Tag Archives: Social Work

My Journey post Disability Studies at Ryerson…

This post was written by Disability Studies alumna, Katherine Ridolfo.

photograph of light skinned woman with dark hair wearing a white blouse and a black sweater.
Photograph of Katherine Ridolfo.

Though I have a long and dedicated history of working with people who have a developmental disability, I felt that I needed more post-graduate education to continue to pursue my career path, personal goals and dedication to the field. My role has largely been as a Family Support Worker and I felt that coupled with the Disability Studies and Master’s degree in Social Work would be a good fit.

For me, as a single parent, the challenge was in finding a program that would allow me to continue to work full time and pursue an education that considered my current educational background. The MSW for Working Professionals, offered through the University of Windsor was a perfect fit! The education was delivered locally (for me-Mississauga, but I understand that it is also offered in Oshawa) every other weekend starting with Friday afternoons at 3 pm to 8 pm and then all day Saturdays from 8 am to 4 pm. It was not necessary to have a BA in Social Work, however, this meant that I was making a 32 month commitment of not having a life beyond the program!

The program is generalized and is not specific to any particular counselling modalities (my understanding is that this is more the norm, all programs have taken on a broader approach) and is very fast moving. A new module is covered approximately every six weeks. The curriculum consists of lots of reading, and a combination of essays, group presentations and tests. There are two field placements consisting of 450 hours. It is difficult (and discouraged) to work throughout this time. There is also a final capstone/research project at the end of the program. In addition to the cost of books, be prepared to do lots of additional photocopying of required and recommended reading. The approximate cost of this program is about $30,000 with books in. Thankfully, the whole amount does not need to be paid upfront! (A word of caution is warranted at this point…students who pursue this avenue and are expecting to get an entry scholarship (based on a high GPA) are NOT entitled-however, the students on campus taking the same program are. I tried to advocate for the same rights but was not successful. Perhaps a fellow Ryerson alumni who pursues this avenue can take up the good fight).

Once admitted, you will complete your journey with the same cohort-which is a bonus. Through these bonds I have managed to forge incredible ongoing relationships and connections. My cohort retains a FB page as well as communicates routinely through Messenger-so that we all know what is going on with our graduating class at all times.

Currently, I continue to work at a local Community Living agency, teach part time at Humber College in the CICE program (Community Integration through Co-operative Education)-which is a unique two year college experience program for young adults who have a developmental disability. It is a passion of mine and I am hoping for full time employment in the near future. I am also beginning to build a private practice as a social worker and am hoping to build a niche for working with families who have a child with a developmental disability as well as for individuals who are cognitively capable of participating and benefiting from counselling. I have a long standing vested interest in End of Life Care for people who have a disability, specifically-developmental, and as such I am also actively pursuing a PhD program though I am not sure if I’d like it to be in Social Work or Disability Studies at this time.

And… on a final note-Kathryn Church, writes phenomenal letters of support!


To learn more about this MA option check out the MSW for Working Professionals at University of Windsor website.


To all Social Work Students – Take a DST course!

This post was written by Lois Didyk. She is a graduate of the Ryerson Social Work program.

Three buttons which read "Mad Positive in the Academy"

I returned to school to get my social work degree after 20 years of working in the mental health field. Apparently that makes me the “mature” kind of student. So hear my wisdom when I say to you, social work students – take a Disability Studies Course! Now. Hurry.

You know that expression – you don’t know how much you don’t know until you know. That’s what my social work degree was like for me. Sure I had tons of direct service experience, so I did know a lot about something. But I knew one thing well, and there’s so much more to this story.

My social work degree was great for giving me the theoretical lens that I needed to complicate existing knowledge, so that I could better understand what is really going on for people and be more critical of (and constructive to) our mental health system. This let me filter my work and experience through frameworks such as anti-oppression, post modernism, critical deconstruction, anti-colonialism and the likes… It’s all good stuff, and has made me a better social worker.

Equally important has been what I learned from the Mad People’s History course (DST 504) which I took at the end of my degree. Wow, did that ever rock my world! I got in on one of David Reville’s last courses before he retired – lucky me. It was one of those courses that made me feel really uncomfortable (in a good way!) and challenged me as a person, as a “case manager”, and as part of a system that has a horrible history. There is no ‘status quo’ once you’ve taken a course like this – it makes you see everything differently and you want to get involved to move things forward. At least that was my experience, anyway!

While I learned far too many things to summarize here, let me give you a taste of the thinking that DST 504 stirred up for me. Here are some bits from my Field Trip with Mad Activism assignment:

“Mad means so much more than just mental illness – it speaks to the history, to the social context and to the oppressive experiences that go along with having been diagnosed with a mental illness”;

“I watched If these Walls Could Talk – love the symbolism of walls as barriers that protect society from the hidden world of the mad. Today’s walls are social exclusion, inadequate housing, lack of income, inadequate supports, … A great line that stood out for me was that conformity and compliance are not life skills!”;

“Some things I realize now: the mad community, like all communities, is not homogeneous – there are many different perspectives, experiences and opinions working towards the same cause; change can be a slow process, but it is a process none-the-less as long as there is movement; critical thinking and speaking up are important for social justice work; and there’s a place for everyone in this fight.”;

“Mad academia matter! That’s because: this field of study shapes the students who are also the front-line workers providing mental health services; it affects the policies and practices that define our mental health system; it legitimizes a discipline that has often been excluded and viewed as superfluous; and it influences society’s views and practices of mad people.”

For me, Ryerson’s social work and disability studies programs go together beautifully – like dark chocolate and organic peanut butter. Yummy! It doesn’t have to be the DST 504 course – just find the course that speaks to your passion, and dive in (it counts as a professionally related course for social work, if you get it cleared first). After all, if you are doing social work, you are working with people touched by disabilities. It’s relevant. And did I mention – take a DST course!