Breaking through barriers for workers
who have children with special needs

Welcome to Special Needs and Moving On Projects!

Special Needs & Moving On projectsThe Special Needs and Moving On Projects provide resources and support for workers at the post office whose children have disabilities. The projects are available to members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and the Union of Postal Communications Employees (Public Service Alliance of Canada). The Special Needs Project is geared to families with young children; the Moving On Project is for adult sons and daughters with special needs. Life is more demanding when you work and have a child with special needs. Learn more about our Special Needs and Moving On projects.

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This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the Special Needs Project.

While we celebrate, we wanted to take the opportunity to remember that it was made possible by the early efforts of women postal workers to make child care an issue for their union and Canada Post.

We invited several CUPW women to take part in a virtual Fireside Chat to talk about these early days. To get at the “story behind the story” of the Child Care Fund and the Special Needs and Moving On projects. Women like Huguette LeBlanc, Marion Pollack, Lynn Bue, Cathy Kennedy, and Jeanie Campbell took part and shared and remembered long forgotten struggles and victories.

In the words of Jeanie Campbell, “This whole conversation has been wonderful. We don’t sound like militant women, but we were in our day, and we did it! I remember being on negotiations, way back when. We were sitting in the car coming back from a round of negotiations and Geoff Bickerton put on Billy Bragg singing The Internationale, and we were all singing along. There was this writer with us and she asked, ‘Why aren’t you people writing your history?’ And I said, ‘Because we’re too busy making it.’ And we have made it. And we should be proud of that. I’m very proud.” 

The full transcript of our Fireside Chat will be in the next edition of the CUPW Rose magazine. It will also be posted on the Special Needs and Moving On Projects website at specialneedsproject.ca.

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25 years of Research Action and Creativity

Reflecting on the Special Needs Project with Jamie Kass (Former Child Care Fund Coordinator), Shellie Bird (Current Child Care Fund Coordinator) and Gail Holdner (Special Needs and Moving On Projects Coordinator)

The Special Needs Project’s 25th Anniversary is a big milestone, and we wanted to do something special. So we invited Jamie, Gail and Shellie to get together (by Zoom, of course), so they could talk about the project’s history and what they think it has achieved—for members and for CUPW.

GAIL: Jamie, you were there at the very beginning. The whole idea for the project came out of the recognition that members had trouble finding child care given their work hours. In 1989 CUPW and Canada Post in bargaining agreed to look at the child care needs of postal workers. Out of the needs assessment, the union became aware of the additional struggles members experienced if they had children with disabilities.

JAMIE: And then the 1996 study [In Our Way, conducted by SpeciaLink researchers Sharon Hope Irwin and Donna Lero] really explained the impact having a child with a disability had on our members’ work. We heard about stress, lack of specialized supports and financial pressures. The summer was particularly difficult for postal workers with children, so we did a summer project in 1996. The focus was on supporting members with funding so they could find appropriate programs. They found it really helped them, and more people got interested. We put it all together into a full-year, permanent project that fall. We wanted it to feel community-based, so we made its home in Cape Breton. And then we said, okay, it’s about funding, but it’s also about support. And that’s where our network of special needs advisors came in.
In the early days we also did a lot of education. The 1996 study showed that people were working side by side and yet often didn’t understand each other’s worlds.

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STRATEGIES FOR SUPPORTING CHILDREN DURING COVID-19

 ACKNOWLEDGE FEARS & BE REAL

  • Be honest and give age-appropriate information
  • Occasionally be open about your own emotions
  • Help children see it is okay to have feelings AND show them that you can manage them

HELP MANAGE NEWS INTAKE

  • Children look to the adults around them to learn how frightened they should be
  • It’s helpful if adults take in the news and then convey it to children, rather than children viewing news on their own
  • Discuss news in the context of a supportive relationship and in manageable bits
  • Help children learn about credible news sources

BE CURIOUS WITH THEM

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