Advisor grateful for relationships, connections
For Sheila Stashuk-Sanchez, working as an advisor in the Special Needs and Moving On projects is primarily about “making connections, honouring that families are willing to share, and understanding it’s an exchange: I’m giving but I’m getting back.”
When she saw a posting at her workplace for a project advisor about 13 years ago, she thought it was “awesome” that a union had started a program to support families with children who have disabilities. “It is hard to balance all the areas of your life when you are also having struggles with your children.”
Stashuk-Sanchez works at a center for children and families in Nanaimo, B.C., and also has a private practice where she offers individual and relationship counseling, consultation and training for organizations. She has worked with families and children who have disabilities for 15 years, and has a background in mental health issues that spans 35 years. She has trained extensively in a variety of psychotherapeutic practices as well as holistic practices such as Reiki, Therapeutic Touch and Feng Shui.
Stashuk-Sanchez takes a “systems approach” to her counseling work and her job as an advisor. “You can’t work with a child unless you work with the parents, and parents need to know there is no problem they can’t solve. I am just supporting them in the process—offering some information on resources, ideas and options. There are all sorts of issues: from emotional and psycho-social issues to ‘how can I get services or advocate for my child?’, or how their workplace is supporting them or the impact the disability has on their lives.”
Developing a relationship with the families is an important component of her approach and key to supporting families to move forward.
“I have met some great and interesting people who have shared some of their intimate details with me. I really look forward to calling the families to find out what has happened. The parents often talk to me about the skills and strengths their child has acquired—all the fantastic achievements—and the relief of having those dollars that help every month, whether for developing gross motor skills, an activity their children can attend, or tutoring, or a support person.”
Over the years she has made a strong connection with many of the 11 families she calls. One parent made an effort to find her after leaving the project, coming to meet her at her workplace with a photo album. “She showed me her family and gave me a big hug. It was so nice, so exciting to finally put a face to her.”
Stashuk-Sanchez is an energetic, positive person from a close family that includes parents, two siblings, her husband, their 28-year-old daughter and three dogs. She keeps a gratitude jar in which she and her family put a slip of paper every day with something they are grateful for. “We read them out on New Year’s. We get blessings every day, and when you’re grateful you get more of them.”