French language Counsellor Builds Trust, Breaks Down Barriers

“I started my working life as a French teacher. From there, I worked for many years with the Ontario Autism Program as a consultant to the school boards helping students on the spectrum successfully transition to school. Last year I was hired by POGO to apply my professional advocacy skills to support brain tumour and childhood cancer survivors in achieving their school, work and life goals. Thanks to funding from the Slaight Family Foundation in 2021, Francophone survivor clients in the POGO School and Work Transitions Program can now receive care in their native language.”

Carol Perry, POGO School and Work Transitions Counsellor

Support to explain the complexities of being a young adult with cancer

The profile of a POGO Transitions client inherently makes communication complex. The age range of most of our clients tends to be from late teens to early twenties. It can be difficult for survivors to express the health difficulties that they have experienced on top of the regular challenges that come with becoming an adult. When you think about the difficult social, emotional and psychological issues survivors deal with, and their personal health challenges (physical and learning), the conversations they need to have with health professionals, colleagues and/or school staff can be very loaded, emotional and complex. Being able to express themselves and receive information in their mother tongue shows respect and helps us get to the root of their issues quicker. It also helps them feel more comfortable and at ease.

Help interpreting technical information critical for a successful future

Sometimes our POGO Transitions clients need an IEP (individual education plan: PEI en français) and unique accommodations to facilitate a smooth transition from high school to post-secondary education and work. A neuropsychological evaluation gives the big picture of a survivor’s cognitive and learning profile. It describes how their brain processes new and novel information, and it outlines their cognitive strengths and weaknesses. The information in the French neuropsychological report is technical and needs to be communicated to our Francophone clients’ French-speaking communities including, their families, school and workplaces. My ability to interpret and relay the information is an asset. I am also able to translate this critical information to unilingual English colleagues

“C’est important pour moi d’avoir une conseillère qui parle français pour que je puisse bien comprendre les stratégies qui me sont données. Ça rend les choses plus simples et plus faciles, ce qui est particulièrement utile lorsque je suis confrontée à de multiples défis.”

“It’s important for me to have a counsellor who speaks French so that I can better understand the strategies she is giving me. It simplifies things and makes it easier for me, which is particularly useful when I am facing multiple challenges.”

Justine is a brain tumour survivor who does well academically but experiences generalized fatigue. Her processing speed is slower because of the radiation treatment she experienced in 2020.

Making delicate conversations easier for students in cancer treatment

The Slaight Family funding helped launch a pilot project that allows me to work with teens who are transitioning from high school to post-secondary education while in active cancer treatment or palliative care. Interacting with these clients requires a different level of compassion, as patients and families face different challenges (including medical disabilities) and can be very emotional. These delicate conversations with Francophone families and school/university/college staff in their native tongue not only makes things simpler but is also a courtesy that these families deserve during a very difficult time in their lives.

Active listening and effective communication are central to every interaction with my clients. Communicating in the preferred language of my client builds trust and breaks down barriers. This also allows me the privilege to be a proactive advocate within the education system for clients and their families.

A grateful merci to the Slaight Family Foundation for supporting our services in French for our Francophone clients and their families.

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