Strength-Based Approaches

Community Workshops (2016-2018)


“‘We’re all Living in our Imaginations’: Exploring the FASD Experience through Improvised Expression” 

Research Summary
This research collaboration with Dr. Rebecca Caines starts from the premise that people living with FASD are the experts on FASD, and hold artistic and imaginative potential to harness unique improvisation skills such as impulse, imaginative narrative, and spontaneity. Those living with FASD have considerable expertise and wisdom that draws on their lived experience navigating social worlds and systems where FASD is stigmatized, racialized and misunderstood. This socially-engaged project blends art-based research methods with social sciences to explore new ways of understanding FASD, exposing the difficulties and opportunities inherent in this complex disability, whilst creating music, theatre, storytelling and other improvisatory forms.

Grounded in a community-based arts practice and framed through a Participatory Action Research method, this project brings together an innovative research team comprised of the co-PIs and a collaborative team that includes: individuals living with FASD, their support networks (including caregivers, mentors and life coaches), researchers, socially-engaged artists, music therapists, native health educators, elders, and community organizations. Improvisation requires skills of active listening, collaboration, risk taking, and includes the productive potential of mistake and failure. By creating a collaborative space for improvised creativity with individuals living with FASD, this project will explore new ways of understanding FASD while being attentive to the difficulties and potentials inherent in this complex disability.

Pilot Project Design and Structure (2016-2017)
Project design and structure is informed by a blending of Participatory Action Research and community-based arts practice, and as such is necessarily informed by consultation to allow for horizontal research practices (that recognize the contribution of each participant) and shared analysis and dissemination strategies.

The pilot project ran over the summer and into early Fall 2016. Following the completion of the pilot project and consultation with community and project partners, the research team worked on developing small resource tools that reflected outcomes of the workshop. In Winter 2017 into Spring 2017, a small cluster of workshops were hosted with new community and project partners. This project tested the capacity of the improv workshop for transferability between settings. Based on these two pilot students, preliminary tools have been developed for release in Summer 2017 including:

  • Creative Guide to Sleep & Relaxation Tool (For families)
  • Creative Guide to Life Skills Development (for agencies and mentors)
  • Creative Guide to Sleep & Relaxation (For individuals)

These guides will be directly informed by the FASD & Improvisation workshops and will be grounded in current research.