for their child and create a vision board with a long-term vision, and short-term goals. Games can bring out a lot of creativity and learning.
2. Notes are Shared:
In a typical parent – professional relationship the professional is the one that is taking and keeping the notes. These are often written up in a report by a professional that may be written in jargon and can be hard to understand for families.
With Now and Next Parents hand write their own goals, and we use technology to create a multi-media report so those goals can be shared with loved ones and supporters easily. Also throughout the Now and Next program, parents record photos and videos of their child’s progress on tablets. Having engaging progress records to share with other family members or professionals at the relevant meetings is very useful. This way everyone who surrounds the child is focusing on his or her strengths and works to build on these strengths to achieve goals.
3. Working on Goals:
In the traditional model, I often hear that it can be hard for parents to come up with goals when the parent-professional relationship is out of balance and that the professionals are the only experts.
Now and Next supports parents to recognize their own expertise and contribute it to the parent-professional relationship to contribute their views as to what best suits their child and families so that this becomes the basis to learn to define and work on their own goals. As a result, they become empowered. Parents choose their own goals, and parents are committed to these goals because they have chosen them. Now and Next integrated the 5 windows model developed by Plumtree Robin Treloar with learning templates where parents gain novel insights into defining and reaching goals.
4. Positive Psychology:
The Now and Next Program is the first of its kind (to Annick’s knowledge) to incorporate the concepts from positive psychology. Traditionally psychology looked at how we can get someone from a -3 closer to zero, say -1. Positive psychology looks at how can we get someone who is at zero to +2.
Martin Seligman, one of the forefathers of positive psychology, taught us the concept of learned helplessness, which says that we bear unpleasant circumstances because we have learned they are un-escapable. But his more recent research on wellbeing and prospection shows how we actually strive to look into the future in order to create better opportunities for ourselves. We looked at the prospection and flourish models and integrated these ideas into the Now and Next curriculum
You can learn more about the theoretical foundation of the Now and Next Program on their blog.
5. Sustainable and Scalable:
With the traditional model, there is a power imbalance and families are dependent on professionals. This is not sustainable. There is limited funding for professionals, and we cannot rely on this.
When I talk to professionals and parents all around the world and ask them how they would rate their partnership their answers don’t always match up. At the end of the day, some parents are still expecting professionals to do the work to ‘fix’ their child. As a society, we have put professionals in high regard, and we have given them power.
With the Now and Next Program we hold parents as the experts, and we are giving parents the tools they need to build the future they want. We have also found that parent to parent facilitating has proven to be most effective because of the deep understanding and empathy parents have for each other. This contributes to the scalability of the program because participants are becoming facilitators, and they can then train local people.
The Now and Next Program is measuring the amount of agency (i.e. empowerment) that a parent has, and they have demonstrated significant increases post program.
“In April 2017, the peer facilitators and alumni of the Now and Next program held their inaugural conference, entitled ‘By Families, For Families’, in Sydney, Australia. [Watch a short video clip of this conference here]. At this conference, something groundbreaking transpired, something both profoundly significant and genuinely radical: parents of young children with disability and developmental delay actively accepted responsibility for asserting their “natural authority” (Kendrick, 1995) in their partnerships with their child’s professionals and therapists.” Read more from the source article from Dr. Melanie Heyworth here.
*You can listen to the podcast to hear all of the insights from Dr. Annick Janson.*
Annick Reflects on the turning point with her son, Yaniv:
“I was disappointed in professionals trying to get Yaniv to fit into a ‘normal’ box, (which wasn’t working very well). There was a lot that he was teaching me, and we decided to go for the amazing and genius box. In high school, Yaniv became interested in art. In art class, he required less of a teacher aid, and this motivated Yaniv. Whereas, in the more academic classes he needed more of an aid. We took the ‘Eye of the needle’ approach, and everything they were trying to teach Yaniv would go through art. [See Annick’s publication about this approach here. An artist needs to have a bio, and the way that you write it is by pushing this button on the computer. Today, Yaniv is an international artist. Learn more about Yaniv and his art through his website Yanivjanson.com.
A huge thank you to Dr. Annick Janson for coming onto the podcast! If you would like to learn how to bring Now and Next to your area please reach out to Annick! (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thank you for reading to today’s blog! If you liked this episode, and think someone you know would benefit, please share it with them! Be a part of the change to think differently about disability.
Love & Respect,
Annick’s email: email@example.com
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