Category Archives: friends

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’.

VIDEO DESCRIPTION
Shot 1: Image of Mac and his peers facing into the sun. Mac’s eyes closed from the glare.
Shot 2: a friend holding her hand up to provide shade for Mac’s eyes.

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water warfare for everyone…

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.

And. There. It. Was.

Courtesy of quick trip into Cerritos Walmart, CA – it looked to be perfect option.

And. It. Is.

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.
Image showing teenage boy riding a bmx bike with water pistol mounted on the handle bars (head & shoulder shot).  Inset pics show close up of the button control unit to press with your thumb to operate the water pistol, mounted next to the hand grip.  Additional closeup of the water pistol firing water.Designed for mounting on your bike handlebars it was a great choice for a wheelchair because:

  • it already had mounting options,
  • it already had the three key operational functions assigned to buttons,
  • it was battery operated.

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.

close up of the button firing unit with the three plugs coming out the side ready for plugging  switches into.  Small grey component with blue directional buttons and an orange fire buttonIt 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.

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Filed under Access all Areas, friends, The 'mod' squad, things that make me go "glll"

go away…

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.

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it’s probably better…

“So, how big will Mac get when he grows up?” came the query from two of his 6th grader friends, J1 & J2.

“ ‘Cause we move him from his wheelchair to his jogger now you know,” they added.

Think about that for a moment … their motivation for this knowledge comes from the fact they’ve taken it upon their 11 and 12-year-old selves to lift and shift Mac to whatever chair he wants to be in. And, more importantly, obviously plan on lifting their mate when they are grown ups – they just want to know how big he’s going to be so they know they’ll be strong enough.

They were pretty content with the fact Mac is likely to always be a little bit smaller than them (potentially significantly smaller than some of these very strapping, super sporty lads).

The conversation changed tack. “So, how did Mac actually get his disability again?” asked one of them. Every so often, different kids seek more information. I gave them a quick recap, offering the odd clarification they needed along the way – they knew most of it, but clearly just wanting to sure it up in their own minds.

And then came their take on past events.

“Well, that kind of sucked,” said J1.

“But I can’t really imagine Mac any other way … he wouldn’t be him.

“And really,” he went on, “it’s probably better. If he was like us, imagine just how much trouble he would get himself into.”

My heart sang!

“It’s. Probably. Better.” Did you hear that?

Mac’s mates just ‘get him’. They know him, know he can be a villain, that he can be cheeky, facetious and, I’m sure, at times disrespectful. They’ve worked out not actually saying or acting on everything you think or feel might actually be to your benefit. It works for Mac. Just quietly, these are a couple of kids who know all too well the pain of dealing with poor choices, they’ve quite a bit of experience over their primary school years – they are awesome kids … they’re just, shall we say, “spirited”.

But this is bigger than just ‘getting Mac’. This is what happens when people with disability are truly and authentically part of their community. Disability isn’t viewed as the ‘worst thing ever’ where ‘death’ is preferable to living with a disability.

It was just what my heart needed to hear.

Considering the recent commentary here in Australia and internationally where we have been slammed by the media and the “Dying with Dignity marketing campaign” which so readily sends a message that disability is undignified and people should be able to choose death over living with a disability I feel somewhat comforted that this next generation won’t be so ignorant.

For those kids/families growing up in an inclusive community, I have a renewed sense of confidence that disability fear-mongering will not get the traction it currently does by so many in our society. In fact, I was reminded of another conversation Mac and I had with his mate K last year, when K said he “kind-of wishes he could have a tummy tube just like Mac’s so that if he was too tired to eat after footy training, or if his mum made a ‘disgusting dinner’, he could stick it down the tube”. It is quite amazing the different insight into disability Mac’s peers get compared to those adults who would argue it’s better to die than be fed via a tube.

If you want to understand why the Dying with Dignity legislation and campaigns are so dangerous to people with a disability please read this article. These people, far smarter and more articulate than me, can explain it so much better.

Disability and Euthanasia, 28 Nov 2014

So, as International Day of People with a Disability draws to a close for 2014, I take great comfort in the fact there are kids in our midst who don’t see disability as something dreadful or undignified. These kids, because there is no “us and them” where “all means all” just get disability for what it is … no big deal, or in some instances … something that might actually be “better”.

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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.

 

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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.

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swim like you’ve never swum before …

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?

 

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‘pig smell’ and why it’s worth fighting for…

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.

Cartoon image of a pink pig with flies buzzing around it to insinuate it's stinky.

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.

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the lost boys…

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.

the who…

all the year four boys (28) in total with 20 coming out for the fun

the when…

dates were negotiated with others planning similar festivities around the same time

the what…

activities were discussed, plans hatched and invitations sent

screen grab of party invitation. text says: You're invited to Mac's Birthday party along with all the Grade 4 boys. Weather permitting we will light a “baby bonfire” at 5pm(ish), if grown-ups wish to come and stay for a sausage sandwich at 5pm & help look after your own kids around the fire that would be fantastic. No birthday presents required. If you want to put a gold coin in a treasure chest that we will put out, Mac can use that money towards something he wants/needs. Feel free to bring your bikes & helmets and be sure to wear your oldest clothes as we may head into the bush or go on a treasure hunt. RSVP info adds: As you can probably guess we aren’t so used to those fast moving, walking & talking variety kids, so anyone wishing to hang around & lend a hand is more than welcome. Also, while the kids have confidence in Mac’s ability to pass messages on to us, and it’s great if they let ‘him know’ they are coming, can you please make sure you let us know too ;-) Please let us know of any allergies

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’.

shot of all 20 kids in the distance on a country road 17 on bikes and three running behind. Mac in his trailer on the back of the bike. more like bike specs in the distance than clear images.

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.

shot of the splatter artwork done by the kids. Lots of colour and splats of red smaller splats of green, purple, blue. To touch it would be fun there are some parts that sit almost 1 inch off the page.

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.

one night shot of lots of kids with lit sparklers above their head, the other of the bonfire just starting to take off with kids sitting on a grassy knoll

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?

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in which the protagonist becomes the advocate…

“That’s unjust” Mac’s classmate told the teacher.

It wasn’t a obvious or major incident according to the teacher, but Mac’s peer was entirely right.  It seems everyone in the class had just been given some sort of choice or option in class and Mac wasn’t offered the same opportunity.

Hence the declaration to the teacher, by Mac’s mate, that it was “unjust”.  Mac’s teacher agreed the student was absolutely right.  Mac’s teacher, Mr B, as he always does, took it on the chin and notched another one up to the “ongoing learning opportunities” you get when Mac is in your class.  More delightfully, Mr B, shared the incident with me, clearly showing a sense of pride that his students will speak up when things aren’t “just”.

Oh, and you might remember this classmate from this post: https://inkyed.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/a-good-friend-to-me/

Now nine years old, he has grown into a considerate, delightful young man with (clearly) an innate sense of social justice.

A good friend indeed.

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the “wee three” at school camp

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?

Across the pavement, turn again, sharp right, and then…
straight into the boys toilets.BoysToiletSign

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

 

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the footy draft and the kid who was ‘second pick’…

 

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.

It makes us gooder

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’.

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in which Tim becomes a teacher…

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.

THE WORDLE & THE LADS

TIMwordleframed

TIM&MAClastdayframed

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 ;-).

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December 20, 2012 · 11:44 pm

crrrcht… he’s still OK!

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!

 

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i swear…

 

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!

 

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