Category Archives: Acceptance

What’s been going on.

Hey there crew.

I haven’t been on here in a while, sorry about that. Things have been kind of totally insane lately. I saw that I have lots of messages in my inbox, I’ll get back to those ASAP. Sorry for the delay.

I guess the most fun news is that I finally finished my tattoo!

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Here’s a fun little explanation of it:

The Puzzle Piece: the puzzle piece represents Autism. As many of you know, Autism is a huge part of my life. I’ve pretty much dedicated my life to learning about Autism and to the many people with Autism who are important to me.

Bardet- Beidel Symbol: the little symbol in the middle of the puzzle piece represents Bardet- Beidel Syndrome (BBS). BBS is another huge part of my life. I’m sure you’ve all heard me talk about Liam, well Liam has BBS so does his sister, Kaitlyn. BBS is something I’ve loved learning about since Liam and Kaitlyn became part of my life and learning about it is something that is extremely important to me. As are Kaitlyn and Liam.

The words: “Different, not less” is a sentence that has been very important to me for many years now. Through my involvement in the Special Needs community I have learned that different truly isn’t less. It’s something I hold very dear to my heart.

The Braille: above the puzzle piece is the word ‘Different,’ in Braille. I think that this part is truly one of the most special parts of my tattoo, it represents a couple of things. Part of BBS is vision loss, by the time a person with BBS reaches the age of about 15 they are legally blind. So of course, Braille will become an important part of their life as they grow. Secondly, the Braille represents a memory to Brittany Garton, a very important person To me who passed away this summer. Brittany was blind and taught me more about being blind and living with an intellectual disAbility than I ever thought was possible.

Not less: the ‘not less’ portion of the writing is a mash- up of some of the handwriting of some of the different kids/adults I support who have Special Needs.

So that’s the tattoo. I actually plan on adding a little more to it over the next couple of weeks and then it’ll actually be completely finished.

I’m learning Braille right now so that’s been fun. It’s hard but really interesting.

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Autism Awareness Month 2014

April is Autism Awareness Month. 

For weeks now I’ve been trying to come up with the right words to really honour this month but, I haven’t been able to find them because Autism means so many things to me. 

My Autism is a nine-year-old boy who loves trains, cars, Dr. Seuss and playing games. A twelve-year-old girl who loves to jump and play with bubbles. An eleven-year-old boy who loves to tell jokes and make people laugh. 

When we stop focusing so much on the “Autism” aspect we see a person. A person with talents, skills and abilities. A person who isn’t incapable but very capable in their own ways. A person with dreams and wants and needs. Instead of focusing on what they “can’t” do, we need to focus on what they can do and empower that.

To me, Autism isn’t just increasing numbers and funding cuts (even though I talk about that a lot). It’s not what people can’t do. It’s what they can do. Today we celebrate accomplishments and talk about Autism in a positive light. Which is something we should always do.

Happy Autism Awareness/Acceptance/Whatever you want to call it month.

 

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Reflections.

It’s been just over two years since I travelled to Nicaragua. That’s nice and scary. It’s weird to think about all of the different things that have changed since then and the decisions I’ve made.

But, what I’ve been giving a lot of thought to lately is, the Blue Bird House in Nicaragua. I haven’t really shared to much about it as it was quite an overwhelming experience. Since it’s been just over two years, I’ve decided to share some more about it.

The Blue Bird House is a group home of sorts. It’s more of an institution. Visiting the Blue Bird House while I was in Nicaragua was something that was very important to me. Obviously, I’m very connected to the Special Needs community and I really wanted to see what it’s like in a less fortunate country.

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Honestly, I was worried.

I really didn’t know what to expect. I’ve read so much about orphanages and institutions  that I was really worried about what I was going to see. I was (pleasantly) surprised. Now, the conditions of the Blue Bird House were nothing compared to something you’d see in Canada, but they also were much better than the conditions I was expecting. They were extremely understaffed and their ratios were nothing like something you’d see here,  we’re talking a good 1:14 ratio including some individuals who were very high needs. These ratios can make it extremely difficult to adapt programming and attention.

I just love this guy.

I just love this guy.

The Blue Bird house supports individuals of all ages, starting as children all the way through to adulthood. The Blue Bird house supports people of all abilities. When I visited, most of the younger children were in school which is very uplifting. That’s not often something you see.

The individuals with Higher Needs had an area catered to their specific needs

The individuals with Higher Needs had an area catered to their specific needs

The staff who worked at the Blue Bird house really seemed to have a passion for what they were doing which is absolutely amazing. They really seemed to care about the people they were supporting.

The Blue Bird was very interesting. They had daily programming as well as an ARC Industries type area where they would make different items to sell in art shows or at markets. They also had a kitchen where they would bake and sell goods. The inclusion that we saw was so cool!

"ARC" like area

“ARC” like area

There were different sections to the property. A main area, including a dining area, a gym type centre for PT and a section for the individuals they support who require a high level of care. There was then a female building that had multiple beds in one section and then a large area with tables for meals and daily activities. Across the grounds there was another similar building but for males. Between these buildings there was an outside area that had playground equipment and benches. The design of the place was very forward and open which was so nice to see. There were some parts of the Blue Bird house that were really hard to see, as much as the conditions were much better than I expected, they were still rough. I strive to provide the best that I can for the people I support and I found it very difficult to be in an area were there was just so much that I wanted to do, but couldn’t.

PT area

PT area

 

A wheelchair in Nicaragua..

A wheelchair in Nicaragua..

 

A kind young man having some swing time on the grounds

A kind young man having some swing time on the grounds

I had the chance to interact with many of the individuals who lived at the Blue Bird house and man, they rocked!

This guy was hilarious.

This guy was hilarious.

Visiting the Blue Bird house was a major highlight for me and I’m so glad I got that experience.

I was also blessed with the opportunity to give the Blue Bird house a collection of new clothing protectors and provide a large amount of the people they support with Camp shirts. The group that I went with, Kn.e.c.t, also gave the Blue Bird house a monetary gift. What an awesome experience. This is a place I really want to go back and visit.

Donations

Donations

I will be posting more pictures of the Blue Bird house over on the Stories from the Sandbox Facebook Page. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stories-from-the-Sandbox/252057948257316

Dolls representing people with Down syndrome

Dolls for people with Down syndrome, or “Dolls for Downs” is a pretty cool organization that makes dolls that resemble the features of people with Down syndrome. This movement was started by the mother of a girl, Hannah, who has Down syndrome. She wanted a doll that looked like her. These dolls can be very empowering for people with Down syndrome. There are different dolls available for order, featuring different, hair, skin and eye colour as well as different genders. There is an option when ordering the doll to have the doll feature a scar on the chest, to resemble the scar that many individuals with Down syndrome have after receiving heart surgery at a young age.  There are also different accessories available for purchase such as; glasses, hearing aids and eventually AFO’s.

I am a little partial to one specific doll, Aziza. Aziza was a little girl with Down syndrome from Toronto, ON who I learned about through her mom’s blog. I’d been following her story for a few months because she was adopted by her family and I am very interested in adopting those with Down syndrome. Sadly, Earlier this year Aziza passed away. Dolls for Downs created a doll in her honour featuring her appearance. I think this is an amazing and beautiful way to commemorate Aziza and her journey.

There is some backlash in regards to these dolls, there are some people who believe that these dolls portray a negative stereotype; all people with Down syndrome look the same and all have the same features. Personally, I LOVE these dolls. I think that they show people with differences that not every doll needs to be “typical” and that anybody is “doll-worthy”. Yes, the dolls highlight the main physical features of people with down syndrome. But, I think these dolls show to the world that it is perfectly okay to have Down syndrome. Different is not less.

Read a Toronto Star article about Dolls for Downs: http://www.thestar.com/life/parent/2013/04/16/dolls_with_down_syndrome_prove_

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Read about Aziza: http://mylittlewarriorprincess.blogspot.ca

Visit the Dolls for Downs website: http://www.dollsfordowns.org/index.html

Picture of the dolls from: http://www.dollsfordowns.org/index.html

Special Hockey International Tournament 2013!

I know this is a little late but; here it is!

The theme for the tournament “Yes I Can” with a video featuring some of my amazing players.

Last week I had the opportunity, actually, honour to participate in the best hockey event and one of the best Special Needs events I’ve ever had the opportunity to participate in. The Kitchener Ontario, Special Hockey International Tournament 2013! As many of you know, i’m a huge advocate for Special Hockey International (SHI), it highlights true friendships and real sportsmanship while building confidence all in an extremely supportive environment. I coach the Guelph Giants and it remains to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Each year SHI holds an international tournament and one of the teams hosts this. This year a local team, The Kitchener Ice Pirates, hosted the tournament and it was amazing. Absolutely amazing. We has sixty teams from thirty communities, almost one thousand players, playing in this tournament. Every single aspect of the tournament was well thought out and planned. The hours and hours and hours and hours of work that went into planning this tournament were very evident. It was accessible and accepting to all individuals and really showed what Special Hockey is all about. The SHI league focuses on fun and friendships and this tournament was no different. All players and fans cheered when someone scored a goal, no matter who’s team they played on. Refs set-up goals so that everyone would have the opportunity to score. Penalty shots were given just for an extra chance for someone to experience scoring a goal. Some games, the goalie even took penalty shots! The Ice Pirates did an amazing job hosting the tournament and the organizers, organized an amazing three days. I was very proud to be a part of amazing organizations like Special Hockey International and the Guelph Giants.

For information about SHI (I would highly recommend finding a team in your area): http://www.specialhockeyinternational.org

For highlights and information from Kitchener 2013: http://www.shikitchener2013.ca

And since I’m biased when it comes to my Guelph Giants: http://www.guelphgiantshockey.ca

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Accessibility Matters!

For those of you who don’t know, I broke my leg and my ankle two weeks ago. Here’s the story:

It was a dark and stormy day in Elora, Ontario… The great Almighty Alix decided to take her little sister and brother skating before she returned to the land of the never-ending snow, Timmins. They travelled to the outdoor rink and played a rough and tough game of hockey. As Alix went to make the game changing goal she noticed a baby worm trying to cross the ice and dove to save it from the incoming power puck (from the strength of her shot, of course), unfortunately she tripped and broke her leg and ankle in an attempt to heroically save the baby worm. 

That’s a trick, I actually went to take my skate off (not even off the ice) and fell and managed to smash my ankle and break my leg. I have two wires and three pins in my ankle and had twenty-five staples removed yesterday. I also got a new cast yesterday. Here’s a fun picture of my new cast:

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As for my schooling, because of the severity of the break; I am unable to return to Timmins. But, I am able to continue taking my courses online. So that is a MAJOR plus.

Anyway, back to the point of this post; Accessibility! Because of this break, I have been using crutches and on occasion, a wheelchair. Accessibility is something that I always generally pay attention to and look for. This helps me make decisions as to what kinds of places I bring the people I support to. If it’s not accessible, we likely won’t go. Through the need to use crutches I have been paying even more attention to the need for accessibility. Through my experiences I have learned that SO many places are not accessible. They look as though they are, but they really aren’t. Especially in the winter, in Canada. I never really though much before about people using canes or crutches but a slippery floor in a store or restaurant could result in a very dangerous fall. Wheelchair ramp, while they look great, can often times be quite unsafe. Steep and not taken care of. I am lucky to have awesome friends (special shout-out to Neal, Leona and Jeramy here, you guys rock) who very kindly assisted me through the day, wheelchair and all and even with someone helping me, the accessibility was limited. Often times I focus more on the invisible differences as opposed to the more visible ones but I’ve now realized how difficult it can be to manouver around an area and I have a whole new respect for those with mobility differences. The lack of accessibility needs to change. We need to be accessible and inclusive for all people. Be it, a child with Down Syndrome who just wants to eat lunch with his family at a restaurant (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=tYbxEoCl_Vg), an individual who uses a wheelchair on a regular basis or someone who broke their leg because they can’t take off a pair of skates (haha). I am thankful for the fact that I broke my leg and ankle as it has given me the opportunity to open my eyes and see things in a different way.

Let’s work together to create a safe and accepting world for all. We are more alike than different.

 

International Day for Persons with Disabilities!

Hola!

Today, December 3rd, is International Day for Persons with Disabilities!

This is a very special day. IDPD is a day honouring children, youth and adults with Different Abilities all over the world. This is such an important day as often times, individuals with Different Abilities are overlooked and not given the respect they deserve. I realize I talk about this all the time so I’m not going to go on about it now. IDPD is all about “removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all” what a beautifully amazing goal that is.

How can you help achieve this goal?

1.Talk about IDPD! Tell your friends! Let people know about this AMAZING day! It’s not very well known.

2. Vote for Power of Play! http://www.avivacommunityfund.org/ideas/acf13678 This is a project to get an accessible playground in my home town. PLEASE help us get the funding to build this park. It would mean SO  much if you voted for us, everyday.

3. Take the Pledge to Spread the Word to End the Word! Help stop the use of the word “retard”. http://www.r-word.org/r-word-pledge.aspx

4. Take Action! Be aware and educate. Check out your area and ensure that it’s accessible. Advocate for people in your community!

5. PARTICIPATE! Volunteer with your local Special Olympics team! Check out what programs your local Support Organizations offer!

Different is not less.

Educate and Advocate, inclusion for all.

Let me know what you’re doing for IDPD!