It comes so naturally.
No grown-ups required.
Kids get it, friends get it.
On a sunny morning, waiting for the ANZAC Day march to set off, you need nothing more than your ‘glare weather friends’.
It comes so naturally.
No grown-ups required.
Kids get it, friends get it.
On a sunny morning, waiting for the ANZAC Day march to set off, you need nothing more than your ‘glare weather friends’.
As luck would have it Mac attended a classmates birthday party where the ‘order of the day’ was a water pistol fight.
I knew someday Mac would absolutely NEED a water pistol, truth be told he should have had one years ago… he’s 11 for crying out loud.
It’s not that I haven’t been looking… it’s just finding the perfect combination of battery powered pistol, ease of switch adapting, wheelchair “mountability” and being able to actually buy it when I found it didn’t come together until late last year.
We were traveling overseas and so I did some “retail research” for those few elusive, but sought after, items.
Courtesy of quick trip into Cerritos Walmart, CA – it looked to be perfect option.
Mac gave as good as he got today at the party, he was drenched but delighted. The kids were stoked with his ‘water pistol weapon of choice’, quite a few of these guys were in his class for the “macifications” two years ago so were also interested in how the gun actually worked and was tweaked.
SO WHAT IS IT… AND WHAT DID WE DO WITH IT?
The Fuze Cyclone Water Blaster from FUZE UK.
Designed for mounting on your bike handlebars it was a great choice for a wheelchair because:
Mac’s Pa undertook ‘hacking duties’ once again and got it switch adapted it for him. He used three plugs coming out from the handlebar attachment. Mac used a head activated switch for the fire option, his left and right options were attached to a joystick but most often maneuvered by his “wheelchair pusher”.
It was a little bit tricky to get the button component apart as it had been glued closed, but, once open and adapted it had the option to screw it back together… a nice surprise.
It would be great if the Fuze team considered the option to build in some disability access as standard – they really be world leaders if they went down that path. I generally joke that switch access for toys costs three cents at build stage, three dollars if you do it yourself or three hundred dollars if you get a disability organisation involved, sadly, it’s not really a joke.
Interestingly, Fuze have quite a few products that could intersect with the youth wheelchair market. The fact they don’t cost a fortune is a welcome relief from the usual slamming people with disabilities get around prices of products they need.
One thing to note with this particular product is many kids will find the standard buttons suitable for use without any hacking required.
Check out the FUZE UK range on the above link, there are some cool wheel lights and even a speaker and mount for your phone or media device which just might suit some wheelchairs out there.
It was lunch time and Mac, having just finished eating, was heading out to the playground.
“Go away,” they said, as Miss M and Mac approached the group of boys.
For a moment, Miss M was worried – these were Mac’s fellow Grade 6 boys.
“Buuuttt,” she started, about to say ‘It’s Mac’ when they quickly clarified.
“Oh, not Mac, he’s with us, we just don’t need you.”
“Fine,” she said, feigning indignation, but secretly thrilled at their autonomy and independence. Clearly no adults and certainly no ‘female adults’ are needed in their midst.
I was relieved to hear it. Mac was a little upset on the second day of sixth grade, thinking he wouldn’t have any friends in his class and what that might mean. This year is a big change for him – it’s his first new teacher in three years.
He knew he wasn’t going to get in the same class as one of his best mates. They completely outwit/outplay/outmaneuver the teachers and don’t do any work at all… all the while looking “very busy”. He was ok with that, he said. But for some reason he thought all the other kids were allowed to pick a friend and he wasn’t. I don’t think that was the case, and after actually getting his class placement, he realised he has some great kids in there and he is much happier.
It’s hard to balance the “sticking with who you know” approach in class friendships or embracing the “new kids mean new opportunities”. Every year I have a moment of a panic – worried that he might not maintain those relationships he formed in the prior year… so far, that has been misdirected worry.
It was great to hear Miss M report back that, on the first morning after being placed in their classes, lots of the kids said: “Right, when do we get to learn how to work with Mac.” Learning about Mac’s technology, working with him is still a revered role. If he stuck with the same kids all the time, those new kids would miss out and so would he… you just never know what allies are around the corner.
So the first week of Grade Six has been OK, here’s to a wonderful final year of primary school.
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?”
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.
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:
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.
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…
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?
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.
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.
Mac finally had his 10th birthday party – some two months after the actual event. We haven’t done a formal birthday party since kindergarten, so we figured it was about time and double digits is always call for celebration.
After much debate, the WHO, WHAT & WHEN was settled.
all the year four boys (28) in total with 20 coming out for the fun
dates were negotiated with others planning similar festivities around the same time
activities were discussed, plans hatched and invitations sent
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE
The party started with a bike ride. Mac’s bike jogger was attached to Shawn’s bike, and off they went. All but three of the kids had bikes so those guys took the iPad and filmed the ‘riders’.
A treasure hunt was next on the agenda.
We set up the treasure hunt so that Mac’s could have his iPad using Proloquo2Go (P2Go) speak the clue. When the kids arrived at each location the clue envelope simply pointed them to the next colour clue Mac was required to give them. What worked particularly well was that it didn’t matter how far ahead some kids got, they needed to wait for Mac and his push-buddies to arrive before they could move on. We didn’t do teams it was an “all for one and one for all” type of event.
Here’s how it worked with P2Go, the clues and the audio (a bluetooth speaker made it loud enough for all to hear).
CLICK VIDEO TO RUN (FULL SCREEN AVAILABLE)
So, I wonder, would you have found your way?
With some daylight remaining before the bonfire lighting we decided to give the “paint bomb catapult” a go. We had set up a water balloon catapult with the plan to pelt a 1m x 1m canvas with paint filled water balloons fired from the catapult. It might have worked… if we had some better shots and some harder timber behind the canvas. Instead, we reverted to 60ml syringes, paint tubes, cups and 20 kids (channeling Lord of the Flies on occasion) to decorate the canvas.
While Mac can’t do any of this physical stuff (until I build that switch adapted, self loading catapult) what he does get to enjoy is an amazing artwork, made by his mates, which will hang on his wall above his bed.
The weather stayed fine and the wind didn’t pick up too much. So, the bonfire was lit, sparklers were had and bellies were fed.
We had an awesome day and were pleased to be able to give Mac a great party, but also thrilled to let all the kids enjoy the same sort of stuff I got to do as a kid growing up here on the farm.
So the next one isn’t needed until 16, right?
I could see them scooting along from the other side of the playground, three boys, one pushing Mac in his wheelchair, the other running beside. There was a look of intent on their faces, they knew where they were headed… I had no such insight.
Across the basketball court, along the path, turn, oops steady the chair, back on the path, down another level, now heading away from me.
It’s too early for lunch, I thought… why are they headed down to the dining hall?
It dawned on me… you know I have never taken Mac into a boys toilet block. I guess you don’t when a) you are female and b) they aren’t actually accessible.
I chuckled as I thought about the fact there was no hesitation that Mac went with them, the other two (or one… who can be sure) obviously needed to go, so they all went.
I never considered part of Mac having an ordinary and inclusive life would mean going with his mates “to the dunny¹ for a leak²”.
As they were heading back into the playground Mac’s aide & I walked up to them and said, “we might take Mac to get ready for canoeing and go to the toilet” (adult code for diaper change).
“We just went” was the response by Mac’s mates in unison…
“Did Mac go?” we asked (somewhat bemused).
“Oh, nah, he didn’t, just us” they said flippantly, “alright then” they offered as they gave Mac up to Miss M and scooted back off to where they were going.
I love that they didn’t think twice about Mac being with them, I love they presumed they’d all gone since they were all in there, and I love they weren’t even the slightest bit phased by Mac ‘not going’. It was more a case of “nah, he didn’t get his act together to go” rather than “OMG how would that even work”.
But, more than anything, I love that by being in amongst his peers Mac learns more age appropriate boy stuff than I could ever teach him.
1. dunny: Australian slang term for any toilet/lavatory 2. leak: slang for urinating
I know there are people who wonder why some of us fight so hard for the philosophy of inclusion to simply be the norm.
Today was a reminder of why we do what we do. The concept of inclusion isn’t really about Mac, it’s not about me, or us as a family… it’s for all of us, our entire community, our entire society. It makes us all better people.
According to Mac’s teacher, this is how things went down today…
Friday is sports day and today’s activity was touch footy (touch football/AusTag/flag football/toque de futebol).
Under Mr B’s guidance the team captains get four picks each – then Mr B divvies up the rest to avoid someone being the potential ‘last pick’.
Mr B was absolutely amazed when Mac was the second pick on one of the teams. He said, “it wasn’t something I expected – but it was awesome to witness”.
It is these little moments that make you realise what great young people we are growing by ensuring they are ALL together, authentically together. Not as part of a program, or a unit or by special invitation for part of a day, or for certain subjects or by volunteering to be with the ‘special kids’ as a rostered job.
To these kids Mac is just one of them. Sure, they know he has a disability… they just don’t care.
For the record… Mr B & I both acknowledged we may not have picked Mac if we were captains. He kind of sucks at touch footy and we are both, clearly, a little bit too competitive and perhaps not as ‘evolved’ as these kids…
As it turned out he played briefly then switched it up to become a touch judge/linesman.
To be honest, I’m not sure what is funnier – Mac playing touch footy in the chariot or Mac being a linesman (bearing in mind his vision impairment). I guess touch footy at CPS just became a ‘game of chance’.
So the last day of Grade 3 has arrived. This is Tim’s last day as he has now completed his teaching degree and next year moves onto the local casual rosters with the hope of picking up a full time teaching position in the area.
We always knew we only had the year with Tim in the teacher’s aide role and, while we are sad to see him go, we know there is a bond between he and Mac that will likely stick. I chuckled when one of the teachers told me about the boys at the class party and how Mac was eating green icing of Tim’s finger… like it was the most natural thing on earth.
I am really proud of Tim – he has been so open to learning and embracing the mindset we share about disability. He is going to be a very different teacher to the one he would have been 12 months ago. It is wonderful to hear him acknowledge those same sentiments. Tim has established some great opportunities for Mac that I believe will set him up for the remainder of his primary schooling in a very social and engaged way with his peers.
As a farewell gift for him from Mac and the class I had to sneak around to all the kids for them to give me ‘words to describe Tim’ and develop a ‘wordle’ which I then framed for him as a piece of art to hang on his wall. He was pretty thrilled with his wordle and the kids were blown away seeing their words turned into something so permanent and lasting.
Thank you Tim for the most amazing year. Mac will be working on learning about text messaging & emailing in 2013, and since he has your details in his iPad I expect you’ll be at the top of his list ;-).
Shawn has just returned back for breakfast after his overnight at Mac’s school camp. Mac is sleeping in a dorm room with three other boys and Shawn is in the next room… It was decided Shawn head down each night just to help out since Mac’s sleeping is still a fairly new phenomenon.
To give Mac and the boys some independence we decided to give them a walkie talkie to tell Shawn if there were any problems. We had thought the rooms were adjoining but this wasn’t the case so the walkie talkies were a good option and the boys were keen to take on that role.
Apparently the walkie talkie conversations through the night went something like this…
9:30 PM LIGHTS OUT
All boys in bed…
Mac pretty much asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.
9:35 PM FIRST CALL
Tom: crrrcht… he’s still OK. Over.
Shawn:crrrcht… OK (chuckling), how about I’ll
presume he’s fine UNLESS I get a call.
9:45 PM SECOND CALL
Tom: crrrcht… Shawn, Mac’s making a noise
and we can’t get to sleep
Shawn: crrrcht… What kind of noise.
Tom: crrrcht…[mimics Mac’s delightful lip smacking]
Shawn: crrrcht… Oh, that’s not that a bad noise (thinking of all the dramatic noises it could have been), maybe you guys aren’t trying hard enough to get to sleep. See how you go if you just ignore it.
Tom: crrrcht… oh, OK then. Over.
Shawn checked them a little while later… all sound asleep.
4.30 AM THIRD CALL
Tom: crrrcht… umm Shawn, Mac’s making a weird moaning noise.
Shawn went in to assist. Only to find Mac really sound asleep not making a peep. As he rolled Mac, just in case he was a bit uncomfortable, he heard a “weird moaning sound” from one of the other beds….
Ahhh, too funny, Mac wasn’t actually the culprit. Sid, one of his roomies, was the ‘maker of the sleep moaning sounds’.
Tom settled back in and all boys slept for a few more hours.
Well done guys – you are all kinds of awesome!
I checked the battery of the Step by Step Communicator today.
As I pressed it to see if it was working I was thrilled to hear the last recorded message was “put some swear words on it” clearly annunciated by the voice of a nine or 10 year old boy.
So, it appears, the boys have had it out in the playground with them – I am pleased Mac is learning how to be a nine year old boy the right way.
It warms my heart to know he is being taught some inappropriate words by his peers. And, while not ‘explicit’ in the curriculum documents I have read… I am sure it is implied. 😉
Inclusive Education… what more could you ask for!