Sensory First Nations Partnership

On September 26, 2017, Aptus launched a 1-year partnership with Anishinabek Nation (Union of Ontario Indians) and Aquilla Occupational Therapy Services, funded by Ontario Trillium Foundation. The test project would offer sensory assessments for children and youth in addition to capacity-building trainings for parents and professionals. First Nations communities report significantly higher rates of children and youth with developmental disabilities including fetal alcohol syndrome disorder and yet limited access to assessments or support. 

The project's impact was doubled thanks to recommendations made by Anishinabek Nation, Ontario's oldest organization. The project shifted from offering services to 3 First Nations to instead having 2 First Nations act as hosts to any of the 40 First Nations Anishinabek Nation supports. Originally expected to impact 105 parents and professionals from 3 First Nations, the project has, to date, had 215 unique registrants from 22 First Nations with 1176 children and youth potentially benefiting.  

The Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Ministry of Citizenship & Immigration and Aptus donors have funded 5 workshops in Curve Lake First Nation (by Peterborough) and Rama Mnjikaning First Nation (by Orillia). Topics include: 
“What’s going on inside our children’s brains?” presented by Paula Aquilla, OT OMP
“How can I become a sensory detective?” presented by Aptus’ Occupational Therapist team 
“How can I support children and youth through art and play?” presented by Aptus’ Expressive Arts Therapist team 
Each workshop has been opened with a prayer from a Nookmis (Elder). The workshops all have included a cultural component, e.g., regalia making, drumming or smudge, so each Nation will further connect and engage in healing and learning.

Sensory assessments will be offered in the fall in Rama Mnjikaning and Curve Lake First Nations.

Through funding received by Anishinabek Nation, 2 conferences will be co-led by Aquilla OT Services, Aptus Treatment Centre and Anishinabek Nation in Thunder Bay and on Manitoulin Island in July.
 

Participant feedback

98% of participants enjoyed the workshops and wished to learn more. 92% of participants felt that this project improved community engagement.  Here’s what participants shared:
“Friendly, knowledgeable, funny presenter! Really explained things in a way that made it easy to understand” (Participant from Shawanaga First Nation)
“I really enjoyed the practical exercises. Loved having children being part of the day.” (Participant from Hiawatha First Nation)
“The best thing was having reaffirming knowledge that art and play can reach any one person and their style of learning.” (Participant from Curve Lake First Nation)