Tag - inclusion

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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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Let’s Pop The Age 7 to 11 Bad Behaviour Bubble
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When Your Child With A Disability Is Told, “You Can’t Play With Us!”
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A Trip To The Mall That Meant So Much More
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Her Special Squad
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Gymnastics — Inclusive, Fantastic and Elastic!
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Include Classmates Who Have Special Needs
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Let Them Eat Cake—Her Very First Party
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Invited—When Your Child With Special Needs Gets A Birthday Invitation

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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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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When Your Child With A Disability Is Told, “You Can’t Play With Us!”

  My daughter loves playing at the park at the end of our street. She’d stay for hours if she could. But since she’s a child with a disability, she can’t go to the park by herself like her peers do—they can come and go as they please, but my kiddo has to drag her mother along. “Drag” makes me sound like an unwilling companion, but I’m usually content to supervise. Though some days, admittedly it’s inconvenient. And boring. After a few pumps on the swing and perhaps an (awkward) chin-up or two on the monkey bars, my thoughts quickly turn to, “I need to start dinner” or “I have to return that phone call by 5pm” or “I have to pee” or “I wish I brought more coffee” or “I really, really have to pee.”  But she’s a kid who needs fresh air, and climbing and swinging, and companionship, and your basic childhood fun, so I park myself at the park.  Yesterday was a beautiful spring afternoon so I was happy to spend some time warming the park bench.  Within a few minutes of arriving, the play structure filled with kids from Avery’s school. They quickly organized a game of[…]

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A Trip To The Mall That Meant So Much More

This post isn’t intended to be political, but his electoral “win” makes me worry about my daughter’s future. He who shall not be named doesn’t even try to hide his distain for people with disabilities. It makes me wonder if her life will be more difficult because he’s giving people the message that it’s okay to be intolerant and cruel. However, there’s a kindness army rising up against hatred and discrimination. Kids are being raised to believe in equity and love and compassion. We’re surrounded by it, basking in their warmth and inclusion.  My daughter’s school and neighbourhood friends treat her like the important person she is, worthy of respect and friendship.  Avery’s been asking to go shopping with friends for weeks. She doesn’t actually care about buying anything. It’s about the experience. And her purse. She brings it with her on special outings. Inside you’ll find her lip balm, her pretend debit card, her (bicycle) driver’s license and a handful of coins.  I drove my daughter and her two friends to our local mall to do some Christmas shopping.  I tried to stay in the background to give Avery the feeling of shopping on her own with her friends like[…]

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Her Special Squad

Kids can be cruel. They can sniff out “different” from a mile away, and sometimes they tease or isolate anyone who doesn’t fit in. As a teacher I’ve seen it. And as a parent, I’ve worried about it. But so far we’ve been blessed. I’m not a religious person so using the word blessed seems hypocritical, but it’s a fitting way to describe our experience with our daughter’s peer group. Our child stands out in class—her delayed speech, the EA who shadows her around school, her struggle to keep up, and her inability to understand—these all set her apart. But instead of shutting her out, her classmates circle around her and make her feel special in a “you belong” kind of way. Her teacher told me her friends actually bicker over who gets to take Avery to the office or who gets to partner with her for a project or stand beside her in line. I know Avery feels it. She adores her friends and talks about them with such love. As a mum, I am grateful for these compassionate kids. Their parents are obviously teaching them to treat others with respect and kindness. For that, we (personally but also[…]

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Gymnastics — Inclusive, Fantastic and Elastic!

  My daughter’s genetic make-up is unusual in many ways and I suspect her DNA also includes a unique elastic gene. The girl lives to flip, jump, roll, climb—basically anything that results in her body leaving the ground for any length of time. Avery was first introduced to gymnastics by her cousin — it was love at first back bend and we knew we had to sign our little monkey up for a local program. By “happy-stance” I met Canadian Olympic Gymnast Jessica Tudos on Twitter and she recommended a gym for us. She said it would be a perfect fit. She was right. Though Avery has developmental and physical challenges, Schlegel’s Gymnastics Centre is fully inclusive. Avery is just another active kid in a leotard climbing a rope. Can I just say how thrilled this makes me?? Several years ago Avery attended a play gym and because of her special needs she was placed in a program with kids half her age. There was poor Avery out on the mat with toddlers. This didn’t do anything to develop her physical or social skills. We quickly pulled her out.  Schlegel’s focuses on each child’s individual strengths and needs. It’s non-competitive[…]

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Include Classmates Who Have Special Needs

My child is different. Her genetics make it so. Due to a random stroke of fate, a chunk of her DNA is missing. Nobody knows why.   But old friends don’t search for what is missing. They just see what’s right there in front of them—the joyful light surrounding this happy girl. They love her big laugh and even bigger hugs. They embrace her mischievous streak of curiosity. They accept her just as she is.   But new friends, some adults and children, hesitate. “What’s wrong with her?” they ask in hushed voices…which we can totally hear by the way.    There is nothing wrong with her.    She may have trouble communicating succinctly. She might stumble over her words or repeat herself, but she has something to say. She wants to contribute to the conversation.  She doesn’t always understand when you’re making fun of her or that you’re leaving her out, but as she gets older, she is more aware.  When your child, with a disability or not, comes home from school in tears because they had nobody to play with at recess, it stings.  She doesn’t need to be invited to everything. (Side Note: Number of parties she was[…]

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Let Them Eat Cake—Her Very First Party

The girl who had never been to a birthday party can finally say, “I partied.” She’s been talking about going to her friend’s birthday party since the day she opened the invitation. Which was a very good day by the way.    She excitedly joined right in with the other girls. With a *teeny* bit of mummy’s help, she made jewelry with her friends—a tiara fit for a princess.      A jewelry box, coloured orange, dotted with gems     And a bracelet which she refuses to take off.       Curious about the Princess cake, before I could stop it, she stuck a tiny finger in the icing.      The picky eater who eats like a bird, happily sat (in one spot!) and ate a whole slice of pizza and beamed.     Then out came the cake. And where there is cake, there are bound to be candles. This kid loves the flicker of a flame.      Not like Drew. Birthday candles come with the promise of good times.     As the birthday girl got ready to make a wish, Avery inched closer…     …and closer     ….until she had positioned herself[…]

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Invited—When Your Child With Special Needs Gets A Birthday Invitation

It happened. Finally, joyfully, my five year old atypical child received her first ever invitation to a typical peer’s birthday party. She tore open the envelope and exclaimed wide eyed, “I party!” “I so happy,” she said while I cried big, sobby tears. “Mummy sad?” she asked, looking concerned. No my sweet girl. I’m not sad. I’m thrilled for you. You deserve so much—fun and parties and all the great things that come with having friends who love you, for you. I want to tell this *mother, the one who sent the invitation, how much this means. I’m sure she has no idea. Avery has carried the invitation around with her all morning and won’t put it down. And now she wants to go out, like right now, and buy her friend a “bir-day pwsent.” The happiness on this child’s face and the excitement pulsing through her body reminds me, because sometimes I forget, that life is truly a celebration.  Party on big girl. *I sent the mom an email to explain how much this invitation meant to us and to sincerely thank her. I also hugged her (hard and possibly a tiny bit too long) at the party.   […]

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