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’.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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!
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 Student Representative Council held a ‘bike day’ for all students today. It was one of our Education Week celebrations.
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.
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”.
Our 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!
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…
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.
Book Week 2013 and the focus is on space. I gave Mac a few options for his book week character based on things we already had ‘laying around’ the place.
To his credit he picked the more obscure option – but potentially easiest for me – in Albert Einstein.
He owns a cool Einstein tee-shirt courtesy of a recent trip to the Griffith Observatory, regularly gets around in some star pattern pants when not in his school uniform and he was pretty certain that had red converse hi-tops been around when Einstein was a kid… that’s what he would have worn.
Add some silver and white hair spray, a fake moustache and brows and, there you have it, Mac = Albert (yep, that is all Mac’s own hair).
I particularly loved watching the kids find out who Mac ‘came as’ then, share that with other kids as though it was the most obvious thing in the world, busily telling anyone who would listen “look, Mac came as Albert Einstein” or “did you see Mac? He’s Albert Einstein”.
I did buy Mac this book from the “I Am” series which we will read in the coming days on the Kindle App on the iPad.
I realised I had some of my own space/time continuum failings as I tried to remember what Mac had done for book week each year since Kindergarten. Thanks to some past blog posts & a Facebook post I was able to look back and see just what we actually did in those prior years.
I watch one of Mac’s classmates, “C” scurry back into the room after the bell had gone.
“Have you got one of those wheelchair sheets?” he asked the teacher, “I’m taking one home for my Dad.”
‘What’s a wheelchair sheet?’ you ask …
Well, it seems the kids are working on inventions and mods for Mac’s wheelchair at the moment, some work is going on in class… others are taking it home to keep working on. But “C” decided his Dad will probably have some good ideas on how to make Mac’s chair work for soccer… C’s dad also uses a wheelchair.
I had a good chuckle with C’s mum about the fact her husband is now getting homework.
But… let’s just think about what is going on here.
Mac’s peers and Mac are designing wheelchair modifications and activities to make it possible for Mac to do more stuff WITH THEM.
I’ve seen a couple of the blueprints.
There’s a multi-net cricket catching contraption, a catapult style bowling attachment (yay for the girls for finally coming up with a catapult) and one of the boys is working on how to attach the class carpet sweeper to Mac’s chair, so he can help out with class chores.
Part of this ties in to their “Awesome in August” class challenge, but much of this innovative thinking has followed some of the other kids designing a way for Mac to play handball with them in the playground.
The handball idea was the kids’ initiative. They do seek out our assistance (but generally only when they need me to buy something LOL).
This is our future generation, this is the society we get to look forward to. A society where where inclusion and innovation reign supreme.
So why would anyone want less than this for their kids?
Why do people choose segregated schools, segregated classrooms or segregated activities? Why don’t they want what is on offer in a place where “all means all”, where disability “value adds” and where innovation, problem solving and broader thinking is the norm?
I can see the society I want my son to grow up in, and I look forward to it. I’m not convinced that the other choices don’t actually weaken a society.
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
Easter time again so for Mac’s school that means eggs-on-legs, egg-o-ramas as well as the more traditional hat parade.
The benefit of getting two years of “eggs-on-legs” means the ability to ‘recycle’ – we embraced the chance to re-use one of the ‘eggs’ from last year’s walking egg / wheelchair contraption.
This year we added an Egyptian pharaoh hat left over from a fancy dress party a couple of weeks ago, some ‘walk like an Egyptian arms’ and covered the blue pants with two pieces of fan folded A4 paper stapled together with some glitter cardboard triangles. A final flourish of some glittery paper around the eyes and our 2012 egg was now and “EGG-gyptian”. It was a pretty good pay-off for about 20mins worth of work.
Here’s Mac, Luca and Miss A showing some of the finest eggs-on-legs I’ve ever seen.
And a blast from the past… I found this gem of Mac (R) and Luca (L) way back in pre-school circa 2007 when they were gorgeous little four year olds.
I strongly believe full and authentic inclusion in the pre-school and daycare settings should be the norm for ALL children. Too many families are buying into the idea that Early Intervention centres are where you go ‘instead of’ pre-school. Early intervention (the action not the place) is important but not at ‘any cost’… be wary of those claiming early intervention can only happen in a segregated setting – you might just end up on an undesirable path where your child loses their rightful and valued place in their community. I spoke about this some years back at the Early Childhood Intervention Australia conference… my stance remains unchanged.
You’ll have to excuse the ‘gratuitous self-promotion’ here.
My husband is “numero uno” on the list of ‘amazing people we get to have in our life’ – and he is responsible for the video and the ‘very sweet words’.
Shawn is a phenomenal dad, husband and friend and he is the one who thinks me ‘slipstreaming’ Mac down the pool at a school carnival is awesome…
Me? well… since Mac’s in 4th Grade, I think it’s simply “about time”.
Results for the day saw Mac manage two 2nds and one 6th placing in his swimming carnival events… He did the “mac-stroke”.
The kids were awesome (as always) and cheered for Mac, regardless of house loyalties, revered his results and were busy telling him how ‘good a swimmer’ he is LOL.
Despite what we see on the video with our adult eyes, it seems I am completely invisible to the kids. My being there is of no concern or consequence. Although I did overhear a couple of kids, who obviously did see me, lamenting that their mum didn’t swim with them (cute).
Trying to go slow enough in the off-strokes was the hard bit – we were trying not to “podium” but it was a case of “swim or sink” – so 2nd place it was. Mac was able to catch my slip-stream so most of the way I was able to kick along without having to touch him. Obviously the faster the events the better the slipstream.
The neck-float is from Nancy at Waterway Babies – it is a larger size designed for bigger kids with disabilities. It has proved a great option for us this summer, Mac loves the freedom it provides by being able to be in the pool ‘hands free’.
We did buy a cheap baby size version off Ebay from Hong Kong to test out while we were waiting for this one to arrive. And, while it was OK, the WaterWay brand is noticeably better quality and a better size offering Mac much more stability and confidence to experiment with moving his body under the water.