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Posts Tagged ‘#specialneeds’


This week began busy, is ending busier.

This week began with a head full of plans for a fun day for two of the students I get to work with. Days like this are much more enjoyable, and more work … crossing i’s, dotting t’s …

They, the two young men, who live with challenging Special needs, are in their final year of high school.

In just two weeks, when they cross the stage to receive their diplomas, their lives will change. Change can be more challenging when one’s life started out with challenges.

They spent the beginning of their day, together, like many of their days in high school. They shared breakfast with the rest of the graduates, then drove around the school parking lot, beeping horns, disturbing the staff and students who were in the midst of classroom learning. Then off to a movie, joined by three who wanted to share the experience as they had shared many days of high school … together.

It was a holy ground, it was a sacred, moment.

How, you might ask, could teenage boys, diner-style breakfast, beeping your car horns and popcorn be sacred? Not one of those things is sacred in itself, but with the intervention and participation of God, the breakfast is like communal meal, beeping car horns like the singing of angelic chorus’, watching a movie with friends like sharing in fellowship with the saints. When God is involved in the lives of the participants, the sacred absorbs the secular, the mundane becomes the miraculous.

This dear pair of young men, and their faithful friends, shared moments and memories that day, that made one realize where they are, and recollections of where they have been.

God’s grace was on them at conception, God’s grace is on them now, and by the grace of God, they will be under His care for every day allotted to them.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with them both (2 Corinthians 13:14).

 

 

 

 

 

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I love the definition for integration, in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary :

-“incorporation as equals into society or an organization of individuals of different groups” 

In the world I work, (that of working in a high school) primarily with students who have a special needs diagnosis, integration is most commonly associated with incorporation in classrooms, in study, in learning. That is an important part of integration into a school community.

But, in the world I (we) live, integration is most frequently sought, desired and dreamed of in terms of not the academic, but the social, the relational. Those, who live with delays, disorders, diagnosis, and syndromes desire to be incorporated, as equals, into the world around them … they want friends.

“what a person desires is unfailing love …”
Proverbs 19:22

In the past dozen years of working in middle and high schools I have had the privilege of seeing such integration, incorporation, take place. I have observed students who sincerely care for and about their peers, with or without a diagnosis. I have seen parents of kids with special needs, and without, make the effort to model and encourage respect, kindness and equality for those around them.

Certainly, I have observed bullying, ignorance and exclusion, as well. But, more often I have seen the beauty of human care for each other, human love for each other.

This caring, this loving, this including of each other, it is a messy thing to practice. It is messy whether special needs, illness, or disability are present or not.

Lets face it, equality is messy whenever humans are involved.

But, to truly and sincerely incorporate and integrate as equals … what an awesome thing.

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My introduction to people with special needs began as a young child, visiting my aunt’s house. My cousin, older by just a few years, is hearing impaired. She is a dear and kind-hearted soul, who loves her family with selfless abandon.

The next exposure to people with special needs was a boy at school, with Downs syndrome. He was just a year older than myself, a most friendly guy, always wearing a smile for anyone who passed. I remember seeing him in the resource room, where I volunteered in high school, being taught, loved and cared for by the most human honouring woman I’ve ever known. I remember him in church, singing every hymn by memory.

As tomorrow is World Down Syndrome Day I thought I’d share a couple of my favorite thought-provoking article and video on the subject of people who have special needs.

The first (below) is written by CTV News at 6 host, Tamara Taggart, and more importantly, a mom of three, wife of one. It is a short, worthwhile read, of Tamara’s experience being told and understanding what it means to have a son diagnosed with Down syndrome.

http://metronews.ca/voices/opinion/1317070/tamara-taggart-my-son-has-down-syndrome-and-he-is-perfect/

The next is a lengthier video … but worth every second! The interview is with Jean Vanier (son of George Vanier, Governor General in Canada in the early 1960s), and each time I listen, I am reminded of my my own reason for working with people who live with special needs, diagnosis … to treat people with dignity, with respect and with love.

Warning: this video may just change you forever (watch it anyway). http://youtu.be/m8ECGXDDYd8

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*This is a post from three years ago, but it is one that is relevant to ‘swim families’ past, present and future. I miss such regular reminders of grace and love that swim people show.

Well, like a bowl of bad clams (I just love this saying) we’re back! Back to what? Early morning practices, afternoon practices, wet towels, broken goggles, last spring (where I live there has been little ‘spring’ anyway) and summer weekends … SWIM CLUB.

About nine years ago, our family entered the world of competitive swimming, through our oldest daughter, then nine. With the exception of a year, SHE has been part of the speed swimming community, as a swimmer, and as a coach. Her younger sister, took a longer hiatus … about four years. But she’s back … therefore WE are back.

I was rudely reminded of what I haven’t been missing on Saturday morning, when my alarm went off at 6am … I was so hoping it was just a bad dream! And, really we were lucky … it could have been (and will be in the weeks to come) earlier … much earlier!

So, off we went, for her 7:10am warm-ups! (Yikes, throw me into a swimming pool at that hour and ‘cool down’ might be a more accurate reflection of what I’d be feeling). I drop her off, and go in search of swim meet survival tactic #1 … coffee! And once that essential need is met, I am ready to cheer, towel off, and sign up for timing races (this has two benefits .. one is it makes the time go faster, and two is it gets you involved).

The meet begins … late (I sometimes have thought that is part of the meet … starting late), and the first race is IM (Individual Medley). Now in IM there are four strokes that are to be done in a particular order, and this is how I was taught the order … butter (butterfly) your back (backstroke), your breast (breast stroke) is free (freestyle, or front crawl, for those who are old like me). So, depending on whether it is 100m (one lap for each stroke), or 200m (two laps for each stroke), the number of swimmers, and the age of the swimmer (could be as young as six years old), this race takes a long time.

There was one heat that reminded me of why I love swim club. There were boys swimming the IM, and they were about thirteen years old. When the second to last swimmer touched the pad, to complete his race, there was still one swimmer left slogging away. And he was only halfway through backstroke! So we watched, and we waited …

Watching him swim was … painful! My first thoughts were, ‘he must be a new swimmer … poor guy … how humiliating.’ But then, as I watched his arms and legs flail (and I do mean flail), I recognized how VERY uncoordinated his movements were, and I wondered, if the boy struggling in the pool (with all his might, I might add) might be one with a disability.

Then … it happened … the thing that happens at EVERY swim meet I have ever attended, when a particularly slower swimmer is coming to their finish … the crowd began to cheer. No, the crowd began to chant … his name. The building was booming with the chant of this boys name, over and over … to the finish. The crowd of family and friends and strangers, his teammates and all the team, the officials … everyone in the building was chanting and cheering him on. When he finally touched the pad, you would have thought that Michael Phelps had just broken another world record! The smile on his face said that he felt as though he had just broken a world record (and that he had given it his all). Fellow swimmers were giving him high five, and patting him on the back.

I spoke to the mom of this boy, later in the day. Indeed, he was new to competitive swimming, and indeed he lives (and she, who lives with him) with asperger syndrome. He told me he loves swimming, as he headed off to marshalling for his next race.

It was all worth the early morning practices, afternoon practices, wet towels, broken goggles, lost spring and summer weekends … just to have that taste of being part of the lives of others who struggle … not that we all share the same struggles, but that we are all struggling to give it our all.

And that boy, and all cheering him on that day, gave it their all!

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Leaving the school grounds, with students is something I love to do. You see, like their ‘typical’ peers, students with special needs behave so much better off school grounds than on them. It is as though all know that school is not ‘real’, but an artificially-created society which is not reflective of life on the ‘outside’.

So, my colleague and I asked if we could go.

The school said “yes”

The parents said, “yes”

The students said, “yes”

And off we went, riding public transit into the city of Vancouver for the day.

Once out and under the sun, we wandered a bit of the city, purchased tickets and attended an educational presentation, then headed to another area to seek our lunch, wandered a bit more, then started the process back to our suburban-rural school

Our students were fully present in every point of the day.

They communicated with their mouths as well as their eyes.

They made purchases, politely, without a reminder to do so.

They cleaned their lunch garbage after eating.

They did not lose their transit passes.

They did not lose us! Or we them.

They did not make a scene, say a rude word, or pass gas loudly (not to say they did not pass gas).

The best part of the day was when one young man was making a purchase, and the final price required counting every cent in his wallet. The store owner gave him a discount on the price, to which the student said, “thank-you, that was so kind of you.”

No, the best part was sitting on a bus, two rows ahead of the teens, and hearing the two of them having a typical teen conversation.

No, the best part was hearing the two giggle with abandon.

No, the best part was all four of us running to catch our water taxi.

No, the best part was …

being away from school,

and seeing these teens, with special needs, thriving outside of those learning walls,

so that we could be the learners for a change.

 

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white computer keyboard with the red button help

Those four letters were her first words.

The words that opened the ears, the eyes, of those around her.

The words that opened the minds of any who have heard her story, her voice.

As an Educational Assistant in a Middle School, I often spend my days as an adventurer, a detective. I am always on the lookout for the key.

It is an invisible key that I am searching for, in a quest to unlock the door into the minds of students I work with, directly, or indirectly.

For some students the key might be simply taking tests in a quiet room, away from the classroom.

For some students the key might be to alter/adapt assignments and tests so that they only get one page, one question at a time so as to not overload their anxiety-laden minds.

For some students the key might be to have someone else scribe/write for them, or a keyboard to tap out the information they need to communicate.

For Carly Fleishmann, the skills she had learned on her keyboard, were the key to her voice. And what a bright voice she has!

Carly is a Canadian girl, from Toronto, Ontario. She is a twin to her sister. At the age of three, she was diagnosed with Autism. She is non-verbal, so technology, and education to use it, was required to give her the opportunity to express herself.

imagesThere is so much more about Carly.

She, and her father (Arthur) wrote a book (right) about her life, experiences and Autism.

She has been interviewed on numerous networks.

But, what I really, really, really (get the point? I REALLY want this) hope, is that you will click on the link (below).

When you do you will open Carly’s Cafe … wait for the cup of coffee to fill.

There is a very brief video collection of Carly growing up.

Then, the rest of the video is from your perspective (Carly’s perspective) of life inside of the body of one with autism.

Did I say PLEASE?

Because I really, really, really hope that you will click on the following link :

http://www.carlyscafe.com/

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