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).
Coloured slides with image of blond cartoon boy. Text reads:
Hello, my name is Mac Burns, I am 10 years old.
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.
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.
Today we were given a sneak peek of an assessment task Mac undertook. A photo and comments from his teacher (Mr B) arrived showing his work in the text window of his communication device.
Mr B was really pleased with his work, but perhaps more excited by the fact Mac was clearly proud of his work. It’s an interesting development. For quite some time now, Mac has (regularly) been going ‘on strike’ in class by either refusing to use his switches or going to sleep in an attempt to get out of doing work. It’s certainly not his finest trait … and is certainly more prevalent when it is work he thinks he might not get correct (or literacy).
However, on two occasions this week he’s completed a task and then been obviously proud of himself.
I wonder if it’s a new level of maturity, maybe that somewhat fixed mindset of his might just be opening up to new possibilities. Oh how I’d love for him to enjoy working on things, particularly literacy, just for his own pleasure.
So what work did he do today?
Here’s the raw text in the Dynavox window.
And here’s the raw text turned into a ‘piece of writing’ (with Mac assisting with the punctuation) to ensure he can see how all his hard work is worth it.
They are delightful words… I can’t wait to find out what happens next.
I love the unusual name he’s chosen for the girl and the “stylin” shoes he’s described.
Perhaps our blog readers can add the next line or paragraph in the comments for me to share with Mac. He can then decide if he wants to collaborate on a “choose your own adventure” style of writing or perhaps be motivated to ‘go it alone’.
School’s in for 2014 which means swimming carnivals are on the agenda across the district.
As per last year, I braved the pool to help Mac with his “Macstroke” races, so he could get some points for his sports house. Together we swam the 11-year-boys breaststroke, backstroke & freestyle events…
then this happened!
Two of his mates decided they wanted to swim with him in the last race of the day and negotiated with me to resign my position on Team Mac. With Mac now in 5th grade, I am guessing there’s a very good chance I won’t get a ‘look in’ next year, if today’s success is any indication.
There was also significant desire from Mac’s sports house Captain to include him in the relays, but with a few too many kids making themselves available we opted for the free swim at the end of the day. After all, he’d already competed in every other event possible.
What a wonderful day, what a wonderful sight to watch Mac and his two mates compete as a team.
Who’d want it any other way?
As the month of AAC Awareness (augmentative and alternative communication) draws to a close I was struck by the amount of times the QUIT Victoria ad from 2007 “Voice Within” has been running on TV.
Here’s the link: http://www.quit.org.au/media/?id=28073
It frustrates me that we are constantly bombarded by the insidious messaging prominent in this ad, that, if you can’t speak you can’t communicate – something AAC acceptance is constantly up against.
And… not withstanding, that once again “walking” is put out as the great ‘hope’ not “communication” (ugh).
I accept this ad is important in the context of “quitting smoking” but concede it is quite damaging to the ongoing awareness and acceptance of AAC – it’s pretty offensive.
This maybe have been something addressed (by AAC users and professionals) when it first aired back in 2007 but the reappearance of it during my TV watching was just a little jarring – particularly so when Mac is often watching when these ads come on.
I discuss with him why people choose to use that type of fear based portrayal and why it is so wrong. We lump those people, the “fear mongers” into the same basket as the “pity peddlers” and the “disability charity merchants”… there is no place for them in our world.
Today, on arriving at school I found out Mac’s aide would be arriving a bit late. Mac also had a fill in teacher (but one who has been around the school a fair bit).
What I LOVE…
there was NO suggestion I needed to hang around until the aide arrived.
And better still…
when I offered to hang around they reconfirmed that it was ‘totally unnecessary’ so I happily went on my way. Mac just settled in for roll call with the rest of the class while a couple of kids busied themselves setting up his gear ready to start work.
One of Mac’s IEP goals has always been ‘to become an independent learner with the long term goal of aide support needed only for personal care and not for meeting his education needs’.
It’s one of Mac’s more powerful IEP goals for a number of reasons:
- It sends a message to Mac that he has a role to play in his own learning and removes the suggestion he “needs an aide” from his world.
- It shows we have confidence in, and high expectations for, Mac.
- It helps ensure the teacher takes greater responsibility for Mac’s learning.
- It provides room for Mac’s peers to really learn how to work with, and advocate for, Mac in the absence of another adult (aide).
- It allows the aide confidence to constantly strive to become redundant in their role or, at the very least, invisible in their role.
- And it removes any possibility that threats around ‘withdrawing or reducing aide support’ can be used as a power play by Principals or education departments. If that is ever suggested you can simply say “fantastic, a step closer to our IEP goal, what a great opportunity! What will we need to adjust in the classroom to allow this to work well for the teacher and students?”
A typical school day for Mac has a period of half an hour where where no aide is in the classroom. During the lunch time period the aide was helping develop and facilitate more inclusive opportunities for Mac which has proven successful and has allowed her to now assist other students who actually need more help with the chaos of the playground instead.
So Mac is on his way in meeting that long term IEP goal… days like today only confirm this.
I was collecting Mac from the school excursion at the local zoo and was met by Mac and his mate K.
K: “Mac smells like pig smell” he said in a manner that ‘implied’ I should consider this a good thing.
Image courtesy of cartoon-clipart.com
I admit, I was a teeny bit worried.
Let’s face it – no one wants their kid to be known as “Smelly” or “Stinky Burns” or (deep breath in) “Pig Smell”.
Me: “Oh, OK then – is that good?” I asked wincing just a tad.
K: “Yeah! It’s awesome” he confirmed. “Mac couldn’t reach the pig to pat him so I leant over the fence and patted him then wiped the pig smell on Mac’s hands and arms so he had some too”
Me: “Yep, you’re right – that’s cool.”
So there you have it…pig patting by proxy, sharing pig smells & including your mate.
Yep, that’s what we fight for.
I often hear parents of children with disabilities voice concern over people staring at their kids… but is the alternative better?
Louis Lim’s powerful observation makes me absolutely sure I will continue to embrace any prolonged gazes cast towards Mac. I don’t ever want him to be invisible to his community, invisible to our society or to be “eliminated from our consciousness”.
So I guess I offer a word of caution to those who have difficulty accepting the ‘stare’. “Be careful what you wish for”, there might just be way more at stake if a stare, a sidewards glance, a gawk or an outright ‘gape’ is eliminated – invisibility is a poor alternative.
Check under the fridge for more information on Louis Lim…