Thursday, 31 March 2011

Inlcusive Education Petition - Education for all!

Ashley would love it if you take a moment to sign this on-line petition !!

Education for all: Every child to have the right, to access all aspects of curricular and non-curricular activities regardless, of any difficulties or special needs.  
The Education Act in Ontario guarantees a child's right to an appropriate education, regardless of any difficulties or special needs. We are requesting that the Government of Ontario enact rules and regulations that force Boards of Education to include the child's right to access all aspects of curricular and non-curricular activities regardless of any difficulties or special needs.
We are calling for all children with special needs to be accepted to be full members and partners in their schools and community, be able to equally access curricular and non- curricular activities and that is to include: Sports clubs, Music, Drama and arts clubs, Social clubs, Social activities, parties, school trips, special curricular activities, summer programs and camps offered by school boards etc
We call the Ministry of Education to make an immediate change to stop the indirect discrimination (1) of special needs children in our schools. Make our schools a place where there is “Education For All”.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Ashley is 6... what a birthday!

I can not believe my little girl is 6 years old.  She has come so far and there is nothing stopping this little girl she sure can shine!  She is in love with Barbie and now Justin Bieber. I mean who can blame her.  Love me, Love me say that you Love me!

She is having a big party with 16 friends next weekend okay I got a little carried away with the guest list  but it's a gymnastics party at Gymalaya even I won't have been able to image my girl doing gymnastics a few short years ago.  We went to a classmates party there earlier this year and she was all giggles and running to keep up with her friends.  The staff were warm and had no reservations about helping her to participate in everything even climbing up a rock wall or swinging from a bar.   I'm so excited for her.    Just happen to believe that my girl turning six is more then a miracle and needs to be celebrated in a big way.   I feel so blessed for each day I have with the sweetest girl in the entire world. I'm not at all biased am I. Love this girl!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Inclusive Education - Emily Eaton Thank you

Ashley at her local public school where she is included!

I was told by another Mom to read the case of Emily Eaton.  These are the parents I'm very thankful to for paving Ashley's way to inclusive education.  Thank you Eaton family for insisting I have the final say in which classroom best meets my daughters needs.

Also please read my daughter  Ashley's benefits of Inclusive Education

Emily Eaton's case from the following website

Eleven-Year-Old Emily Eaton Wins Landmark Charter Victory

On February 15, 1995, the Court of Appeal for Ontario released a landmark decision. This decision will have a major impact on the education rights of children with disabilities, not just in Ontario, but throughout Canada.
The decision ended a three-year legal fight by Emily Eaton and her parents against the Brant County Board of Education to have Emily integrated into the regular class at her neighbourhood school. In its decision, the Court of Appeal, the highest court in Ontario, recognized that under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, segregating children with disabilities in special classes against their parents’ wishes violates their equality rights under section 15(1)* of the Charter. The Brant County Board of Education has 60 days from the date of the decision to bring a motion for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Emily, who has cerebral palsy, is 11 years old and lives in the rural community of Burford, near Brantford, Ontario. She spent kindergarten and grade one at Maple Avenue School in a regular class. However, during grade one, the school decided that Emily should be sent to a special class for students with disabilities. Her principal requested an Identification Placement and Review Committee (IPRC), provided for under Ontario’s Education Act, to change her placement from the regular class to a segregated class for students with disabilities at a school in Brantford. Emily’s teachers and other school officials told the IPRC that they did not feel they could meet her needs in the regular classroom, and that, because of Emily’s difficulty communicating, they weren’t able to assess whether or not she was learning.
Emily’s parents strongly believed that their daughter’s needs could be met in the regular class. They felt that nothing could be done in the special class to meet her needs that could not be done just as well in the regular classroom. The Eatons also believed that their daughter would be psychologically harmed if she was sent to a segregated class -- but the IPRC agreed with the school.
The Eatons refused to allow their daughter to be moved to a segregated class. They appealed to the Special Education Appeal Board, which upheld the IPRC. From there, they appealed the case, under provisions contained in the Education Act, to a Special Education Tribunal. At the tribunal hearing, the Eatons called extensive expert evidence about the benefits of integration and the potential harm of segregation, and testified about why they believed Emily should be in the regular class. Central to their position was the belief that in order to be truly part of her community, Emily needed to go to her neighbourhood school with her peers. The school board’s witnesses testified that they were unable to assess whether Emily was learning in the regular class, and stated that they felt the special class would be "better" for her.
The tribunal rejected the Eatons’ arguments and ordered that Emily be placed in the special class. In its reasoning, the tribunal stated that Emily’s needs were not being met in the regular class, and that it was in her "best interests" to be placed in a segregated class. However, the tribunal did not make any findings about what would be done in the special class to meet Emily’s needs that could not be done in the regular class.
The decision was released in November, 1993, when Emily was in grade three. Her parents immediately launched an appeal and, rather than allow their daughter to be segregated, moved Emily to a Catholic school which had a fully integrated program, pending the outcome of the court case.
The Eatons were unsuccessful in trying to overturn the tribunal’s decision at the first level of judicial review, the Ontario Divisional Court. In December, 1994, they went to the Court of Appeal for Ontario, which entailed three full days of legal argument. In addition to submissions from the Eatons’ and the school board’s lawyers, the Court heard from the Attorney General of Ontario, the Canadian Disability Rights Council and the Ontario Association for Community Living, all of which had intervened in the case.
In a decision which will have a far-reaching impact on the education rights of children with disabilities, the Court of Appeal overturned the Divisional Court’s decision and found in favour of Emily and her parents. The Court held that forcibly segregating a child because of her disability violates her equality rights under Section 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Court also considered the historical reality of exclusion experienced by persons with disabilities in our society, recognizing that the "history of discrimination against disabled persons, which the Charter sought to redress and prevent, is a history of exclusion." The Court found that by excluding Emily from the regular class and denying her the opportunity to go to her neighbourhood school with children her own age, the school board had discriminated against her and violated her Charter rights.
In coming to this decision, the Court recognized that being forced to attend a segregated class resulted in discrimination, and explicitly identified the negative, stigmatizing effects of being forcibly excluded. The Court also held that making distinctions on the basis of disability is no less discriminatory than distinctions based on race or gender.
In addition to acknowledging the harmful effects of segregation, the Court also recognized the benefits of including children like Emily in the regular class and the importance of inclusion in the school system to the success of community living. It stated that: "Inclusion into the main school population is a benefit to Emily because without it, she would have few opportunities to learn how other children work and how they live. And they will not learn that she can live with them and they with her." This concept, in fact, reflects the Eatons’ own reasons for wanting Emily to be integrated. As Clayton Eaton testified before the Special Education Tribunal:
"I think our community includes [Emily’s] neighbourhood school. And the people who live in our community, the children that she will grow up with and [who] will be part of her community when she’s an adult, go to that school. They need to have an understanding of Emily, they need to know Emily, they need to be integrated with Emily now... We can’t bring her back at the end of her school career and plug her into that community. She has to be there now and grow up with those children and those children have to grow up with her..."
The Court concluded that the Education Act itself violates the Charter because it gives school boards the discretion to place children with disabilities in segregated classes against their parents’ wishes. The Court therefore ordered that a provision be read into the Education Act preventing school boards from placing children with disabilities in segregated classes against their parents’ wishes except as a last resort. School boards must provide the least segregated placement possible which meets the child’s needs, and, before moving a child over a parent’s objection, a board must show why a less exclusionary placement can’t meet the child’s needs. The Court held that the tribunal had not applied the Charter in this way, and had not held the school board to the standards required by the Charter. The Court ordered that Emily was therefore entitled to a new tribunal hearing before a different panel of decision makers in order to have her educational placement determined in accordance with her equality rights.
This case will have a major impact on the educational rights of children with disabilities. The Court of Appeal’s decision will apply to all school boards in the province of Ontario, and will require those school boards to comply with Charter rights of children with disabilities. The case will also have a significant impact on the education systems of other provinces and on the development and recognition of disability rights generally, not just for education, but in all areas of life.
* (NOTE: Section 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states: "Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability."
TEL: (204) 947-0303
FAX: (204) 942-4625

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Benefits of inclusion clear

Recent Toronto Star article on my hot topic.   

Also please read Ashley's personal benefits of inclusion at this recent post too. And PLEASE  comment I'd love to hear what everyone thinks about inclusion.

Benefits of inclusion clear

Published On Tue Nov 23 2010
Heydon Park's integrated girls school.
Heydon Park's integrated girls school.
Re: Trustees strike a blow against junk science, Opinion, Nov. 17
It is interesting to the families we support to see such an article about “segregated schools.” The families we serve have children with differing abilities. Many of them are being placed in segregated schools and/or segregated classes because parents are afraid to leave them in their community school where, they are told, they will not receive the necessary support services.
The Ontario government and Ministry of Education says they believe and support equity and inclusion but have not insisted on this approach as have other provinces have done. The TDSB, the largest school board in Canada, between 2002 and 2007 increased self-contained segregated enrolment by 39 per cent, according to its own Financial Facts.
Yet, research is clear: children in robust inclusive settings have good general health, make academic progress, look forward to going to school, and get along with peers (Canadian Council on Learning, PALS, Statistics Canada, 2001). Research also indicates that there are no benefits to special education class placement and a unified (regular and special) system of education must prevail (Council of Administrators of Special Education, 1993).
Authentic research not “junk science” clearly demonstrates benefits of inclusion for each and every student and community. If so, why is the continuing segregation of students with differing abilities and additional needs not receiving attention?

Janis Jaffe-White and Reva Schafer, Toronto Family Network

Grade one planning already - Benefits of Inclusion

Yesterday my husband and I met with our local school to plan for Ashley's 1st grade.  The school feels she will need a one on one aid next year and they would like to send her to a community class. We feel strongly that she is excelling and progressing here at home with her friends and brothers by her side.    I was very thankful  to have CTN supporting us at this meeting.  I'm also  extremely  thankful for the thousands of parents that fought for 30 years before Ashley was even born to ensure kids with special needs had rights  to attend their home school, be safe and not be excluded.  

Benefits of Ashley’s inclusion at Public School

Over the past two years while in  Junior Kindergarten and Senior Kindergarten  Ashley has blossomed in every way possible.  Ashley entered kindergarten unable to walk, talk or even eat. 

She is now walking unaided with her Kaye Walker, this would not have been possible if she didn’t get to practice multiple times a day here at school.

She is gaining a pound a month since last September and is now close to 30 pounds; 8 pounds more than when she began SK.  Eating with her peers has been extremely beneficial in her weight gain.   She is making nice progress on drinking with assistance too.  She very much enjoys lunchtime at school. 
Ashley always has many friends who want to sit at her table for lunch or snack.

She is now reaching and even pointing for her communication cards rather then using eye gaze.  This has opened up a whole new world to her.  She is hopefully moving to a dynamic voice shortly. 

Ashley has made progress on her IEP goals and has shown that she is able to identify, to her teacher, shapes, animals, some numbers and letters.  Her IEP goals have now been expanded.  She loves reading and is working very hard on literacy skills.  She is now able to grip a pencil to scribble and form lines.

Socially Ashley is able to attend school all day and is acting and behaving appropriately for her age.  She is welcomed and accepted by her peers.  Ashley often times can be seen surrounded by friends at  School and at the local park.  She is invited for play dates and attends their Birthday Parties.  She is truly accepted for who she is.  Her friends don’t see her limitations they see a little girl who smiles and enjoys their company and shares similar interests.

Ashley is patient, gentle with her peers, and enjoys exploring all the learning centers of her classroom.  
She is participating fully and successfully in the kindergarten program.  She demonstrates imaginative play at home and school.  She is also demonstrating to us more and more everyday that she is emulating her peers and brothers. 

We are very thankful to the school, staff and students for embracing our daughter and helping her to reach her potential. We feel Ashley will be successful in 1st grade next year right here with her brothers and peers by her side encouraging her on.

Mom and Dad

Ashley (pictured between her friends)
The benefits of inclusive education are numerous for both students with and without disabilities.
Benefits of Inclusion for students with disabilities
1. Friendships
2. Increased social initiations, relationships and networks
3. Peer role models for academic, social and behavior skills
4. Increased achievement of IEP goals
5. Greater access to general curriculum
6. Enhanced skill acquisition and generalization
7. Increased inclusion in future environments
8. Greater opportunities for interactions
9. Higher expectations
10.  Increased school staff collaboration
11.  Increased parent participation
12.  Families are more integrated into community

Benefits of Inclusion for Students Without Disabilities
1. Meaningful friendships
2. Increased appreciation and acceptance of individual differences
3. Increased understanding and acceptance of diversity
4. Respect for all people
5. Prepares all students for adult life in an inclusive society
6. Opportunities to master activities by practicing and teaching others
7. Greater academic outcomes
8. All students needs are better met, greater resources for everyone
There isn’t any research that shows any negative effects from inclusion done appropriately with the necessary support and services for students to actively participate and achieve IEP goals.

** Benefits of Inclusion was found here at Kids  

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Today was sweet

Today Ashley attending a dance class at CTN (Children's Treatment Network).  She was tired after a night of very little sleep and was complaining minutes before during a quick stop for the potty.  Once we entered the room and the music began she was all smiles and giggles this is her thing for sure.  

There was two instructors and four kids including one of her friends. She was so cute laughing the whole time and was able to follow some of the instructions to walk in different directions, freeze on demand, clap and even get down low to the ground. 

Both of us enjoyed every minute of it.  The hour went by in a flash.  I hope CTN will make this a regular activity because Ashley will be the first one to sign up.

On top of dancing Ashley used this class as an opportunity to pull out her new proloquo2go voice and with my iPhone she introduced herself to the instructor and and said hello.  Today was pretty sweet! 

Here's a look at top page of her new voice .. the coolest thing ever for my girl. 
She just needs an iPad2.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Remembering Zack

I met Heather a real life super mom and her precious son Zack  not long ago when he was due for his g-tube surgery we connected instantly realizing  we were on similar  paths raising our very special kids.  Heather had high expectations for her son and family life and Zack just shined and lived up to it all.  A truly amazing family.  The past week feels like a bad dream to me.

My heart broke to hear  Zack's fighting for his life then the post no one wants to see. Zack is amongst the angels.   Heather has been so open and brave to share Zack's story he will never be forgotten.  He has touched so many. My thoughts stray to his beautiful smile each day.  I'm hugging Ashley a little tighter.   I pray for peace and strength for this family.  Stop by Heather's blog to read her touching tribute to her beloved Zack.

Consider a donation in Zack's name to Sickkids it means so much too this family to give back. 

Monday, 7 March 2011

Please pray for Zack today!

A good friend and neighbour's sweet little boy is fighting for his life at the Cardiac ICU today down at Sickkids.  His Mom is so amazing she blogs over here at Searching for my inner Super Mommy.    He has such an amazing life but caught the flu bug and a lung infection and it's too much for his little body.  Send Heather your  prayers and well wishes over at her blog.   Stay strong Zackie your such a fighter!

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Warning Potty Post

Doing the Potty Dance with Ashley  so AMAZING she totally gets it!! This is something we have been working on for years I wish I was kidding about that too but no.    I started potty training Ashley as soon as she turned two despite the fact that she was unable to sit yet without support. I picked up a pink potty and assisted her to sit on the potty from time to time from the day she turned 2.  I even read a  book on the topic geared for parents of Autism  that was all I could find.  I didn't find the book to be too helpful honestly.  

Look how little she was when I started this process... she 2 1/2  here and attached the feeding pump in this picture too. It's almost unbelievable how far she has come.  

Over the last few years there has been plenty of time were the potty was not getting much use  I have to admit - that was my fault not Ashley's. But before starting JK I have  been pretty good about creating a routine but I wasn't always successfully in following through her three brothers and many other things would get in the way for days or weeks at a time.  Lately I realized it's me who needs to change to make this a success  Ashley's  so ready and I was holding her  back.   I'm so thrilled to report that she has been staying dry for many days at home now.  My schedule is frequent but not perfect however she has a way of calling out (a bit of a cry) we head straight to the potty and she goes.  She's so proud of herself too.  I just need to continue following thru I don't want to be the one holding her back.  

Barriers or not like walking and talking is not going to hold my girl back then neither is her Mom.  I'm posting this here to ensure I continue following thru with the routine.  Can't wait for warm weather perhaps I need to  work on getting her baby brother out of diapers too. 

Here's another picture from just the other week look how much she's grown she waiting with her brother for her grandparents arrival for family day. 

Set your expectations high and your children rise to the occasion.

On another exciting note I'm planning a birthday party her later this month  with friends at Gymalaya !!  I can't wait. 

Thursday, 3 March 2011

iPad and Proloquo2go!!

I'm so excited for my girl, she has this amazing alternative and augmentative communication team from CTN (York regions Children's Treatment Network).  The team consists of a Speech therapist, Occupational therapist and I believe two CDAs (Communication Disorders Assistant).  These wonderful ladies made Ashley's communication book, and set up her kindergarten classroom with picture symbols throughout so Ashley could have a voice and be as social as possible.  They guided her Teacher and her Educational Assistant  on how to best work with Ashley to get her communicating and how to teach Ashley's literacy at her level.  The also worked with the School's SERT (Special Ed Teacher)    to ensure Ashley workable literacy goals were measurable in her IEP (Individual Education Plan).   This team listens to me and Ashley, they are encouraging and they believe in my girl. They also never say we can't do that or Ashley's not ready for that either. They are always positive and excited about Ashley.   I love their attitude!!

I asked them what they thought about upgrading Ashley's Voice ( Communication Binder) to a dynamic device.   I also sent in a few  links of other very young  amazing kids using the iPad for their voice.   And here's the good news.  They agreed to convert Ashley Communication Book to the iPad and Proloquo2go!!   I'm not sure how we got so lucky but I'm thrilled.  And it's going to be the first iPad communication device this team has set up!!!

Only glitch is I have to provide the iPad and the app the government would not fund a dynamic device for Ashley unless she can jump through hoops and dance around in circles. (Okay really there is super long list of things she needs to communicate to them she understands which is challenging without a voice so they might as well ask her to jump through hoops)

I'm guessing that is because traditionally these devices  go for big bucks like 10K or so for a Dynavox.  The government and insurance companies here don't want to spend that kind of money on kids unless they can already show they are competent with these devices.  Problem for Ashley is she will learn to use a dyanmic device but only if  it's provided to her as she needs to be taught but it will take some time.   Silly government and Insurance companies don't want to give kids like Ashley a fighting chance!!!  That needs to change but thank god for Apple and Proloquo2go for making dynamic speech output devices more affordable and accessible.  At least now many more Parents can fund their own kids devices and apps.

In the meantime I found this amazing family hosting a iPad giveaway this month. MarissasBunny visit their blog and read Marissa's story.  Such an amazing family.    They have a beautiful daughter who's 3 and has many challenges so they clearly understand and want to giveback and help others.  They are giving away 5 iPads and hope to raise funds to giveaway another 15 to special needs kids that could benefit from an iPad  - kids just like Ashley.

How about the new iPad2 released today?  I watched the promo video the cover doubles as a stand for better typing or in Ashley case ease of use.   I'm sold already.