Breaking through barriers for workers
who have children with special needs

Our Advisors

Kathleen Barrett


When you talk to Kathleen Barrett about her life and work, one word comes up again and again–“Gratitude.”

Kathleen is an Advisor for the Special Needs and Moving On Projects. She does this work in addition to her full time job at Rygiel Supports for Community Living, a non-profit organization in Hamilton, Ontario.

For the past 20 years Kathleen has coordinated supports for people with physical and developmental disabilities at Rygiel. Kathleen is grateful for the people she meets, coaches, and assists with supports. She enjoys watching people grow by making sure they have the supports they need to live a full and meaningful life.

Kathleen’s work at Rygiel is a great ‘fit’ for her. Her 24-year-old daughter, Tara, has physical and developmental needs. Tara lives with Kathleen and Kathleen’s younger 18-year-old daughter, Faith. The Barrett household is also home to 3 cats, 4 kittens and a dog!

One day, a little over five years ago, a co-worker at Rygiel (who is a CUPW Advisor) asked Kathleen if she was interested in working with the Special Needs and Moving On Projects. The rest is history - Kathleen has been an Advisor in both projects ever since!

Kathleen has gratitude for the people she meets through the Special Needs and Moving On Projects. She is grateful that members are open and willing to share their stories, along with their challenges and difficult times. Kathleen learns much from members. They teach her about their particular needs and she is inspired by how they think positively about the future and work to achieve their dreams for their children.

As an Advisor with the Moving On Project, Kathleen has many discussion with parents about advocacy. When adult children turn 21, there is a big gap in services and supports. Things can feel very bleak for families (no school, no funding, no day programs). Kathleen finds herself in a similar position personally, and is able to share with members what she has and is going through.

Kathleen understands that it is hard to get to a place of dreaming for your adult children when things are so difficult. But she works to support families to get to a place of thriving instead of surviving.

And what supports Kathleen through all of her life’s demands? Kathleen pursues her passion – she is a yoga instructor! As well as having a daily practice, Kathleen teaches yoga at a Martial Arts School and to individuals with disabilities at Rygiel. At Rygiel, she teaches ‘partner yoga,’ that includes the support people and the individuals with disabilities.

Kathleen sees yoga as a meditation, through body and breath awareness, that calms the mind and nervous system, boosts immunity and overall health. If you calm yourself then you can calm the people you are with.

And while Kathleen talks about the gratitude she feels in the work she does, you can be sure that families are grateful to her for the support she provides through the Special Needs and Moving On Projects!