In the meantime, Leo is cleaning up

Léo Bissonnette-Binet is bored with his world.

Posted at 9:00 a.m.

“I like being with my gang. I feel safer and better understood with people like me. If I end up with neurotypical people, I’m embarrassed. I’m afraid people will laugh at me because of taboos concerning autism. »

The 29-year-old on the phone has a surprisingly jovial tone. He keeps his spirits up, even if he is deprived of in the gang since the holidays: “I’m confident that when people get their third dose, I’ll be able to work again! »

It’s because Leo is used to spending three days a week in a room in Villeray. There, he cooks with a dozen other adults who also have an autism spectrum disorder, an intellectual difference or a learning disability. Together, they prepare frozen meals which are then delivered to many customers in the Montreal area. They are the happy participants of the socio-professional internship offered by Les Jumeleurs / community space.


Léo, surrounded by Stéfania Tremblay and Marie-Claude Beauchamp, respectively general manager and program manager at Les Jumeleurs

The objective is not necessarily to see the apprentice cooks integrate the labor market, explains Stéfania Tremblay, executive director of the organization. In fact, given their difference, they will likely be included in a social or volunteer program in the future. This is why the internship is of indefinite duration. We take advantage of it as much as we can and want. The primary mission here is to create links.

“I am mildly autistic with intellectual slowness and I am very autonomous, explains Léo. I live in an apartment that is in a resource for autistic people, and we have to have regular activities. The important thing is not to always stay inside! The internship allows me to go out. I also improved my fine motor skills with this job! I have trouble handling small objects – that’s why I just buy shoes without laces – but now I can cut vegetables well!

– That’s great !

— Yes, except that Les Jumeleurs are still closed because of COVID-19…

“So how do you spend your time?”

“I stay at home and do a lot of cleaning…”

When the frame bursts

Léo Bissonnette-Binet is not at his first stop. He calculates out loud before telling me that in all, since March 2020, he had to stop working for about a year. Always with semi-confinements.

At the start of the pandemic, I felt stressed, anxious and sad in my head. I counted myself lucky to have a good network of family and friends to support me. I had news every day, but I still missed the Twins. It was very difficult. Oh my God, it was boring to death!

Léo Bissonnette-Binet, participant in the socio-professional internship offered by Les Jumeleurs / community space

It was not easy either for Stéfania Tremblay and her colleague Marie-Claude Beauchamp, program manager at Les Jumeleurs. First, we had to say goodbye to employees. Then the demand for affordable frozen meals skyrocketed. The problem is that we could no longer accommodate trainees to prepare them. The two women therefore rolled up their sleeves. They cooked around 16,000 dishes, in the absence of their brigade…

“Very quickly, your work loses its meaning,” says Stéfania Tremblay. It lacks humans! We were so happy to see our members again, in mid-September… Since the holiday break, we don’t know when we’ll be able to find them and it’s seriously demotivating. Having them with us is necessary for our well-being. To our sanity. »

The reverse is also true.

In addition to the socio-professional internship, Les Jumeleurs offers several activities that allow approximately 80 members with an intellectual difference to come together. During the first waves of the pandemic, many of them were confused, tells me the director general of the organization.

“They didn’t understand! The jargon was not vulgarized enough for them, there was a lack of pictograms and visual tools… We have several members over 50 in whom we have seen negative effects. It is a population that has been forgotten. »

I take a few seconds to take the hit.

It is a population that has been forgotten.

Stéfania Tremblay explains to me that many “Twins” have a well-established routine and that they stick to it. The framework is important for them, changing habits is not done by shouting scissors. She is still pleased to see that the weather is having its effect: her team has not yet received any distress calls since the measures announced at the end of December. The community is starting to get used to it.

She, too, is learning to navigate uncertainty.

And after ?

“I hope to be able to resume my internship, do it until the summer holidays and start again in September! “Leo throws me happily, when I ask him what his wishes are for the future.

It’s so simple. And so important.

In the meantime, at Les Jumeleurs, it’s the return of virtual activities (Zumba is particularly popular!). Meanwhile, two employees continue the production of frozen meals. This time, Stéfania and her colleague Marie-Claude don’t have to cook. They focus on what’s next.

Among their many projects: a series of portraits on social networks and video tutorials in which trainees will make recipes.

We want them to be heard. We have talked a lot about the elderly, but we must also think about people with intellectual differences. The good thing is that we form a very creative team. We have lots of ideas!

Stéfania Tremblay, Executive Director of the Jumeleurs / community space

“And you, Leo, how would you describe the Twins team?”

“I would say she’s caring and cool. Even from a distance, I feel accompanied.

‘That’s a nice final word. Thank you.

– It really made me happy, madam. »

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