Tag Archives: inclusive education

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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puzzing intrigue

This kid does impress me at times.image showing the number pattern in blue squares being 44,88, 264, 1056, 5280and a red graphic representation of Mac's number grid (numbers 1-9, 0, 00) he uses for row/column scanning with two foot switches

OK, I know i’m somewhat biased and, as his mum, it’s my job to be impressed by him… soooo, at the risk of seeming a little ‘braggy’ i’m going to share a snippet from Mac’s recent school work.

Math(s) is still Mac’s favourite subject, it comes easily to him, he enjoys success with it and it’s easier for output than most literacy/writing based activities… so, what’s not to love?

In class Mac and his and his peers (now in 6th grade) were working on number patterns. Mac was working well and was given the first addition number pattern to complete as a warm up.

8, 16, 32, 64, 128

Mac typed “doubling” as his response to the teacher’s aide, ‘M’, to explain the pattern.

He was then required to provide ‘M’ with a subtracting pattern for her to try and work out, and so he typed:

100, 75, 50, 25

She easily identified it was subtracting by 25 each time.

But it none of this was really challenging Mac so ‘M’ upped the anti and asked him to create a really hard number pattern for her to do.

This is what he typed:

44, 88, 264, 1056, 5280

To quote Ron Burgundy, “well that escalated quickly”.

Seems he followed his brief… it is a tricky pattern.  Mac’s aide, ‘M’, worked on it for quite a while but he had her pretty stumped. None of the other kids in class could get it out – Mac assured them it was a proper pattern, that the numbers were correct.

Mac’s teacher, Mrs M worked it out… eventually… and in the end Mac gave the rest of the class the solution.

But it’s these little snippets and insights that intrigue us about this child.  Mac doesn’t use a calculator, it would be too tedious on this communication device.  When asked about his ‘methods’ for many things he says he “just knows it” and can’t explain his working.  Also, on his device he can only type left to right, unlike many instances in calculations where the rest of use might work right to left. So there’s plenty of times we adults are not quite sure what to do next, while Mac just keeps on doing his things his way, and yes, impressing and intriguing us as he goes.

Oh, and the answer?

Well, really I need to give those who love a good maths puzzle the chance to do it themselves.

But be sure to put your solution in the comments, I’ll pop Mac’s explanation he used for the class in the comments too, but don’t peek. 😉

Oh, and just so we don’t get too carried away as ‘braggy parents’, I do love the comment in his school workbook immediately following this entry which said… “Mac then dozed off in his wheelchair for a brief nap after all his work on number patterns”, seems it’s exhausting this math(s).

Way to go on the snoozing at school Macco!

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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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le Tour de Fun…

The Student Representative Council held a ‘bike day’ for all students today.  It was one of our Education Week celebrations.

Top pic kids on bikes, vibrant colours, bike helmets, bright blue school uniforms prevail, Mac in his jogger in the midst of it all.  bottom pic kids in the distance, Mac and his mate riding up to meet the crowd.

In the lead up I talked to Mac about how he might be involved. He likes being on the back of a bike in his bike trailer… we don’t do it very often, we don’t own good bikes and his bike trailer/jogger is generally left at school as it is hard to transport with the wheelchair.

But, here was a great opportunity for his mates to learn how to ride with his jogger on the back.  Our village always has groups of kids riding around the streets… it would be cool if Mac could tag along for the ride without adults needing to always be with them.

Mac and I talked to the ‘lads’ at school.  What kind of bike should we get?

I know we could have borrowed one… as I said, there’s tonnes of bikes in the village.   However, if Mac “owns the bike” it’s always available for his trailer.  We will know it’s in good condition, safe and confident it will have brakes (so often considered “optional”).

The lads knew exactly what we neeeded… a 24″ geared bike, probably mountain bike style.

Off shopping I went.  Our trusty local bike shop so often repairing Mac’s wheelchair and servicing his jogger was my one stop shop.  They had a great little bike, super light weight, they cut me a deal – we were sorted.

Mac now owns a bike!

And the kids now know they can head off with him at any stage for a ride (their leg muscles permitting).

There was not a smile bigger than Mac’s today – he was loving life sitting back while his mates did all the work.

What a fantastic day… here’s a sneak peek of what went down.

One of the kids remarked… “he’s not that heavy, it’s more your energy gets used up listening too him laughing behind you”… I guess he might be a bit distracting.

Thanks to the SRC, you put on a great day.

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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!

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choose your own adventure…

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.

Image shows the text window of a communication device screen with the text "Dragonflies gracefully
flew above the quiet garden.
 Tarn dressed in her favourite yellow eyed dragon shoes and yellow clothes jumped ".  It is the raw text with no punctuation.

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.

blue background with swirls and dragonflies with the chalkboard style text showing the punctuated writing "Dragonflies gracefully
flew above the quiet garden.
 Tarn, dressed in her favourite yellow eyed dragon shoes and yellow clothes, jumped."

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’.

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