Seventeen year-old Sanat and his mother are sitting in their living room, flipping through calendars dating back to 2019. Days are highlighted to remind Sanat of a new friend he made, a new activity he tried or a new skill he learned. These calendars document how much Sanat has grown as a person since he first started participating in Community Living Mississauga’s Weekend Respite Program in the spring of 2019.

Sanat was a quiet teenager who spent most of his time with his mother and father.

“As new immigrants to Canada, we didn’t know where to look for support. We tried one community organization, but they weren’t the experts in supporting people who have an intellectual disability,” explained his mother. “That is why we made the connection with Community Living Mississauga.”

After starting with the Weekend Respite Program, Sanat went on to participated in the Summer Teen Activity Program that summer and has been involved in every session of the Weekend Respite Program, Summer Teen Activity Program and March Break Teen Activity Program since then.

“I like going to Erindale Park for soccer and gardening,” said Sanat. “I also like going to the movies and bowling with my friends.”

“When Sanat first began participating he was very shy. Over the years, we have really seen his self-confidence flourish,” said Lisa Kitchener, Manager of Respite and Leisure Services at Community Living Mississauga. “He now initiates conversations with his peers and the staff team and looks forward to trying new activities.”

The increase in his self-confidence has led to a noticeable increase in independence. Sanat now tries all the activities on his own and will ask for support when he needs it.

“Sanat’s social skills have really developed in the last couple of years,” explained his mother. “When he started these programs, he could communicate with his father and me, but he has now learned to communicate effectively with others and has built friendships that extend beyond the program.”

Lisa Kitchener echoes Sanat’s mother’s comments, explaining that being involved in all the programs with different groups of peers and support staff has given Sanat the opportunity to build on his skills. She says he is now confident in making suggestions for activities, voicing his ideas within the group and his sense of humour is really starting to shine through.

This past summer, Sanat also began participating in Community Living Mississauga’s year-round Futures Program – a program which supports participants to blend their interest in gaining valuable work readiness experience with their desire to have fun and enjoy the summer.

Through this program, Sanat has participated in placements at Vita Centre, PetSmart and, most recently, at Acer Tree Planting where his responsibilities included measuring trees planted by Acer to check their growth and to inspections to make sure the trees were healthy.

“He enjoyed all of the placements, but Sanat is into natural things like flowers, trees and animals, so this placement was perfect for him,” said his mother. “The Futures program further brought out his confidence and he now is comfortable using MiWay by himself to get to and from all of the various program activities.”

The Futures Program enabled Sanat to complete some of his volunteer hours required for school and he has started to develop some work-readiness skills – such as an understanding of health and safety for the workplace, conflict resolution and problem solving.

Sanat’s parents are making sure the benefits of these all of these programs continue for a long time.

“I have taken that I have learned from all of Sanat’s support workers at the different Community Living Mississauga programs and built it into our own personal networks,” his mother explained. “The future has so much potential for Sanat, because an intellectual disability does not define him as a whole person…it is just a part of him.”

With all of this support and potential, Sanat will be filling up calendars with memories for years to come.