There is no question in the minds of a parent that their child has something to offer this world. We see it in the twinkle of our kid’s eyes everyday. In fact, parents of a child with an exceptionality may see it clearer than the next parent as it is brought to our attention multiple times daily. I am no different.
The potential that I see in my children gives me the chills sometimes. It’s exciting and hopeful. So why is it that not all people have the ability to see that value? It is so apparent, is it not? Evidently not to everyone. Most don’t have the constant reminder so many times a day. That’s why I believe our children have the ability to share their value, teach humanity and guide us through compassion if we only allow them to. It is through their mere existence, that learning opportunities for the rest of us are so abundant. We only need open our eyes and our hearts.
I have redefined what inclusion means to me. I used to be under the impression that it meant the number of hours my son, Andrew, sat in the classroom in the presence of his peers. Now, it is the time that we (my husband, my youngest son and I plus all the others watching over him), allow him to share his values with others, teach humanity through his actions and guide us all through the emotion of compassion. He wouldn’t do any of that without being fully involved in the life of an 11 year-old. My job is to find the energy and creativity to participate in the activities where he can do that.
Living in rural Saskatchewan has its challenges when looking for social opportunities. We’ve managed quite well in the past, however, and are currently creating a community peer mentor group for children in our community to increase these learning opportunities. Children will be paired together. Who is the mentor, you ask? I challenge. The street goes both ways.
It is a difficult feat, raising a child with special needs in an ordinary world, none of which is possible without the foundational support of others who already see the value in every individual. It’s this support that keeps us going as parents, helps us reach out and relate to one another and laugh/cry about our common experiences. My provincial ACL has connected me to a web of mothers on a similar journey and provided me with the strength and courage to relay that same kind of support in my local community. I not only enjoy the camaraderie but also have come to depend on the collective wisdom.
The national ACL has also played a role in raising my exceptional child and in turn, increasing the quality of life for the entire family. I attended a Values, Vision and Action workshop that introduced the idea of a Microboard to me. I was overwhelmed while thinking of our wills and the future of our son after we are no longer capable of supporting him. Now I have a much clearer vision of creating a circle of support should he be left without us. His future can be carved by that same collective wisdom and he could even be the chairperson should he choose. Knowing that gives me such peace.
So as we venture forth, paving a way as smoothly as possible for our sons, we try to live inclusion, not just talk about it and hopefully help nurture a community that will look for the value in everyone and find it!
Bluesette and her husband Mark live in Meadow Lake, SK on a ranch with their two boys, Andrew (11) and Birch (8). Bluesette is currently the President of People Advocating for Children with Exceptionalities (PACE) that supports families raising children with special needs.