2021 Vital Award - Winner Interview Series
Having been nominated by Harman Singh, CEO of Breton Ability Center (BAC) (1), Kaitlin Munroe excellently becomes the winner of Vital Employee Excellence Award 2021, which honors employees who have played a vital role in their workplaces. “She puts them first and foremost and will go above and beyond for the residents and the organization” - Harman Singh portrayed Kaitlin in her nomination.
Snapshot about Kaitlin Munroe:
1. First of all, what is your INITIAL INSPIRATION for your career choice?
In grade 3, I met a young girl who had Autism. We became great friends over the years, we used to hang out and have sleepovers.
I saw the struggles she had with our peers, and I always felt that this came from a place of misunderstanding and lack of education around people with Autism and people with varying abilities in general.
When it came time to choose my career, it was very easy for me to decide which sector I was interested in working in.
Kaitlin Munroe (first one from the left) and her colleagues
2. What are the proudest CONTRIBUTIONS that you made?
My proudest moments are the small everyday accomplishments of the people I support.
There are often tasks or situations that we as able bodied people navigate with ease that takes a lot more support and learning for some of our residents.
Being able to help them accomplish small things that others take for granted is something I am very proud of.
3. How about one CHALLENGE that you remember most?
Some of the biggest mistakes I have made are when finding solutions to challenging situations and behaviors and forgetting that: sometimes, the solutions are the most obvious.
I had a resident with challenging behaviors, he had incidents daily multiple times a day, surrounding noise, other clients, events on television or the newspaper.
After many attempts of programs such as the usage of headphones, ear plugs, creating a private place for him, making sure the TV didn’t have the news on, taking traumatic things out of the newspaper, the solution was a “good day” program.
We set expectations of what a “good day” was to him and what a “good day” looks like, giving him strategies to use. If he had a “good day” he got pop chips at a specific time. Since this program has started, the decrease in his incidents is phenomenal, and all it took was pop & chips at a scheduled time.
Seeing people she supports make small accomplishes is Kaitlin’s proudest moments
4. It is difficult for everyone in the pandemic. Which was the biggest challenge you faced during this time?
The residents of BAC were particularly affected by Covid 19 restrictions as being in a highly populated living environment. We often fall under the guidelines of long term care yet many of our residents are young, active, and involved in the community.
During this time, they were isolated from loved ones, from their community, and limited in their ability to access outside resources. There were times where they were unable to even leave the property for months at a time.
This required daily problem solving and creative solutions that sometimes fell outside of the everyday duties of our job.
Kaitlin and BAC residents in the trip to Hank's Farm Market
We created opportunities for our residents by turning our Abiltea’s café (2) into a store, selling preferred items we knew residents liked such as pop, chips, bars, make up, body wash, decorations ornaments, etc.
We had “runners” for residents when they wanted something that they could not access at the café, staff would run out and get what they were looking for.
We set up video chats with loved ones. Staff made newsletters with word searches to highlight the fun things we did during that month.
We went for lots of drives, we had fun activities in each neighborhood, scavenger hunts on our property, parties, movie nights, bingo, karaoke.
We were always thinking of ideas to keep our residents happy and engaged and safe on property.
The biggest difference for me before COVID-19 and now is that I recognize just how important our connection to others is whether it be our family, community, and the support systems we require. The Covid 19 pandemic highlighted the need for human connection and togetherness and that this is true for our residents as well.
5. Can you describe one SUCCESS FACTOR in your journey?
We use a System called TEACCH, TEACCH uses a method called “Structured TEACCHing". This is based on the unique learning needs of people with ASD, The Structured TEACCHing approach focuses on:
This method supports meaningful engagement in activities. It also works to increase students’ flexibility, independence, and self-efficacy.
Kaitlin has dedicated 7 years at BAC, from a Resident Care Worker to a Behavioral Interventionist
Using this method, I was able to teach important life skills. For example, myself and a co-worker set up a work system of sweeping the floor. After many attempts at holding the broom, the sweeping motion, holding the dustpan and dumping it in the garbage can without spilling, they can now successfully sweep independently. They are now the first person to offer to clean up a mess.
Seeing someone accomplish something that they didn’t think they would be able to do, to see the pride in their eyes is the most rewarding feeling.
6. Is there anyone that you feel grateful to everyday in your journey?
The residents for sure. We share difficult moments but also celebrate successes together. They bring a unique perspective to most situations, and have allowed me to learn and grow in ways that I would never have without their involvement in my life.
Your “disability” does not define you as a person, the person comes first then the varying ability. I have worked with many people over the years, I have seen different levels of functioning, every person is different and so is everyone’s strengths. I have grown so much and I am so grateful for all the time I’ve got to spend with the people I met as they changed my life and taught me so much.
“I have grown so much and I am so grateful for all the time I’ve got to spend with the people I met as they changed my life and taught me so much” - Kaitlin Munroe
From the good days to the bad days, nothing else has tested me and I have never known the happiness and the rewards from anything else.
They teach me lessons every day that I would not have learned in any other way, and the most important one is. Most people simply want you to listen and to be treated equally, get to know the person first.
If someone handed you a chart with all your bad days, is that how you would want to be known? Take the time and put in the effort to create meaningful relationships.
7. Do you have any MENTORS and what you have learnt from them?
Jimmy & Lori Kennedy are one of my best friends' parents, they are the owners of Louisbourg Seafoods Ltd. and its divisions — Ka’le Bay Seafoods Ltd., Northsyde Processing Ltd. and Canso Seafoods Ltd. Lori & Jimmy Kennedy are known in the community for their entrepreneurial mindset and building successful business from the ground up. Throughout my life, they have remained constant support for me. I’ve always admired them for their generosity and hard work ethic.
Harman Singh is the CEO of Breton Ability Centre. I met Harman here at BAC. Harman Singh is a strong advocate for inclusiveness in the community. She often inspires me to think out of the box and come up with creative solutions that are effective in supporting the residents but also remain within their rights.
Kaitlyn Strickland is the lead social worker at BAC, we became very close co-workers working with each other daily that turned into an amazing friendship. Kaitlyn Strickland is someone who I work with very closely. Kaitlyn is always there to help me work through any challenging scenarios, when it comes to the rights of the residents and ethical guidelines she is always able to point me in the right direction. Kaitlyn is always there to help me when seeking information, she has so much knowledge and information.
8. And, you are also a Special Olympics floor hockey coach too?
(Smile) Yes, I recently just joined. It's been since October, we practice every Monday at the YMCA. We run drills, the athletes play against each other and to end the practice we normally do a shoot out!
We have roughly 20 athletes, we have not had any games due to the pandemic currently.
Interviewed and edited: Grace Le