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Many stories about professional caregiving connect the reader to the individual receiving services and support. But for the other caregivers, the family, the impact is equally as meaningful.

For Ray and Nicole Coutu, the support DeafBlind Ontario Services provides has meant a great deal of happiness for the couple and their daughter, Maryse. “Since coming to DeafBlind Ontario Services, Maryse has blossomed,” said Nicole. “She’s back to her old self… The gleam in her eye… You can just tell she’s happy.”

With some hearing and minimal vision in one eye, Maryse is congenitally deafblind. She also has multiple physical challenges. For Maryse, Ray and Nicole are not just “Mom” and “Dad”; they are also responsible for her daily personal care and needs.

Deafblindness combines varying degrees of both hearing and vision loss, making it unique to each individual and requiring specialized support. Individuals with deafblindness have the capacity to build their life skills, gain independence, and contribute to the greater community with the support of professionally trained intervenors.

Nicole (left), Maryse (center), Ray (right)

Ray and Nicole swimming with Maryse as a child

As a student, Maryse participated in a program where she received Intervenor Services. The intervenor acts as the ‘eyes’ and ‘ears’ of the individual with deafblindness through the sense of touch. Unfortunately, when she graduated at 21, Maryse had to move to a day program that was unable to match the level of stimulation and support she needs. “Maryse was gradually losing the ability to do certain things like use a walker, as well as leaf through books and explore new vocabulary with cues, assistance, and repetition,” said Nicole.

Ray and Nicole heard about DeafBlind Ontario Services through meetings with Centre Jules-Léger, a school that provides education to Francophone families who have children with learning disabilities, deaf or hard of hearing, blind or with low vision, or who are deaf and blind, and the Conseil scolaire catholique du Nouvel-Ontario (CSCNO). The CSCNO’s mandate is to help transition students to life after school. “This proved to be a godsend”, said Nicole.

In June 2017, DeafBlind Ontario Services opened a location in Hanmer; focusing on community involvement during the day and allowing the individuals supported, like Maryse, to return to their family at night.

Maryse is now flourishing thanks to her intervenors. “Maryse thrives on engagement and really enjoys interacting with her intervenors, initiating communication or conversation on her own terms,” said Lenni Philion, one of DeafBlind Ontario Services’ intervenors.

Lenni started working at DeafBlind Ontario Services shortly after they opened. “When I learned about the role of the intervenor and the difference they make, I knew I had to apply. What I love most about my job is that I am able to create new avenues of experiences for the people we support; watching the world come to life around them.”

“Maryse is an incredibly expressive individual. Over the past 18 months, we have formed a bond of trust… I have come to understand her forms of communication, and as a team we have helped her to develop new ones too. Maryse’s vocabulary is growing daily; her potential is truly unlimited as is her desire for interaction and knowledge.”

According to Lenni, “Maryse has made considerable progress since coming to DeafBlind Ontario Services, especially with respect to her health and mobility”. DeafBlind Ontario Services includes the Coutu family in the process of goal-setting for Maryse. Some of these goals include increasing her mobility, and assisting Maryse with the computer to augment her communication.

The support of DeafBlind Ontario Services has also helped Ray and Nicole to focus on more than their role as caregivers. “Nicole and I can finally go out together for the first time in 28 years as a couple,” said Ray. “We were able to go on vacation together and trust that Maryse was well looked after.”

“Maryse is truly an amazing person to work with, it is an honour to be one of her intervenors; helping her to grow, thrive, and ultimately achieve her dreams,” said Lenni.