Sensory First Nations Partnership

Aptus is proud to be launching a 1-year partnership with Anishinabek Nation (Union of Ontario Indians) funded by Ontario Trillium Foundation. 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. Aptus' Occupational Therapists, funded by the Ministry of Community & Social Services will partner with Health Workers of Anishinabek Nation, also funded by MCSS, to offer bi-monthly training and assessments to support families with a child or youth with a developmental disability, including fetal alcohol syndrome disorder. 

1-year Test Project

Beginning September 26, 2017, Aptus will make bi-monthly visits to 3 First Nations near Peterborough and offer sensory assessments and skills training. Aptus partner Aquilla Occupational Therapy Services will lead its recognized fetal alcohol syndrome disorder support training in a launch seminar, including each of the 3 First Nations. Anishinabek Nation is Ontario’s oldest organization and offers health supports, among other services in First Nations in Ontario. Anishinabek Nation’s health workers will provide ongoing community support and project guidance. All services will be provided with a cultural component, e.g., regalia making, drumming or smudge, so each Nation will further connect and engage in healing and learning.

3 First Nations Involved

Anishinabek Nation identified three First Nations interested in participating:
• Curve Lake First Nation (Peterborough region) - Population of 741
• Alderville First Nation (Peterborough region) - Population of 357
• Mississaugas of Scugog First Nation (Durham region) - Population of 51

Anishinabek Nation estimates that 25% of children in these communities may have a developmental disability. The First Nations Regional Longitudinal Health Survey of 2002 estimated the disability rate for First Nations was double the general population. The Anishinabek Nation health workers are aware of the stigma experienced by children and youth flagged with FASD. They have found that First Nations children and youth may experience suicidal thoughts about being FASD from age 7.

Sensory Techniques Desired

All people use sensory inputs to help regulate their nervous system. Children and youth who have a developmental disabiliy - from autism to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) - often have a sensory processing disorder where sensory inputs which are calming to others may create anxiety for them. Children or youth may also be unclear which sensory input would help them concentrate at school or at a job. Sensory assessments and skills training will empower family members and adult allies to support the emotional and social strengths of children and youth with developmental disabilities. Anishinabek Nation feels that Aptus’ sensory approaches will be well received by First Nations peoples. 

Partnered Approach Test Project

This untested partnered approach seeks to respect First Nations autonomy, territory and inter-generational trauma by offering First-Nations territory-based supports and training. Leading developmental-sector approaches (e.g., sensory assessments) will be paired with First Nations healing methods to potentially enhance success.This test project, if successful, would be a cost-effective route to supplementing services, assessments and family-based respite skill training in rural communities, in particular, First Nations. 

Aptus will be publishing a report with its partners in fall 2018 to report on the successes, challenges and lessons learned to share with our developmental service partners and the province.