Good Things in Life podcast

Genia Stephen

Join Genia in discussion with other parents, thought leaders and visionaries about helping young children with intellectual disabilities get the good things in life. Want your child to go to school, make friends, play on teams and have a bright future? Join the conversation. Good things in life is for families with vision about what is possible and how to achieve it. Whether your child has cerebral palsy, down syndrome, angelman syndrome, autism or a mild learning disability, Good Things in Life podcast can help you figure out how to take action to protect your child from harm and work towards a good life.

All Episodes

Cussing alert in this episode.  Nobody lasts long in this world of supporting people with disabilities without finding themselves in a WTF? situation.  There are few or no options.  The only existing options are segregated.  The expectations are abysmally low.  Even good people are unsure how to move forward.  If I’m wrong, and you’ve never been frustrated with a reality like this then reply to this email and tell me.  But I’m guessing that you can relate in some capacity.  Because this is such a common reality, people like the guests on today’s podcast have developed learning institutes, learning journeys, and person centred planning approaches to explore blue space - new space where creative possibilities can be created.  This week on the podcast, Beth Mount, Hanns Meisner and Pamela Mansell discuss what it takes to create new spaces when what exists just won’t do. It takes bravery, finding your people and being willing to journey together.

Dec 1

56 min 6 sec

David Sharif is a young man in his twenties who has autism and a long list of enviable accomplishments. I am particularly envious of his extensive travel.  David’s journey has not always been easy but he has strong sports hero mentors and a clear vision of the good things in life plus friends and family who are there to support him.  This week on the podcast, David and I discuss his life experiences, aspirations and achievements.  One of David’s goals is to reach a large audience with his story. Check out the podcast so you can be part of his success story. 

Nov 30

43 min 21 sec

Christine Robinson joins me on today's podcast to talk about the remarkable journey that she made with her late husband William Rush. William was a journalist, writer and disability rights advocate. Christine is a therapist.   In this podcast, Christine shares her thoughts about life with Bill including what it is like to be a witness to disability rights advocacy. She also speaks of the importance of their communities of support, giving them hope and encouragement as Bill did the hard work of making societal change.  Check out this week’s podcast here. 

Nov 15

1 hr 8 min

This week on the podcast we hear from Steve Coulson from the Thistle Foundation in Scotland. For many years, Steve has been facilitating the Big Plan - a group person-centred planning process.  To be honest, I told Steve that “group” and “person centred planning” sounded like an oxymoron.  Yet, after speaking with Steve, I can see that it can be helpful to have the voices of others to inspire our own vision and hope.  Check out this week’s podcast here. 

Nov 13

57 min 33 sec

Despite decades of progress, three key myths seem to persist that keep many people from getting involved in disability advocacy at the policy level. But Dave Deuel knows that just about anyone can be an advocate—he’s the parent of an adult with a disability and has a lifetime of successful political advocacy behind him. He joins Genia for this episode to break down these myths and discuss advocacy techniques like storytelling and teamwork, and offers advice on getting past those hard moments when advocating feels like it’s sucking more energy from you than you can take. Advocacy is a lifelong process and it may seem at times like we still have so far to go, but listen now to remind yourself just how far it is we’ve already come—and how much possibility there is for a brighter, more inclusive future.

Nov 1

59 min 44 sec

The education system’s sole purpose is to help students reach their maximum potential and strive to give them the knowledge they need to succeed. Although, they don’t always have the resources on hand needed to help with each student’s individual needs. In this situation, it can feel difficult for parents to speak up on behalf of their children. After all, not all parents are experts on education, and speaking up can feel like they’re being burdensome. However, it can’t be stressed enough that when faced with this, parents should do the exact opposite. It’s important that parents voice their concerns and ask that other alternatives be presented to help their children. Alpacino Beauchamp joins Genia Stephen to discuss the power of parental advocacy in the educational system.

Oct 25

1 hr 14 min

For students, the best part about going to school is feeling like a “part of the group”. Feeling like their thoughts, opinions, and contributions matter. Feeling like they matter. Inclusion is crucial in the classroom. There’s no denying the importance that it holds, and it’s equally important that students with disabilities don’t miss out on the incredible opportunities that it offers. Join Genia, Wendy, and Carrie as they discuss the benefits of inclusion, and how parents and educators can help promote inclusivity in the classroom!

Oct 18

35 min 15 sec

It’s easy for families and service system workers to adopt an “us vs. them” mentality when trying to work alongside each other, or to blame others when things go wrong. However, it takes more effort to look within to find the answers and be willing to make changes. “Turning the beam of inquiry inward” means asking yourselves as parents or service workers if there is anything that you can change about your behaviour to help find solutions. It means swallowing your pride, putting your differences aside, and opening your minds to focus on what really matters: helping the child. This week, New York State’s Systems Advocacy Award winner Chris Liuzzo joins Genia to discuss how turning the beam of inquiry inward can lead to a better working relationship between families and the service system.

Oct 11

1 hr 12 min

The importance of inclusion is a subject that was discussed on this podcast in the pas, as it offers so much to individuals with disabilities. Although making that transition from exclusion to inclusion in the community can be difficult. It can also be hard to find that courage to keep pushing, but it’s important to keep on trying. Keep moving forward and pushing back; when there’s apparently no room for inclusion, then try and make room. It can be hard to persist, and consistently push for that change, but once it happens it’s incredibly rewarding. Join Kim Southern-Paulsen and guest interviewer Katie Bachmeyer as they discuss how to help make the transition from exclusion to inclusion a reality.

Oct 4

49 min 7 sec

Friendships are one of the best things that life has to offer. Having people in your corner that will back you up when seeking out support, comfort you when there’s a no, and celebrate with you when there’s a yes can make life’s challenges easier to manage and overall make life better. Although it can be daunting to take that first step when forming friendships, it’s important to not fall into the trap of waiting for others to act. CEO of KFI Barbara Beaulieu joins Genia to discuss the importance of building friendships that last, and how to gather the courage to make that first connection.

Sep 27

39 min 46 sec

Our journey has twists and turns. It isn’t a straight line. Especially when our kids are young and newly identified, we are open to the advice of those we look to for guidance. This is true whether the advice is good or bad. This week on the podcast, guest host Katie Bachmeyer interviews Lynn Dew, who shares her personal journey from segregation to inclusion as a mindset and as a destination. 

Sep 20

38 min 59 sec

Goals. Dreams. Aspirations. Everyone has them; it’s what makes us human. The system places an expectation on students to strive towards their goals, handing them the tools and support they need to work towards them. There is a wide selection of programs and resources in place to help young people achieve their aspirations, because it’s only natural that they should. However, students with disabilities are not given these same opportunities to shape their own futures, which is why it’s important when there are no suitable options to choose from for families to make their own.  Fionn and Jonathan Angus from Fionnathan Productions join Genia this week to discuss how families can help their loved ones pave the way towards their aspirations by creating new paths for them to follow.

Sep 6

1 hr 29 min

As a concept, co-teaching is sometimes difficult to explain, partly because it’s so unstandardized—the way one school district applies co-teaching might be really different from the way another district goes about it. Beth Lakretz is a special education consultant who’s trying to demystify co-teaching and other key principles of inclusive education. She joined Genia for this episode to talk about her take on co-teaching and how she helps parents and educators collaborate effectively according to their unique roles, expertise, and overall belief systems. They also discussed education policy, which is one of the biggest barriers to true inclusion today. Listen now for Beth’s insights on co-teaching, policy, collaboration, and more!

Aug 30

1 hr

What does “privilege” really mean? Privilege isn’t just a thing some people have and others don’t—like so much else, it comes with layers of complexity. As founders and owners of Rebel Revolution, Alison Gomez and Nikki Haffner consult with individuals and offer training to help people in positions of power learn to combat systems of oppression that privilege the white, male, heterosexist, Christian, able-bodied perspective. Genia welcomed them to the podcast for this episode to talk about how to identify and de-weaponize privilege, and how to pave the way for greater equity in future generations. They also discussed intersectionality and the ways to uplift different social movements without co-opting the voices of marginalized peoples. If you’ve ever been overwhelmed by conversations about privilege or been unsure about how to join them, this podcast is a great place to start!

Aug 23

56 min 48 sec

Organizational Health and Inclusion Specialist Faith Clarke knows all about how to put together a strong team. Faith looks for a collection of personality traits in her teams: archetypes that embody the characteristics of what she’s looking for. Supporting people today has more to do with fostering independence than it does with caregiving, and Faith calls this a “liberation movement role.” This was Faith’s second time on the podcast and Genia was happy to have her back to talk about all the above and more, including how she prepares job ads to attract the right sort of candidates; how to integrate home support workers into the private spaces of family life; and how to help teams pivot in the direction they want to go if their staff members are lacking some important skills.

Aug 16

56 min 42 sec

Beth Gallagher’s supported living service agency Life Works is built on authentic person-centred planning and she knows how to help other agencies incorporate the principle into their own organizational structure. With her principle of “intentional teaming,” teams are built around the person they’re supporting with every team member’s strengths in mind, rather than a top-down barking order that’s built around the manager. By thinking of each team as its own autonomous micro-enterprise, service agencies can help reinforce positive relationships among all stakeholders: clients, their families, friends, and advocates, the rest of the agency staff, and the community at large. And team members are hired by looking more closely at individual characteristics like personality and kind-heartedness than by assessing qualifications like experience or CPR skills, which are more easily trainable. In this week’s podcast, Genia chatted with Beth about her principle of intentional teaming and how to build an organizational culture that prioritizes true person-centred planning. Listen now!

Aug 9

48 min 16 sec

Buddhism teaches the principle of “right relationships”: the moral obligation to be in “correct” relationships with fellow humans. When working with staff or volunteers from disability service organizations, families form relationships, and forming right relationships—based on mutual respect, forgiveness, compassion, and understanding—can be an important component of building trust and ethical partnership with the organization as a whole. With time and baby steps, more and more relationships can become “right,” and eventually even lead to systemic change from the bottom up. This week, international community service consultant Dr. Michael Kendrick returns to the podcast to talk about how the concept of right relationships is at the heart of all successful, effective service organizations.

Aug 2

1 hr 5 min

When it comes to social progress, the “edge” of possibility expands over time. The Centre for Welfare Reform’s John O’Brien John wants to find the edge of what is possible for all people in their communities so that what seems like just a dream today could be an achievable goal tomorrow. He joined Genia Stephen on the podcast this week to talk about his ideas about how to widen this edge, which starts with understanding what the main dimensions of inclusive communities are, and where the edge sits in most communities today (hint: it’s about control and freedom). This was a great conclusion to a two-part series with John O’Brien!

Jul 26

1 hr 14 min

Belonging, respect, sharing spaces, contribution, and choice are the five valued experiences for the good things in life as defined by John O’Brien. The experiences are the same for everybody, but far too often, people with disabilities have more access barriers to these valued experiences. John joined me for the podcast this week to talk about the social foundations that prevent those with disabilities from fully experiencing the five valued experiences—the “diabolically clever” forces of social devaluation and exclusion. We consistently underestimate what’s possible for people with disabilities, and we’ve seen time and again that it’s up to people with disabilities themselves, and their loved ones, to be the drivers of innovation and progressive change. This was the first in a two-part series with John so stay tuned for more on inclusive communities, social progress, and personal autonomy!

Jul 19

1 hr 15 min

Naiomy Ekanayake has two sons with disabilities who both started their education in a segregated program. When she successfully transitioned both boys into the general education classroom, she saw how many ways inclusive education helped them: not only were they doing better academically, but they also other learned important new social skills from the other kids, formed meaningful friendships, and helped their family make wonderful connections with other families in their community. Listen now to Naiomy’s inspiring story of how she made the best choice she could have for her sons’ education.

Jul 11

31 min 56 sec

What can parents and teachers do to help facilitate the sorts of ongoing, mutually reciprocal interactions that lead to true friendship? Dr. Zach Rossetti is a special education professor who says that parents and teachers can help foster better friendship-building opportunities: it starts with enabling a shared space for social engagement, then simply getting out of the way. And of course, inclusive education and teaching social skills (for all kids, not just kids with disabilities) play a big role too. Zach joined Genia for this episode to talk about his research on disability and friendship, and the solutions he envisions to help kids with disabilities build full, rewarding social lives. 

Jun 28

1 hr 25 min

Why is it so important to include kids with disabilities in the general education classroom? To Diane Richler, an international disability advocate with fifty years of experience, it boils down to human rights. All people have the right to a quality education, and for kids with intellectual disabilities, inclusive programs are the highest quality programs. Diane’s work with the international disability community is trying to help promote the essential human rights of people with intellectual disabilities, including the right to high-quality inclusive education. Listen now to her chat with Genia Stephen about inclusion, human rights, and advocacy. Listen now!

Jun 26

52 min 11 sec

How can a school psychologist help your child with a disability? Striving for inclusive education is a complex battle and when parents develop a relationship with the school psychologist, that can help to simplify and demystify the process. Aaron Dunham is one such psychologist and he joined Genia for this week’s podcast to talk about the confluence between data, cooperation, and even humility in striving for systemic change, as well as psychoeducational assessments and how parents can decide whether they’re really worth it. Listen now!

Jun 18

48 min 54 sec

The research is clear: inclusion works. But too many programs are still segregating students based on ability. Educator and academic Jacqueline Specht is researching the best ways to implement inclusion into the classroom, and she has identified educator training as a critical period in establishing the individual pedagogical values and self-confidence needed to not just accommodate students with disabilities, but embrace them as worthy participants in the classroom. Listen now to her chat with Genia Stephen about how training teachers early on to expect, accommodate, and embrace students with disabilities is an important first step.

Jun 7

55 min 31 sec

When activists and advocates focus their efforts regionally, but have access to resources and allies that spread across the globe, it’s a potent formula for empowering members of a community and really democratizing the advocacy process. The Citizen Network Coop’s Simon Duffy and Markus Vähälä know that rebellion is at the heart of this empowerment and that cooperation is key to really challenging the status quo. Listen now to their talk with Genia Stephen about the rebelliousness of social progress and the importance of cooperation, both regionally and internationally, in disability advocacy.

May 31

1 hr 10 min

Catherine Whitcher's IEP creation methods have helped thousands of parents and schools work together to prepare students for further education, employment, and independent living. Through her Master IEP Coach Mentorship + Network, Catherine teaches parents how to demystify and assume their rights as members of the IEP team and how to ensure their child’s best interests are truly reflected in their IEP. She joined Genia Stephen for a conversation about IEP strategy and making sure parent input is foregrounded in the development and implementation of IEPs.

May 24

36 min 21 sec

Special education should not be synonymous with separate education. That’s the position of the MCIE’s Tim Villegas. The MCIE works with educators and school districts to help integrate meaningful inclusive education into the classroom. Moving from full segregation to authentic inclusion is not going to happen overnight. But although the pace of change can be slow, incremental progress still counts as progress. And when children with disabilities don’t have access to inclusive education programs, there is still a lot that advocates, parents, and teachers can do to help support their goals and dreams. Tim joined Genia Stephen for this week’s podcast to talk about the MCIE’s mission and their approach to inclusive education advocacy and curriculum support. 

May 17

1 hr 1 min

There’s a term too often neglected in conversations about disability: citizen. This is a core guiding principle of the Citizen-Centered Leadership Development (CCLD) Community of Practice, Carol Blessing’s innovative 15-week course for service providers that work with people with disabilities. In this episode, Genia Stephen talks to Carol about her CCLD program and her concept of radicalized citizenship. Carol explains how the social model of disability, which is often held up as the gold standard for disability service delivery, is insufficient because it doesn’t recognize the notion of participatory citizenship for people with disabilities. Systemic change won’t make any difference until service providers start thinking about people with disabilities as social citizens and working to build real relationships with them. 

May 10

1 hr 7 min

Addie Loerzel is a 15-year-old girl with a disability who has raised nearly $80,000 for the Sunshine Foundation. She’s also the current crown-holder of the Princess of America Miss Minnesota pageant and a regular public speaker and advocate for kids with disabilities. In this week’s episode Genia Stephen welcomes Addie to the podcast to talk about how she has accomplished so much for someone so young, and where she’s looking to take her fundraising efforts next. She’s an inspiring youth leader worth following!

May 3

26 min 35 sec

Genia Stephen turns hosting duties over to Pamela Mansell, who interviews Dr. Hanns Meissner, author of Creating Blue Space: Fostering Innovative Support Practices for People with Developmental Disabilities. Hanns talks to Pamela about his innovative concept of “blue space,” the peaceful centre of a storm, and how blue space can be an important factor in achieving real independence and community participation for people with disabilities. By understanding how blue space works and how to wield it, people with disabilities and their advocates can break the boxes they’ve been placed in and assert their right to a meaningful place in their communities.

Apr 26

57 min 31 sec

Dr. Leyton Schnellert is a lifelong inclusive education teacher who believes it doesn’t have to be difficult for teachers to tailor their curriculum to the students taking the course. In fact, Leyton says that students are the curriculum, and that when teachers recognize this, inclusive education becomes a lot easier to attain. He stresses open-ended pedagogy and collaboration as important to inclusivity, as well as decolonizing and indigenizing education. Listen now to his chat with Genia Stephen about how teachers can pull this off. 

Apr 19

1 hr 9 min

What, exactly, do parents really need to say to government officials in charge of education? When parents unify their message and demand inclusion over segregation, it’s the best way to move toward real equity for children with disabilities. This week’s podcast is the conclusion to a special two-part series with Gordon Porter and David Towell, two internationally renowned inclusive education advocates who believe that parents have the most powerful voice in the current dialogue around education. Parents’ role in effecting systemic change is an important one and can be harnessed effectively for real progress. 

Apr 13

56 min 3 sec

What can the Canadian province of New Brunswick teach us about inclusive education? Gordon Porter and David Towell, two internationally renowned inclusive education advocates, teamed up to write Advancing Inclusive Education, using the New Brunswick system as a case study for how ministries of education can implement progressive policies that meet the needs of all students. For this episode, the first in a two-part series, they talked with Good Things in Life host Genia Stephen about the ten steps education agencies can take to rebuild truly inclusive schools from the ground up.

Apr 5

1 hr 30 min

Inclusion is possible, but it’s hard. For episode 104, Genia was thrilled to chat with Susan Dunnigan, a social worker, mother, and advocate for inclusion. Susan’s memoir, Warrior Angel, documents her family’s ongoing pursuit of normalcy while supporting and advocating for her son Matt. Susan and Genia chatted about the importance of the two As of inclusive education: advocacy and allyship, and how the two work together to carve out a place for children with disabilities within the mainstream education system.

Mar 29

48 min 20 sec

When you’re a parent of a child with a disability, it can be hard to recognize when it’s time to really step back and let your kid take more control of their own life. For this episode, Genia Stephen turned things over to guest host Carrie Ahrens, a member of Inclusion Academy. Carrie interviewed Hope House Foundation executive director Lynne Seagle about the ways that caregivers and professionals in the social service system can empower young adults with disabilities to take control of their own lives and transition away from group home living.

Mar 27

1 hr 4 min

Good Things in Life host Genia Stephen and storyteller Katie Bachmeyer wrap up their three-part discussion on medical safeguarding by identifying the ways that the right mindset really makes a difference in patient advocacy, both on the part of the health care worker and the patient advocate. Genia, who’s been providing medical safeguarding services for her sister in intensive care since November 2020, talks about how any health care worker, regardless of their personality, can truly change the patient experience for the better, and how advocates can recognize that medical staff need understanding too. This was a fascinating wrap-up to a three-part series that’s all about empathy, support, and positivity. If you’ve missed the last three episodes, you may want to listen to those first. 

Mar 17

25 min 28 sec

In Part 2 of this special interview series, storyteller Katie Bachmeyer asks Good Things host Genia Stephen about what it’s like when a hospital becomes your home. Genia notes that the some rules and systems in place around the hospital are designed primarily to protect and empower service providers, not patients. When patients in long-term inpatient care get no respite from the system—because they can’t go home, after all—there is a negative impact on the patient.

Mar 16

36 min 37 sec

For this special 100th episode of the podcast, Good Things host Genia Stephen flips the script a bit: this time, someone else is interviewing her! Filmmaker and storyteller Katie Bachmeyer asks Genia about what medical safeguarding really means. Safeguards provide support for their loved ones with disabilities, but they also act as advocates and interpreters for vulnerable people that are too often devalued by the medical system. Sometimes safeguards even make the difference between life and death. This is the first of several episodes in which Katie is going to help Genia tell her powerful story.

Mar 3

1 hr 9 min

Genia Stephen talks about her reflections on her sister’s experience of being an intensive care patient with a disability who needs support to be safe. Medical safeguarding of vulnerable hospital patients can make the difference between life and death.  In Inclusion Academy, Good Things In Life’s monthly membership, we’ll be covering how to be an effective medical advocate. For more information and to join go to goodthingsinlife.org/join. 

Feb 23

14 min 24 sec

Choice is the friend of inclusion. Now, more than ever we need to feel ready and inspired to teach all of our students, Pre-K through 12th grade. It's all about creating the most inclusive educational system possible where every person (big and small) not only survives, but thrives. In this podcast (an audio recording of a webinar with inclusive education experts Drs. Julie Causton and Kristie Pretti-Frontczak), Causton and Pretti-Frontczak share the "why's" behind inclusion and share some of their favorite (and most effective) strategies for differentiating and supporting ALL learners.

Feb 16

1 hr 25 min

In this podcast, I chat with Andy Willemsen, a developmental service worker and community living advocate, about four key areas of knowledge that parents can equip themselves with in order to help support their child’s educational needs: knowledge about your own child, knowledge about the way the system functions, knowledge about the different actors within the system, and knowledge about what your options are going forward. We also chat about the importance of equity, empathy, teamwork, and transition planning to reach achievable, flexible goals that will evolve with your child.

Feb 8

50 min 30 sec

This bonus podcast episode is the audio recording of David Lepofsky's YouTube video on tips for parents about school advocacy.  If you want to watch the video, you can find that at goodthingsinlife.org/david and that will direct you over to the Osgoode Hall Law School YouTube site, which is where David originally published the video. In this episode, David shares some practical suggestions and strategies for parents to try out to ensure that your child is fully included and fully benefits from the education that's offered in your school system.

Feb 4

47 min 10 sec

David Lepofsky, lawyer and disability rights activist, discusses how knowledge is power when it comes to advocating for inclusion in school. Understanding the system means parents can better navigate the issues and work with the school to achieve inclusion goals.

Feb 4

50 min 51 sec

A sneak peak into the tragedy and grief, joys, wins, contributions, successes and massive strains of 2020 for host Genia Stephen and Good Things In Life. Plus, a "where we are headed" look into the future.  Join Inclusion Academy here.  Email support@goodthingsinlife.org if you have an idea for a podcast episode or want to be a guest host. 

Feb 2

20 min 28 sec

Every parent has dreams for their children. Yet, when our kids have disabilities, we need to make those dreams clear. We need to create a vision and then act to make it happen. Darcy Elks shares the pathway to making our dreams a reality.

Feb 1

50 min 38 sec

Angela Breeden and Julie White tell the story of the On Purpose Project, a community group that brings neighbours with and without disabilities together for civic improvement projects and creates opportunities for meaningful work and a sense of belonging along the way.

Dec 2020

39 min 59 sec

Joe Clayton survived years of abuse while institutionalized at the now-closed Rideau Regional Centre. Now an artist who runs Nature Natives Art Gallery, he tells his story with immense courage and strength in order to prevent others from living through what he did. #Triggeralert: this episode contains discussions of sexual assault and physical abuse. It also contains a story of moving through hurt and trauma toward community.

Dec 2020

34 min 27 sec

Faith Clarke is an organizational health and teamwork specialist who has developed a structured, principled approach to onboarding, training and supporting support workers. In this episode, we talk about how to build a home health team that really works for your family.

Dec 2020

48 min 6 sec

Institutionalization hurts the person institutionalized, the family, and our community. Marilyn Dolmage, Vici Clarke and Victoria Freeman discuss their experiences of having their sibling with a disability institutionalized as a child. #triggeralert. 

Nov 2020

1 hr 30 min

Victoria Freeman’s book “A World without Martha: A Memoir of Sisters, Disability and Difference” is fundamentally about what it means to live in a world where only some people are deemed worthy of love. On the podcast, Victoria and I read excerpts from the book and explore the themes of this all-too-real story. This podcast comes with a #triggeralert. It also comes with the opportunity to use Victoria’s story - and Martha’s story - as motivation, fuel, learning to make life better for those in our community who are othered and excluded. Access the transcript and full show notes here. If you are enjoying the Good Things in Life Podcast, I would so love it if you would rate and leave a review on iTunes. The more ratings and reviews the podcast gets, the more likely that others will see what Good Things in Life Podcast has to offer.

Nov 2020

1 hr