Student Life

Finding support within Concordia’s walls

How Concordia’s Centre for the Arts in Human Development helps one student enjoy her day-to-day life

My 23-year-old sister, Lisa Mancini, is fully aware of her special needs. But it wasn’t always easy for her to come to terms with them. One Concordia service, however, has helped her come to grips with her reality and embrace herself as she is.

Concordia’s Centre for the Arts in Human Development (CAHD), located on Loyola campus, gives students with special needs the platform to express themselves freely without judgment.

When she was six years old, Lisa was diagnosed with pervasive development disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), which falls under the autism spectrum. Some of her symptoms include depression, anxiety, low-attention span and difficulties learning and processing new information.

By attending CAHD, my sister was able to begin expressing her emotions in a creative way not possible in a traditional classroom. “The centre cured me of most of my anxiety. I never thought school could do such a thing,” Lisa said.

Graphic by Thom Bell

Before finding out about CAHD, my sister just couldn’t seem to find her place in society. When a friend told her about the centre, she knew this could be the catalyst for positive change in her life.

Now, seven months later, Lisa preaches about the therapy she receives at the centre, and about how it is helping her learn more about herself every day.

With the help of student interns and professional therapists, CAHD participants learn how to set goals and work towards them through therapy.

“What makes our centre very unique is it’s under a creative arts therapies paradigm,” said Stephen Snow, the co-director of research at CAHD. “The first part is to provide clinical services through the creative arts therapies for people with special needs.”

One of Lisa’s major goals was to learn how to better manage her emotions—anxiety, in particular. Through ongoing therapy, she said things are “getting better day-by-day.” Since beginning therapy in September 2016, my sister has never been happier.

My sister’s eyes light up when she is asked about her day at the centre. Some activities she participates in include painting, drama and dancing. She also receives one-on-one counseling to discuss personal issues, something that is rarely done at other Quebec universities. Lisa attends the program twice a week. “I like going to school. I like to socialize with the other adults because they can understand me,” Lisa said with a big smile.

My sister has had many breakthroughs since first attending CAHD, one being the realization that she is not alone. “I feel happy, I am able to relate with other people in my group and people actually listen to me,” Lisa said. “I feel less anxious.”

With a very strong focus on research, the program directors are always adjusting the program and trying to improve it and make it more visible. This is done through open houses and large-scale musical productions with the program’s participants.

“CAHD is a training site for graduate students who are studying art, drama and music therapy,” said Lenore Vosberg, the centre’s co-founder and director of clinical services and public outreach. “We work on social skills, human development, building self-esteem, self-confidence and communication skills. We tackle these goals over the course of three years and, by the time they graduate, it’s evident that most participants have made great strides in the accomplishment of their own personal goals.”

The centre takes referrals from the West Montreal Readaptation Centre, Miriam Home or a local CLSC. For more information about the CAHD, visit


The Montreal healthcare system is ripe with issues

Scheduling conflicts and staffing issues are only some of the problems patients experience

On Feb. 18, my 87-year-old grandmother slipped on ice outside her apartment, breaking her right elbow. I wish I could say that’s where the problems stopped. After the fall, my grandma was rushed to the Montreal General Hospital. It’s unfortunate the Lakeshore Hospital was backlogged—it would have been a much shorter ambulance ride for her.

Photo courtesy of Kristopher Mancini

Once my grandma arrived at the Montreal General, she was placed in the ICU and had some X-rays done. Two days later, she was sent home with a temporary cast that looked like it was made out of a half-roll of toilet paper and a few bobby pins. What she didn’t know was that it would take over a week to have surgery, which was imperative because her elbow joint was broken and she had multiple fractures in her arm.

The surgery was scheduled at the Montreal General for Feb. 22. My grandma and my aunt headed down there only to find out, eight hours later, that there had been a mistake with the scheduling—no doctors were available to do the surgery. A whole day spent in a waiting room with a broken elbow, and a scheduling error pops up? Not a problem—my grandma will just have to sit in her apartment in pain and wait until her surgery can be rescheduled.

According to an article in the Montreal Gazette in June 2016, 232 Montreal cancer patients had been waiting at least two months for surgery as of May 28. It’s clear I am not the only one experiencing issues with the Quebec healthcare system.

My grandmother was eventually scheduled to have her surgery eight days after the fall, on Feb. 26. After the surgery, she was sent home with my aunt who would look after for the next few weeks. The hospital arranged to have a CLSC nurse sent to her house for physiotherapy until her injury healed. Yet, a nurse never came because the hospital was backlogged, and nurses were scarce or none. There are private nurses you can hire for an average fee of $120 per hour, and that’s what my grandma did.

But $120 per hour for one hour, twice a week for two weeks is a lot of money when all you have is one pension. After racking up a bill of $500, my grandma couldn’t afford it anymore. She arranged for free physio at the hospital once a week.

Now, I could write a long list of things that are wrong in the healthcare system in Quebec, but if you live here, you probably already know that. Heck, if you’re reading this right now, I’m sure you’ve had an unpleasant experience with the system at some time in your life.

If you Google “Montreal healthcare system,” you can see for yourself how many negative articles come up regarding surgery delays and staff shortages. Now mid-March, my grandma has just begun her physiotherapy treatment at the Lakeshore Hospital. She has finally been treated by a nurse.

According to an article in the Montreal Gazette, “poor hospital organization is part of the problem, but so is a lack of flexibility on the part of doctors. While 90 per cent of hospitals can easily add nursing staff to cope with overflows, 75 per cent are unable to adjust doctor schedules on short notice.” It seems that scheduling conflicts and short hospital staff is a problem. One solution would be to create a long-term plan for the scheduling of more Quebec doctors into hospitals.

Based on the personal experience of my grandmother’s recent accident, scheduling at the Montreal General Hospital seems to be disorganized. If you ever have an accident and need emergency attention, I recommend you try to plan out the accident ahead of time.

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