Nadia encourages Amir’s spark of ambition.

With her parents getting older, Nadia has become more involved with Community Living Toronto, where her brother Amir is a client. To celebrate 75 Years of Belonging, we are sharing stories from a range of people connected to CLTO. Here is Nadia’s.

Hello, my name is Nadia and I’m the eldest of four siblings.

My parents came to Canada from Egypt in the 1970s and had me and my three brothers. We’ve lived in Toronto my entire life – there’s nowhere else like it.

I’m very aware of the challenges my brother Amir has had moving through life. He’s on the autism spectrum and has a developmental disability. Layered on top of that, we come from an immigrant family and are a racial minority here. So in many different areas of our life, we’ve had to deal with what I call the “outsider factor.”

When you think about a family member with any sort of challenge – be it physical, mental, whatever – belonging is the biggest challenge because they’re trying to move through a world that was not built for them.

For Nadia, belonging is a world where everyone has the encouragement and support to pursue their dreams.

Amir has always moved through the world just being himself. He’s in his 30s now. When he has encountered barriers, he hasn’t really understood why they’re barriers in the first place.

And do you know what? He’s right.

So many times in life, people limit one another – we hold each other back by saying things like “What you want to do isn’t a real job,” or “It isn’t a path to success,” or “It’s going to be too hard for you.”

We shouldn’t snuff out someone else’s spark of ambition. We need to nurture that spark in its own way.

I understand where these comments come from, but that doesn’t mean we should close the door on one another. We shouldn’t snuff out someone else’s spark of ambition, or motivation, or inspiration. We need to nurture that spark in its own way, so it can grow and flourish. Amir’s ambition isn’t any less valid than anyone else’s because he has a disability or is on the autism spectrum. It just means his path will be a little different.

Take Amir’s entrepreneurship journey, for example. Everything he has wanted to do in life is related to gaming, and it’s his dream to start a business in this area. CLTO has an entire toolbox he can access to pursue this, including support with Passport funding that is helping him to develop the skills he needs to be successful.

Passport is a Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS) program that provides funding to adults (18+) with a developmental disability to participate in their communities. Community Living Toronto supports CLTO clients with Passport funding by working with them to create a plan and a budget for its use.

The biggest lesson for me has been to have an open mind and understand that it’s not necessarily about the viability of Amir’s business or his dream. It’s about encouraging him for having that dream in the first place. Encouraging him to seek the resources to pursue it. Supporting his autonomy in gaining the skills to make it happen.

Now, I can see more confidence in Amir. He’s gained a feeling of accomplishment from what he’s been learning. So, my message is to let people try. Give them the safety nets they need and give them some credit for their intelligence and ambition.

When I think back to the late 1980s when Amir was born, it’s amazing how far we’ve come as a society, in terms of how we talk about accessibility and inclusion. The world may not have been made for Amir, but it doesn’t mean the world can’t change and adjust with him. 

I love that Community Living Toronto has chosen 75 Years of Belonging as the theme for its anniversary celebrations. Organizations like CLTO are at the forefront of this work to create and nurture belonging. They’re essentially taking the rest of us by the hand and moving us in that direction consistently and authentically. We need that. My hope is that everyone starts following along the path that Community Living Toronto is blazing.

Join us in celebrating 75 Years of Belonging and help blaze a path that enables people with intellectual disabilities to thrive in our communities. Add your name to show your support!


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