Sylvie started working for CISS in October 1992. She was among the first 5 members of our team. Over the years, she has distinguished herself by participating in several projects including the creation of the CISS modules that are still offered as training in the community. Today, Sylvie is a resource consultant team leader for the bilingual CISS team. I had the privilege to interview her for our 30th anniversary and invite you to read her answers below.
How did you come to choose a career with CISS? And what makes CISS your employer of choice?
In the late 80’s, I was an early childhood educator at Tournesol Daycare. One day, my director told me that she was transferring to Lowertown Daycare (a center designated for the integration of so-called “disabled” children at the time) where a specialized educator was supporting children with “special” needs. Those were the early days of integration. When I visited the daycare, I was delighted by the benefits and successes of integration so I decided to complete my certification to become a resource educator. I graduated in 1991 and then secured an interim position at Lowertown Daycare. Following the elimination of my position, I finally joined the CISS team at Andrew Fleck Children’s Services in 1992.
What makes CISS a great place to work is the team. It is the opportunity to be progressive, to be a leader, to be innovative and to be creative in the community. In my opinion, the success of CISS lies in the fact that we have a common vision for inclusion and we cannot say that with certainty of all workplaces.
What were the main functions of your role when your first started?
I was the first bilingual consultant. Initially my title was integration consultant. I travelled all over the Ottawa region and had a clientele comprised of 60% Anglophones and 40% Francophones. I had to write and speak in both languages. I also traveled a lot.
In the beginning, how did you view inclusion?
At first, my goal in terms of inclusion was that children could continue to laugh and play. Then we wanted to build on the early childhood teams’ expertise. We wanted the programs to acquire a certain independence and to be able to transfer our knowledge during our visits. Back then, it was much more daunting for educators to include a child with special needs in their group because they were afraid of the unknown. Over the years, we have developed a variety of workshops and trainings to support skills. As a result, the educators have developed confidence in their ability to include children with special needs.
Could you share with us a highlight of your career?
When I was studying for my certification to become a resource educator, I participated in an internship at the Cumberland Hub. During a meeting with a family, I would ask questions about the child’s development while talking to the parent. Then at some point, the parent asked me to address the child because they were able to answer me. That’s when I understood what inclusion really is ̶ to see and recognize the potential of a child. It was a defining moment in my career and I will always remember it.
In terms of inclusion, do you notice a shift since the early stages of your career? What are the biggest changes you’ve seen over time?
Yes, for sure. The needs of children and type of clientele we support has changed a lot. Our caseloads were much lower and we were mostly helping children with very high physical needs. In the last few years, our caseloads include about 80% of children on the autism spectrum. However, one big difference is the expertise of the daycare centers. They are much better equipped than when I started and are showing more inclusion skills. Even though the childcare community is often filled with change, we have continued to rebuild the collaboration with the same approach and the same message.
What do you wish for programs in the short and long term?
I don’t know if I have a short and long term wish for programs but, more like a forever wish! And my wish is: Continue to be progressive within the programs! Keep the following 3 C’s:
In this way, CISS will continue to progress and support thousands of families for many years to come.