Thursday, May 30, 2019

Inclusive Education Award 2019

Each year the Newfoundland and Labrador Association for Community Living along with the Department of Education presents an Inclusive Education Award to a school that has shown an exceptional spirit and commitment to creating a space that is welcoming and inclusive for students with an intellectual disability.

I was honoured to be part of the selection panel once again this year, to assist in reviewing the nominations and to help choose a deserving school for the 2019 Inclusive Education Award.

Inclusion is a way of thinking and acting that allows every individual to feel accepted, valued and safe. As a parent of a child with a disability, this is what I want most for my son. When he goes to school, I want him to feel included and valued, and encouraged to build on his own unique abilities.

Inclusive school communities are those with an open, welcoming attitude that respect every individual, while valuing and celebrating differences and diversity.

When reviewing the nominations for this year’s award, it was wonderful to see that some really great things are happening in schools all across our province, however, one school stood out unanimously across the judging panel. This year, we were thrilled to present the Inclusive Education Award to Roncalli Elementary!

Throughout their application, there were many examples of how Roncalli goes above and beyond to appreciate each and every child in their school. From installing a special swing in the playground to accommodate a young student with a physical disability, to the planned development of a sensory garden that will allow for stimulation and learning for all students, particularly those with complex needs, Roncalli has demonstrated a deep understanding of the link between social, emotional and academic achievement and unwavering commitment to ensuring that all students feel safe, valued, welcomed and included in all aspects of school life, not just in the classroom.

Perhaps the most compelling letter in their application package was written by the parent of a Grade 3 student. This young boy was diagnosed with a rare disorder that lead to the loss of his verbal expression and language comprehension. He began to use ASL (American Sign Language) and many teachers in the school took the initiative to learn these skills and to become proficient ASL as well. ASL is now incorporated into daily classroom instruction, and many of the students in the school have learned to communicate in ASL as well. This student and his peers are now able to communicate together in a way that truly celebrates the different ways we learn, communicate and live. Roncalli has clearly demonstrated the conviction that every single child belongs in their community school and in diverse classrooms, with the right to learn, discover and develop their unique talents and abilities together with their peers.

Inclusive education is the foundation for building a more inclusive world for everyone, and for all that they are doing to promote a culture of inclusion and acceptance, I was proud to present the Inclusive Education Award to Roncalli Elementary!

Inclusive education provides all students with the right to attend school with their peers and to receive quality programming and instruction. It involves a continuum of supports and services in the best possible setting, respecting the dignity of all children. We have some very positive approaches to inclusive education being utilized in schools throughout our province and they deserve to be recognized. I encourage all schools to apply for the Inclusive Education Award, to highlight their important work and efforts."

- Dennis Gill, President, Newfoundland and Labrador Association for Community Living

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Sleep Study

Brennen spent the night at 'Hotel Janeway' last night to undergo a planned sleep study. We have been suspecting that he has some sort of obstructive sleep apnea, because his breathing in the nighttime is not ideal. For the past few months, Brennen has been struggling to breathe while he sleeps, and it has been very concerning for Andrew and I. We reposition him many times throughout the night, and have been taking turns sleeping with him to make sure that he continues breathing. It is a constant worry. We saw an ENT, who recommended this sleep study in order to properly diagnose whatever might be going on with him.

There wasn't a lot of sleep happening throughout the study. Brennen wasn't fond of having the nasal prongs in his nose, but they were necessary to monitor his breathing. He couldn't get comfortable on his back, as he is used to sleeping on his belly, but he did manage to doze off for a couple of hours. Hopefully that will be enough for them to get some sort of reading to tell us what exactly is happening with his airway during the night.

We are fortunate that Brennen has been really well, medically, for the past few years. He hasn't had any illnesses or major procedures since his back surgery in 2017. He has been really happy and comfortable and we have had no real concerns until recently, when he started this unusual breathing at night. He is noisy and it sounds like he is snoring, but there are times that he really struggles to get a full breath. He has been tired during the day because he is not getting a good quality of sleep during the night, and this is not normal for him. We are anxious to get him back to a place where he can get a full nights sleep without these disordered breathing events.

Sleep is important for everyone and plays a major role in overall good health and well-being. We all know that we feel better after a full nights sleep, and though sometimes as parents we have to learn to function on broken sleep, it is not the ideal situation. Brennen's little body needs sleep to support healthy brain function and to maintain his physical health. Hopefully we are on track to get him back to his body's optimal condition. We haven't received the results from this sleep study yet, but our fingers are crossed that we will have answers soon.

If you guys have any experience with sleep disorders or sleep apnea, I would love to hear from you!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Finger Puppets for the Janeway

Are you guys aware of the incredible thing that is happening right here in Newfoundland and Labrador right now? No, not the icebergs, though they are lovely.. I'm talking about something a little more personal. There are people - knitters - coming out of the woodwork to help put a smile on the faces of the children of our province.

On May 9th, Denika Philpott saw a Facebook post saying that the Janeway was running out of finger puppets, and it struck a chord with her. Denika told me that she remembers visiting the Janeway numerous times with her own young children, not for anything serious, but her daughter, Abigail had to have bloodwork done quite often and every time she left she would leave with a finger puppet, and she would dry her tears and that would be the highlight of her day. She said that the thought that a child might have to go to the Janeway for bloodwork or some other procedure, and not get to have that little treat really bothered her, and so she decided to do something about it.

Denika started public a Facebook group called 'Knitted Finger Puppets for the Janeway', and it has grown to include almost 1000 people, all eager to donate their time to such a wonderful project. It is such a positive group, with people sharing patterns and offering help to those who might not be seasoned knitters. It is amazing to see how creative some people can be with such a small canvas to work with. There are pictures of finger puppets in the shape of unicorns, sock monkeys, ninja turtles, you name it! There are photos posted daily of the batches of tiny puppets that people are ready to donate. My favourite photo so far was of a bag stuffed with finger puppets with a note attached that said, "Emma Wells, 97 years old, 175 finger puppets, original pattern since 1982". Amazing.

Denika has been so impressed that people are taking it upon themselves to deliver the finger puppets to the Janeway, and they are even checking with other hospitals around the province to see who might be able to use them. She says it really shows the true hearts of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians - people pitching in to help others.

The group has now expanded to include people knitting preemie hats, and booties for the Janeway as well. There are photos of tiny babies, with captions like, "My granddaughter was born December 9, 2018, 10 weeks early weighing 2 pounds 6 oz. These hats are what kept her little head warm while she was in the incubator." If  that doesn't pull on your heart-strings, I don't know what will!

I have visited the blood collection department with Brennen many times over the years, and he always leaves with a puppet covering his bandage, and a smile on his face. Like Denika, I can't imagine not having that little token of kindness to go home with. It's something so small, but it can really brighten your day and put a positive spin on something that can otherwise be quite scary for young children (and their Mommas!)

We invited some of our favourite kiddos over on the weekend (my niece and nephew), and they had a great time playing with the finger puppets that Nanny made! We look forward to bringing these in to the Janeway this week!

I am a sucker for a good-news story, especially when it comes to children in the hospital, and I commend these knitters (including my own Mom!) for putting the time in to help put a smile on the faces of some very special kiddos. Thank you, thank you!!