Category - Special Needs

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IncludEd: All Learners Welcome
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How Amazon Alexa Helps With Speech Development
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Living With The Fear of SUDEP
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When Your Child Gets Stuck In A Verbal Loop
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The Shark Who Made My Daughter Feel Special
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Introducing Your Child With Special Needs To New Classmates
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Team Canada (Special Abilities Division) World Cheerleading Champions
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Let’s Pop The Age 7 to 11 Bad Behaviour Bubble
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Will My Daughter Ever Get To Be A Mother?
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Tears For Cheers—But Not The Happy Kind

IncludEd: All Learners Welcome

I was a teacher for ten years before my daughter was born. When she was diagnosed with a disability during my maternity leave, I retired from my job in education to stay home to care for her. I love telling people I’m a retired teacher. It’s fun to watch them try to work it out wondering, “How old IS she exactly?” For educators, diversity demands they provide inclusive, accessible learning environments that inspire confidence and encourage independence. As a former teacher, and now the parent of a child in the school system supported a special education resource team, I know how difficult it can be to ensure that every child is successful. These are difficult times in education. With larger class sizes and less support for children in need, teachers have more on their plates than ever before. We should be giving teachers every available tool to make their job as educators more effective. Logically, everyone benefits from this— teachers, students and their families, and society in general. Schools were established to help children grow into empowered adults. When we give teachers the proper tools, this becomes attainable. By providing accessible technologies, teachers can help students with disabilities unlock their[…]

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How Amazon Alexa Helps With Speech Development

When our daughter was a baby we were told she would likely be non-verbal. We used ASL with her from an early age. Slowly she gained sounds, then words, and then short simple sentences. She is still profoundly speech delayed, but is developing new words and phrases every day.  Speech therapy, activities and games that promote language development, and simply chatting with her every day casually modelling speech, have helped tremendously.  Smart technology is the latest helpful tool. Before I go into how much we’re loving our new family member, Alexa, let me start by admitting that I’m fundamentally against Google Home and Amazon Echo and all these smarty pant eavesdroppers. In fact, I’m so turned off by the invasion of privacy that I made my husband return the Google Home unit he bought me for Christmas. I made quite the stink about it, ranting about how they’re always listening and how wrong and insidious the whole thing is.  Flash forward to the week we spent at my brother’s house over New Years. They have an Alexa Echo and I fell for her, madly. This digital gal knows pretty much everything about anything. She can make life not only easier, but[…]

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Living With The Fear of SUDEP

SUDEP (sudden unexplained death in epilepsy) When a child in our community dies suddenly, the world closes in around us. Having to explain to our daughter that her ten-year-old friend died unexpectedly was hard. It’s tough enough to make sense of it as an adult. For a child, it’s incomprehensible. The sorrow we feel for this beautiful family goes beyond sympathy. We feel a level of empathy that only other epilepsy parents would know. When a child is lost to SUDEP all parents of children with epilepsy receive a jarring reminder that this can happen. No child is exempt.  We are devastated for the family. It hits close to home as we direct some of the shock inward by recalling our own children’s worst seizures. We relive the panic. We hear the ambulance sirens and repeat the silent prayers and promises to the almighty or whomever is listening to “Just please, please let her be okay.” When an otherwise healthy child dies without warning or explanation, it shakes us to the core. For me, post traumatic stress has brought up memories from our daughter’s first violent seizures at the age of three when we came very close to losing her. SUDEP—sudden[…]

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When Your Child Gets Stuck In A Verbal Loop

I’m a pretty easygoing parent. I don’t yell. I almost never yell. I prefer slow smouldering jaw clenched whispered threats. They effectively scare both my kids and my husband. Fortunately, I don’t need to pull out the eye daggers often.  I’m pretty patient—especially when it comes to dealing with my daughter’s idiosyncrasies. If I feel annoyance creeping in I simply remind myself that she’s trying her best and whatever she’s doing, it isn’t intentional.  Like, she’s a very noisy eater. As a card carrying Misophonia sufferer, her lip smacking doesn’t bother me because I know she can’t help it. But God help my husband if he slurps a drink or smacks his lips. That’s a swift kick to the groin right there. My daughter asks a lot of questions and I try to answer every one. She tells endless knock-knock jokes and I always ask who’s there.  It can take a long time for her to complete a sentence. I patiently wait it out. Putting on her shoes or zipping up her coat can take ages. I wait without complaint, even if we’re late. Eating her dinner can take hours and I rarely lose it. But the one thing I struggle[…]

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The Shark Who Made My Daughter Feel Special

When my daughter joined a special abilities cheerleading team last year, I went online to learn more about cheer in general. My search led me to a reality show on Netflix about a Canadian cheerleading team. The show Cheer Squad is a behind-the-scenes look at the world champion Great White Sharks—practices, competitions, wins, losses, and backstories of some of the athletes.  Avery and I started watching together, but I didn’t expect to actually pay attention. I planned to passively watch while scrolling through Facebook.  However, I was quickly drawn into the show and with every episode I was more amazed by the skill and athleticism required in this sport. It’s a combination of dance, gymnastics, tumbling, and intricately choreographed and perfectly synchronized teamwork. The athletes literally hurl each other into the air and it’s hold-your-breath incredible. On the plane to Florida (Avery’s team competed in the World Cheerleading Championships at ESPN Disney this year) Avery spotted one of the athletes from the show. And not just anyone… her favourite cheerleader and absolute idol.  Rebecca Webster from the Great White Sharks was on our flight.  Avery pointed and whispered, “Mummy! Becca…” Avery desperately wanted to say hello so we slipped in behind her in the aisle.[…]

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Introducing Your Child With Special Needs To New Classmates

This school year we decided to introduce our daughter, who has special needs, to new classmates by way of a “Get To Know” Avery video.  It’s normal for kids to be curious about differences. Some kids approach Avery, respectfully. They can see there’s something different about her, but they treat her kindly anyway. Some kids shy away from her. Some ignore her or deliberately shut her out. And sometimes, but thankfully not as often, some kids make fun of her behind her back.  When we talk about Avery’s struggle with speech and explain why it’s difficult for her to form certain sounds, kids understand her challenges better and it makes them more comfortable around her. Also, when they know why she sometimes gets stuck in a repetitive verbal loop, repeating the same thing over and over, they’re less likely to feel frustrated with her because they know it’s not on purpose. She’s trying her best.  When kids are given Avery’s back story, and know that it’s okay to ask questions about Avery, the staring and stand-offish behaviour almost always stops. In fact, when kids understand her challenges, they treat Avery as just one of the gang. Actually, they are quite protective of her. […]

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Team Canada (Special Abilities Division) World Cheerleading Champions

When doctors express concerns about something being “wrong” with your new baby, you can’t believe it. You refuse to believe it. Looking down into your child’s perfect face, all you see is beautiful potential.  But when the chromosome test comes back, and you eventually accept that your child is in fact, imperfect (genetically speaking that is, because she is perfect in every other way), you make plans.  When you are the parent of a child with special needs, there are so many plans that need to be made—for her health, for her education, for her safety, for her development, for her future. All to ensure that despite her disabilities, she will have the chance to be the best version of herself and to, as they say, live her best life.  So we taught her (and ourselves) sign language. We took part in too many therapies and programs to mention. And when she expressed an interest in a sport or activity, we put our fears aside and let her try.  Last fall Avery joined the special abilities cheer team, Team PCT Eternity, at Power Cheer Toronto. Her excitement trumped my hesitation.  Lead by the most incredible team of coaches and volunteers,[…]

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Let’s Pop The Age 7 to 11 Bad Behaviour Bubble

When I taught elementary school I didn’t tolerate rude behaviour from my students. My role as an educator afforded me the right to address disrespectful conduct and hopefully turn it around.  As a parent I don’t accept rude behaviour from my own children. In my role as queen of my house, I shut down snarky comments and eye-rolls, right quick.  But as a person in the world, trying to teach my kids, but also protect them, sometimes I have to tolerate other people’s rude kids.  I want to shake these parents and say, “What are you doing?? Why are you allowing this? Teach your kids to be nice!” The shaking part is probably assault. So I keep my hands to myself and my mouth shut.  But it’s really, really, really, really, really hard.  The other day I drove my son and his friend into Toronto and dropped them off at a theatre to see some You Tuber celeb guy. I don’t know. I don’t understand it. But they, along with the thousands of other fans were excited, so I don’t question it.  My daughter and I had to wait a few hours for them, so we found a shady park in The[…]

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Will My Daughter Ever Get To Be A Mother?

My daughter will probably never become a mother. The idea guts me. So I try not to think about it. But it’s hard to ignore the facts when your kid is patting your neighbour’s pregnant belly saying, “Dare’s a baby in dare? Awwwww. I can’t wait to see your baby. I’m going to have a baby too.” For weeks since my daughter found out this new baby was on the way, she’s been walking around with her rubber Dora ball tucked up inside her shirt, rubbing her tummy saying, “I’m going to be a mummy! I’m just pretending, but when I’m big I’ll have a baby, right Mummy?”  Knowing how amazing it is to be a mother, the thought of her never having the privilege, stings. I squash those thoughts as soon as they enter my head.  But, the thoughts are harder to ignore when you’re faced with them head on. As my daughter Avery waddled around the kitchen, back arched, smiling wide, telling her big brother that her baby is a girl named Little Avery, my son asked me under his breath, “Mum, CAN she have a baby? Like, do you think she will?” He waited expectantly (pardon the pun) for an answer.[…]

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Tears For Cheers—But Not The Happy Kind

My daughter and her special abilities cheerleading team competed performed at our Provincial Cheer Championships this weekend. The kids loved it and they beamed under the spotlight. It was a beautiful moment in time. It was the kind of acceptance and inclusion we parents of kids with disabilities long for. So why did I leave feeling completely gutted?  The coaches and volunteers who have helped shape this team into a world class cheering force, are amazing. I don’t even have the words to express my admiration. Ironic, since I’m a writer and everything. They believe in these incredible kids and are giving them the opportunity to feel the power and pleasure of working together as a team. This is to say, it’s all good. I am very grateful. But, I’m still allowed to feel the feelings, right? And I’m not talking about the rosy ones. These are dark little suckers.  There were tears this weekend. Yes, some were the proverbial “happy tears” that leak from parental pupils that just can’t contain all the pride. But some were ugly. The ones you hide by pretending to blow your nose or try stop from spilling by holding your breath or swallowing hard[…]

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