Monday, August 24, 2015

A Fish Climbing a Tree

Over the past few weeks, the back to school posts have been popping up all over Instagram and Facebook while parents excitedly (most of the time) prepare for the returning of their children to school. I've seen posts after parents have found out their child's teacher and then asking what friends will be in their classes. I've smiled looking at pictures of kids dressed in their first day clothes while their kids are smiling excited for the new journey that lies ahead. 

In the meantime, I have been contacting our attorney with the hopes that we can find out what grade Colin will be in, what teacher he may have, and even what school he will be in. I have never been as disappointed as I am now reflecting over the past year and as we prepare for our Due Process hearing which is beginning on Wednesday.

If only the amount of effort that has gone into showing how Colin has "failed" and "doesn't belong in gen ed" this year went into actually supporting him, the results of this year may have been completely different.

You see, the thing with inclusion is that it requires the members of your child's "team" to work together and collaborate, all of the time, in order for a child to be successful. There isn't just one way for inclusion to work, it often takes a lot of work in order to find the right recipe. I feel disappointed and sad that we didn't have that team because I believe that when most looked at Colin, they saw Down Syndrome. They saw challenges and difficulties instead of abilities and potential. Instead of finding ways to support Colin, they saw a list of reasons why he shouldn't be there.

In talking about his daughter Jillian who has Down Syndrome in his book "An Uncomplicated Life", Paul Daughterty says, "She has affected everyone who has taken the time to see her. Seeing isn't easy. It requires participation. It implies understanding. Seeing is a mandatory swatch of the human fabric. It invokes a civil right. Do not judge me on what I look like. See me for who I am.".

For a very short time, Chris and I were parents who were very afraid of the future for Colin. Since we didn't know any better when he was first born, we saw a LOT of Down Syndrome, and only a little bit of Colin. We learned very quickly that in reality, it's the opposite. There's a whole LOT of Colin and a little bit of Down Syndrome. We see him for who he is and not for his diagnosis. I hope one day the same can be said for those that work with him too.

"If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will believe its whole life that it is stupid." - Einstein

Monday, August 17, 2015

Cody is 11 Months

When I was making the picture above for instagram and facebook, I couldn't believe how much Cody's expression really represented his personality as a whole these days. While I love snuggling a newborn baby, I truly love this age because of how rapidly things change and I really enjoy watching those changes take place as they are learning new things. 

Cody is the most active baby we have had at this age and he really is a happy and easy going little boy. While he has a pretty set eating and sleeping schedule, we are often disrupting it slightly and he still goes with the flow. He absolutely LOVES the water and enjoys being on the beach. The other day when it was low tide, he was crawling around in the water and then would throw himself onto his stomach like he was body surfing.

He still eats MOST things that he is offered, however, we are noticing that if he has certain things too often or too many times in a row, he will act as though he doesn't like it anymore so we have to be better about changing it up.

For the first time, we have to be really careful about where he is and what he's doing because he gets into EVERYTHING. Some of his favorites are the toilet, the drawers in the bedrooms, and the cabinets under the sinks.

He started picking up on some basic signs like "more" and "all done" and he will use them when prompted. He will come towards your face with an open mouth when you ask for a kiss and is trying to repeat some of the words that are spoken to him. He says hi dad, momma, up, and copies most sounds (especially when the other 2 are yelling).  

He pulls up to stand on everything and will cruise along furniture, but hasn't quite figured out how to stand up independently without holding on to anything (although he gets onto his knees a lot and tries to go up). He will walk while holding your hands (and laughs while doing so) or using a push toy.

He's such a fun little boy to have around and can't believe we are quickly approaching him being a year old!

Monday, August 3, 2015

What Inclusion Looks Like

Over the course of the past week, nearly 7,000 athletes from around the world met in Los Angeles for the Special Olympics World Games to compete on a world stage and show just what they were capable of. There were so many inspiring stories that came out of this week about athletes from all over the world and highlighted the accomplishments of so many. These games were broadcasting a strong message to the world what those with intellectual disabilities are capable of with their themes of inclusion and respect. I am so thankful to ESPN who broadcasted these games and helped spread these messages by showing that although people with intellectual disabilities have challenges, they are people that want the same things we all be respected and included. I urge you to go to ESPN SportsCenter's website to the Special Olympics page and check out the videos and articles that you will find about many athletes that participated in these games from around the world. I am so proud to say that Colin and Chris were a part of the videos "You are the Stars" and "Smile" created by ESPN which also helped to spread those very important messages.   Check out athletes like Chevi, and Jackie who have overcome significant challenges to get where they are at today.
Coinciding with the beginning of the World Games last weekend was an example of inclusion right here in our own community. Last fall, we decided to enroll Colin in Karate knowing that just the basics of this art (respect, discipline, self confidence, self defense, physical fitness) are attributes that could make a positive impact on anyone's life.

After speaking with one of the instructors about Colin, we brought him in for a tour and a lesson and quickly realized that this could be something really good for Colin. He started with private lessons for several months and then slowly transitioned into the group classes.

Watching Colin in those classes is like watching any other child participating. He follows directions, he copies what the instructors demonstrate, he has fun, and then also has occasional bouts of silliness or not doing exactly what he's supposed to. When that happens, he is treated like the other kids and gets himself going again.

On the very same day as the opening ceremonies to the World Games, Colin earned his full yellow belt by taking the test along with the other students who were testing for a belt. During testing, the students have to demonstrate specific skills for that level for the instructors and afterwards, are awarded the belt in a group ceremony.

It's hard to describe to you the emotions that ran through Chris and I that day from nervousness to pure happiness after watching him receive his belt. Watching him gives us this sense of pride for accomplishing something and continuing to work towards his goals.

Inclusion simply means that you are accepted for who you are and what you CAN do. The instructors at Paul Prendergast Karate have treated Colin like they do any other student and have defined inclusion for accepting him and making him a valuable member of their class. When challenges have cropped up (not that there have been many), they talk with us about things they can do to help Colin and have made adjustments if needed to allow him to be successful. Because they  have set that example, the rest of the students follow their lead and treat Colin just like they would their other peers. They support him and cheer for him and help him to be the best that he can.

We are so proud of Colin for continuing to work hard and make such progress in Karate. He is showing us and his community what he is capable of.

Inclusion looks like...