The best part of Mindy Bodnarchuk's job at Vision Loss Rehabilitation Saskatchewan is seeing the progress that children who are blind or partially sighted make.
"They try so hard all the time. The amount of effort they put in with a smile on their face is astounding," she said.
For two years, Mindy has worked out of the Saskatoon CNIB office as the Child and Family Services Counsellor for Northern Saskatchewan.
She discovered her love of working with children after she graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelor of Arts, specializing in sociology. She left the province to gain some work experience in Alberta. There, she worked in group homes, community integration, early childhood development and then at CNIB as a Community Education and Senior Peer Support Specialist.
After moving back to Saskatchewan, she applied to the position at CNIB in Saskatoon because she wanted to engage parents and caregivers in supporting the development of confident, capable and independent children.
"Eye conditions can be complex and affect every child differently. Each child has diverse needs and may require a variety of resources and technology. It's always really thought-provoking and different every time," she said. "I like the challenge of figuring out what to do."
In her position she works collaboratively with schools, other agencies, children and youth with sight loss and their parents or care givers. Her main role is to create a case plan for children or youth building the skills they need to maneuver the world successfully without sight.
"I always try to meet clients and families where they are at, keep things fun, and not turn parenting into another intervention. Parents need to be parents and kids need to be kids."
There are three facets to her job:
1) Working with parents or caregivers - to create an understanding of their child's eye condition, discuss concept development, self-determination and skill development, as well as, how to advocate for their child's needs within the school system.
2) If the child has not yet entered school - she may work with the child to enhance their functional vision or develop tactile readiness skills and link them to any vision loss rehabilitation services like independent travel, independent living, technology training and low vision assessments.
3) Once her client enters school – she works with schools to ensure students obtain all the skills, tools and technology they need, not only to complete their school work, but to become successful and independent adults. For example, children and youth with sight loss need an expanded core curriculum in school to address certain areas in which they need specific instruction because of their vision loss so Mindy makes sure teachers are aware of this. These areas are: compensatory skills, orientation and mobility, social interaction, independent living, recreation and leisure, sensory efficiency, assistive technology, career education, and self-determination.
When asked what she has learned from her clients, she said, "The tenacity it takes to overcome hurdles and challenges while keeping a positive attitude."
"Some of the fierce Momma bears out there are amazing. The amount of advocacy, energy and time they put forth for their children in helping them overcome their challenges is truly incredible!"