________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 14 . . . . March 17, 2006


The Ties That Bind.

John Ritchie (Director & Writer). Rob Bromley & Tracey Friesen (Producers). Rina Fraticelli (NFB Executive Producer). Hugh Beard (Force Four Entertainment Executive Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2004.
55 min., VHS or DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: C9104 193.

Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.

Review by Cathy Vincent-Linderoos.

**** /4

This aptly-named documentary would be especially valuable to many Canadian parents of a teenager or older individual with a developmental delay. Teenaged and older family members could benefit from watching this film with their parents. The Ties That Bind should be purchased by every not-for-profit organization that endeavours to support the lives of people with cognitive disabilities.

     As this true story unfolds, we are parachuted into the life of 27-year-old Christopher Jordan and his aging parents, Kathleen and Bill. Chris is their much-loved middle child, and he has multiple exceptionalities including cerebral palsy. He is legally blind. He is able to speak quite well and is easily understood by others. We see that he is able to ask useful questions and direct his own care to a large extent. Chris is ambulatory for short distances with the use of a walker. We see him being pushed in a manual wheelchair in some situations.

     As Kathleen and Bill begin to deal with their own critical care health issues, they and their three children have been propelled toward some pressing questions. How and where will Chris live without them? At what point will Kathleen, Chris' primary caregiver, begin to step away from the role she has assumed for so long? How many people will it take to replace the parents, and what will the division of labour look like? How will Chris' brother and sister help him in the future? How will Chris cope in his transitional home?

     The Jordan family has opted to work through PLAN which stands for Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network. Kathleen and Bill are filmed on location in BC where PLAN founders, Al Etmanski, Jack Collins and Vicki Cammack, first assisted a widowed father and retired marine biologist by the name of Gordon Walker, and his middle-aged disabled son, Chuck, who works with horses. Their story is an inspirational one on many levels. The Jordan family decides to use PLAN's model of planning for caregiving, and, in so doing, they must find and work with several different individuals, each of whom was designated as the personal service network facilitator. (Unexpected events dictate that they must find several replacement facilitators.) The frequent change of personnel, including personal service workers (PSWs), in Chris' life is clearly shown as a source of stress for him. The film spans a three-year period, and that makes it all the more evident that people with disabilities and families must all try to "live for today but plan for tomorrow."

     The Ties That Bind makes an excellent starting-point for the family that is unsure as to when they should begin to pursue the "moving-out-from-the-family-home" phase in a disabled person's life. (Chris had wanted to get his own place, with some 'friends', and to obtain a job as well, for a long time.) An important aspect of this documentary relates to the close emotional ties between Chris and his mother and how dependent he was upon her. Now, each must try to adjust to the necessary changes in their respective lives.

     If viewers have a question about the monetary cost of living at a group-home, it is not answered in this documentary. However, in Canada, there are many different cost scenarios for what is frequently referred to as 'community living' in Ontario, and so the question of cost is probably best left to be explored elsewhere. PLAN's website can be found at http://www.plan.ca/AboutPlan_ExecutiveTeam.htm and it offers several books and other products for getting organized. The National Film Board also has a unique Internet Documentary and Community Engagement Project at http://www.tiesthatbind-nfb.ca/main.php specifically related to The Ties That Bind.

Highly Recommended.

Cathy Vincent-Linderoos, who lives in London, ON, is a retired teacher with multiple sclerosis.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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