Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Santa Clause Parade

We headed downtown to see the Toronto Santa Clause parade last weekend.  It was so much fun!!!  

Yummy Turtles! Can't wait to enjoy some of these over the holidays.

 Hasbro's Mr Monopoly and My Little Pony

Someone named Ashley was so excited when she saw this float coming!!

You can tell she's a Princess! 
She doesn't need a crown. 
She'll turn the world around. 

You can see it in her smile! 
 and the way she wears her hair.     

 The look on Ashley face when she saw the Barbie float above was priceless and worth the trek downtown and the long drive home.   She's hoping for a copy of Princess Charm school and Barbie Blair from Santa Clause!  Santa can you add that to your list please?  She's been a really good girl this year. 

 Kung Fu Panda was a hit! 

Super Mario came over and gave Taylor a high five!!  He enjoyed that as he is a lover of Wii

 Look how much he enjoyed Super Mario.

Everybody enjoyed the Lego float!

Kermit and the muppets too!

When you see Mrs Clause you now Santa is just around the corner!!!! 

 The man of the hour Santa himself!!! 

I feel like it's time to start decorating and shopping. Tell me have you started? 

Friday, 18 November 2011

Ashley 6 years old, a public speaker and self advocate!

The Quest 2011

It was such a privilege this week for Ashley and I to share her road to inclusion story,  at an international conference for educators called "The Quest" hosted by York Region Public School Board.

I was emotional delivering this speech as this was truly a tribute to Ashley's entire team of teachers, aids, and therapists and only with them working together and believing  in my little girl is this such a success story.  There was a 1000+ educators in the room they gave us quite the audience. Public speaking was new to both Ashley and I but we were both very passionate about our message. 

Ashley's road to inclusion.  A road I hope many other kids will travel.

Myself and Ashley getting ready to speak!!  We were all so excited!

My words;
My daughter you're so amazing.
You were born into a storm. Coming into this world, so tiny, and yet instantly fighting for your life. I hope this world can see how wonderful you are.
Your life started in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for months followed by daily therapy to learn to do what comes so easy to most, walking, communicating, eating and even holding a toy. 

Instead of playmates you had dedicated nurses and therapists.  Instead of walks in the park and rides in a stroller you went to therapy, doctor visits and experienced long hospital stays

Ashley speaks - 

 I just want to run and play. 
 I have something to say. 

Then I continue to share...

When Ashley entered Mrs. Gambino’s kindergarten class, she had her challenges but was welcomed by her teacher just the same as her classmates.

September Junior Kindergarten
Ashley’s speech therapist Mrs. Visconti brought her augmentative communication devices. She gave Ashley a voice for the first time!
And if that wasn't great enough that she now has a voice! 

Mrs. Visconti also worked with 
Ashley's teachers on appropriate IEP goals that were measurable and attainable.   She helped Ashley's teachers find the appropriate curriculum even beyond communication but for language and math. 

So Ashley has a fabulous IEP!   Ashley's teachers and Aids were excited with this guidance and modified teaching methods they followed thru and worked hard with Ashley each day. Ashley was able to make progress with all this support and has had her IEP expanded. This team work is the KEY to successful inclusion. 

Dream team meeting!!!
Her   classmates connected when Ashley was able to comment and ask them questions. Ashley was embraced by neighbourhood friends and blossomed through the encouragement of her teachers and classmates.  Seeing Ashley doing so well in kindergarten, her father and I decided NO special classes, NO limits, No labels!   She like her brothers has so much potential and the sky is the limit. We feel it’s important that she learn how to interact with the real world and not be sheltered.   Most importantly we want her to believe in herself, and all of her abilities! Ashley needs to be surrounded by able-bodied peers and this is hard to provide in a separated special education classroom. We feel she will do best if she exposed to typical classroom environment where her peers can be her friends and role models.

Ashley - At school they gave me a voice. My name 
is Ashley.  Will you be my friend?

 Inclusion in education for Ashley is the beginning of inclusion for the rest of her life. Just as we all want to belong, Ashley wants to belong and Ashley wants to be included. 

I don’t want the school to focus on guarding and protecting her. I want the school to focus on giving her lots of chances and choices.

They have assisted her to walk daily and in response, she led her entire class into kindergarten graduation with her walker.

She was given a simple step-by-step communication device and is now learning to use an iPad with even more options to communicate.

Ashley has been given the opportunity to stay for grade one, and we are so appreciative of the incredible support she has received in Ms. Bloom’s class.

We hope to see Ashley’s at this year’s primary skate days and were excited when Janice Lee the school’s physiotherapist suggested of course Ashley could skate with a sledge.

Who would have thought when Ashley was born that she would be up here giving a speech to all of you.  Ashley loves music and I’m sure would be thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in primary choir. I don’t see anything as impossible for my little girl as long teachers and support staff, are open minded and welcoming Ashley can do anything!

I’m confident Ashley will be successful at her home school for all of her elementary years.

I look forward to seeing how OUR family, OUR resource teams and OUR school will continue to collaborate.

With careful planning and resource management Ashley will benefit with greater access to the full curriculum throughout elementary school and even high school.

How will YOU help me to make this happen?

Ashley's closing words; 
I love being in Ms. Bloom’s class.
I love books. I really want to learn to read. 
I enjoy going to birthday parties and playing with my friends in the yard at recess.    I just want to be a kid.
And will you be my friend?   Please

We received a standing ovation from all the educators in the room. !!!

My public speaker  just 6 years and advocating for herself and others in her position look what she can do!
I'm so thankful for this opportunity.  I hope we inspired at least one parent or teacher in the room to see a child with a number of needs as an active learner and raise their expectations for all children to the sky!  

Special thank you to Erin S. one of Ashley's friends and a neighbour who recorded Ashley's thoughts for this presentation on Ashley's step by step.  It was very sweetly done.    By the way Ashley's story was just one of 5 stories shared in this dramatic presentation.  I will do my best to find out when this will air on ROGERS TV channel 63 if anyone is interested in watching this.