when what you ‘don’t say’ means the most…

This week in NSW schools it is SASS (School Administrative and Support Staff) Appreciation Week. 

At the Monday morning assembly I managed to catch the presentation by students to our school’s SAS staff and enjoyed hearing them share their insights – all written by the kids themselves”.  I have to admit though, I was perhaps most moved by what they “didn’t say”.

white background with 5 gerbera flowers pink, red, coral, orange and yellow with green stems, green text thanks coming out of the stemOur SAS team comprises administrative staff, learning support officers (teachers aides/paraprofessionals), groundsmen, IT support etc).  Each team member was presented with a small certificate of appreciation, a beautiful gerbera flower and a small speech from different students telling them why they were appreciated.  

There were so many reasons given as to why the kids want to thank them… from getting balls of the roof to preparing newsletters, looking after the office, helping them know where to play, applying band-aids or just having a ‘chat’.  

What struck me when the classroom Learning Support Officers (LSOs/teachers’ aides/paras) were being thanked is that there was no suggestion they were there for any ‘specific or special’ student.  They were considered to be in the classroom for ALL students.  There was no singling out of who they helped and why.

This is exactly how learning support should happen in classrooms.  All students, regardless of any diagnosis or funding, should be feeling supported by the presence of an additional adult in the classroom.  They shouldn’t feel, for example that the adult is, say, “Mac’s aide”.  Sure, Mac’s high physical support needs mean he will get more support in some areas… but I love that the students recognise the aide is there for ‘all of them’.  And I love that Mac (or any student in the school who warrants funded support) isn’t identified as being ‘a kid with an adult attached’ to them.



We often reflect on how well the school has embraced and enhanced the idea of natural supports and recognising peers play a vital role in supporting one another.  I love seeing the adults who come into the school as a result of funding for identified students aren’t singled out for that purpose once they get there.

Well done everyone!

3 Comments

Filed under Accessing the Curriculum, Inclusion... straight up!

words need not apply…

The cinema was dark… Transformers 4 was proving a fun feast for our senses.

Mac along two of his mates, W & C, had been transfixed from the start.

The other boys shared popcorn while Mac provided the odd giggle, ‘coo’ or ‘glaar’ when the intensity of the moment required it.

We were most the way through the movie when out of the corner of my eye I saw W lean in close to Mac and heard him whisper…

W:    “Mac, are you enjoying the movie?”headshot of Mac, big open mouth grin, scruncy nose, sepia print

Mac’s response was silent but offered W a facial expression not unlike this image – a big open mouth, scrunchy face response

W:    whispering again… “I take that as a yes.”

And with that he settled back into his seat as they watched the final showdown of the movie.

Verbal responses not necessary.

Authentic.  Simple.  Beautiful.

 

2 Comments

Filed under friends, Inclusion... straight up!, things that make me go "glll"

todos com todos

everyone with everybody…

A fantastic documentary about the inclusion of children with disability in mainstream schools in São Paulo, Brazil.

While almost the entire doco was “quote worthy” I particularly like the simplicity of this translated statement by Samuel’s father…

 

“I don’t see any other model.

In the segregation model people with disability don’t learn their autonomy and people without don’t learn to deal with the difference”.
Samu’s Dad

 

This movie is part of the Why Heloisa Project www.porqueheloisa.com.br
I think I will be spending some time clicking around in that project/website in the coming days.


For our English language blind viewers I have requested an English translation… will post it here if I can get my hands on it.

todos com todos…

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Accessing the Curriculum, Inclusion... straight up!

why bother, indeed…

“Why would you even bother” her statement was more matter of fact than argument “he’s gonna get places quicker and have more fun if we’re pushing him in his chair”.

“Yeah, it wouldn’t be, like, easy, it’d be hard and you’d still need help” came another observation from one of the boys.

You see the question had been posed from a classmate:
“Will Mac ever be able to walk?”

Mac’s first response (with his switches) to that question was a swift “no”, and on further enquiry as to whether this “bothered him” another clear “no” response.

More comments, more discussion … the consensus was that, ultimately, “walking really isn’t all that important” the important thing was getting where you want with who you want (aka mobility).

If only more people would listen to the wisdom of 10 and 11 year olds.  How great for Mac to be involved in a discussion that ultimately determines that his way of existing is not only OK, it is totally authentic and not considered ‘less’.

Sure, there was some talk about Mac getting to drive his own wheelchair, what might be needed, how they can help that happen, what needs to be invented to make it better (of course robotics came up ;-) ) … but all that is about Mac being empowered, it’s not ‘dissing’ his current mode of mobility.

It is so refreshing to see these kids really think through what it is they are talking about, really think.

So much of our society can be quite superficial about these things, like walking is some amazingly necessary skill, or a prerequisite for a worthwhile life.

Mainstream media and social media got all excited about the opening ceremony of the Football World Cup having a paralysed man use an exoskeleton to walk and kick a ball – it was all a bit weird and ‘icky’ – I am glad Mac and his mates say “why bother?”

Sure, there may be some people out there who are unable to walk and really want to, I respect that.  I just don’t think we need to perpetuate a damaging message that walking is some sort of ‘Holy Grail’ for all people who use wheelchairs.

I don’t hate the technological advances that come of these ventures – who knows what may come of them?  We may finally end up building better wheelchairs where steps, gutters and raised thresholds soon become no obstacle.  Chairs might be able to become more compact, more comfortable and well, while you’re at it … could we perhaps make them ‘hover’?

In the meantime, I’ll continue to listen to the wisdom of kids.

As I was digging around for a suitable image to use in this post, I came across Red Nicholson’s post over at Attitude Live.

Red nails it – have a read.

http://attitudelive.com/blog/red-nicholson/opinion-why-obsession-walking

3 Comments

Filed under Access all Areas, Inclusion... straight up!, Technology - things that help

fridge magnet friday…

Thank you Richard Attfield for these amazing words.

Do not give a child a 'disability label' - give them equality; give them an education; give them equal status in society;
 give them freedom to
 express themselves by 
the means of their choice. Do not destroy their humanity. Richard Attfield, PoetIMAGE DESCRIPTION:
old fashioned fridge door, cream with silver handle with a blue piece of paper containing the quote “Do not give a child a ‘disability label’ – give them equality; give them an education; give them equal status in society; give them freedom to express themselves by the means of their choice. Do not destroy their humanity. Richard Attfield, Poet”

 

2 Comments

Filed under fridge magnet friday

making the world more ALLsome

You might remember me mentioning that the “Handball Machine” was the catalyst for those “Macifications” (mods to Mac’s wheelchair) his classmates worked on last year?

The kids (Mac included) just decided one day Mac needed a way to play handball.  Their idea was to have something mounted at the front of Mac’s jogger to allow him to “play” without getting hurt.

For days, I would turn up at school with them telling me what they had tried, asking me to bring in more items to test, giving me the results on their experimentation.

Some of the failures included:

  • bin lids (too hard to mount and metal)
  • tennis racquets (too much chance Mac could get hit if they didn’t aim well enough)
  • plastic container lids (too flimsy)
  • various wheelchair trays (too big, too little, absorbed the bounce of the handball too much)

Until …

Someone came up with the excellent idea of a Crazy Catch (a ball sport reflex/catching trainer).  I was dispatched immediately to purchase one for the ongoing experiment (cost … inconsequential ;-) according to the kids)

The feedback following their ‘first trial run’ was that they felt a customised size was necessary.  Followed up by a simple “could I make that for them” (hooray for hacksaws).  A couple of cheap golf buggy umbrella holders to help hold the Crazy Catch arms in place and the odd piece of velcro was all it took to make their invention a reality.

This year their “hack” has moved onto the football field.  The net angle gets reduced a little, Flag Football tags (AusTag here in Oz) are attached on the side of the jogger to allow Mac to be ‘tackled’.  Their next planned mod includes a pouch on the front of the net to allow the ball to be passed (with a degree of skill including reverse spin or perfect placement) to allow it to roll into the pouch.

I love watching these ideas come to fruition and then evolve.

Mac loves being in the midst of it all and considers himself “quite good at handball”.  Although i’m not sure the speed and chaos of the football field won’t win him over.  Time will tell.

It is very ALLsome.

 


 

VIDEO AUDIO DESCRIPTION & SCRIPT
So, it's not that cool when you can't play handball with your mates.  But with mates like Mac's it's 'way cool'. At our school the kids invent mac-ifications.  That is, modifications to Mac's wheelchair so they can all do more things.  Like this handball machine.  All they needed was a bike jogger, a Crazy Catch, two umbrella holders and some velcro.  (video footage of the kids playing with the ball bouncing off the front net).  Pretty awesome don't you think?    Just goes to show... when ALL means ALL, we make the world more ALLsome.

1 Comment

Filed under Access all Areas, friends, Inclusion... straight up!, The 'mod' squad, things that make me go "glll"

the powtoon portfolio…

A homework assignment saw the need for Mac to develop an ‘about me’ portfolio.  We talked about what he might want to include, what it is that is important to him about himself.

We nixed the idea of a poster and decided to use PowToon and their built in templates.  We picked the template, decided on an image to use and then put Mac’s words into the online program.  Some of the items Mac just gave me single words and we discussed how we could expand those ideas into sentences. We also talked about how to split that information across different slides for visual effect.

So if you were wondering just who Mac is… here’s what he thinks you need to know (audio description available below video).

)

AUDIO DESCRIPTION:
Coloured slides with image of blond cartoon boy.  Text reads:

Hello, my name is Mac Burns, I am 10 years old.
I am a son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin, friend.
I’m a bit of a thinker; I like to listen and learn;
but I don’t say much… yet!
I use switches to speak and wheels to move.
I particularly love playing football and handball with my mates.
My favourite subject is maths
and I like learning about politics (with my Dad).
In my spare time I like to listen to music and books;
watch movies and TV;
learn new things on my computer;
and swim… I love to swim.
I really like funny things, stuff that makes me LAUGH.
I love my life.

Final text is accompanied by an image of a stick drawing of Mac in a wheelchair and a huge vertical ramp… click the following link to the blog post to find out more about this image.

http://inkyed.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/no-limits/

4 Comments

Filed under Accessing the Curriculum