The Down Syndrome Rocks Talk, part 2

I thought the best way to share my son’s talk to a high school class about having Down syndrome was to simply share his presentation.  This talk was designed and written by Aaron himself.  The only adaptation we did was to provide copies of the speaking notes to the students, in case they had challenges understanding his speech.

I asked Aaron if he was okay with me posting his slides and his speech on my blog. He said yes.  (People with intellectual disabilities are capable of giving consent.  The problem is that we rarely ask their permission, or we don’t ask it in a way that is understood).

Enough with the mom commentary!  Here it is, standing strongly on its own.

Slide1

 

Hello, I am the only cool kid in at this school who has Down syndrome.  This is what I want you to know about Down syndrome.

Slide2

There are many kinds of disabilities in the world. Down syndrome is but one of them. I was born in 2003. When my mom and dad made me, I had Down syndrome.

I have three copies of the 21st chromosome. I have 47 chromosomes all together. You guys have 46! I have more chromosomes than you!

Slide3

 

How am I different?
My face looks different
I have low muscle tone
I need some help at school to learn

 

Slide4

I am the same as you too. How I rock: I like dabbing/flossing, Fortnite, Nerf guns, luxury cars and sports.

I also am an actor. I am not in Hollywood yet but I am signed with a talent agent. My social media is: YouTube
Instagram: @aaron.waddingham

Slide5

What I want you to know is that respect is the key. Respect means I want to be treated the same as you. I just need a bit of extra help.

Slide6

 

 

I am a human being like you.

 

Aaron delivered the presentation in a lively way, throwing in some jokes, demonstrating how he could bend his thumb back because of his low muscle tone and dabbing and flossing too.  Amusingly, when he said I have more chromosomes than you, he added BOOM!  IN YOUR FACE!

The students were very quiet.  The only time I spoke up during his talk was to say:  Aaron is a funny guy!  It is okay to laugh.  The permission to laugh with Aaron (instead of at him) seemed to help them relax.

I facilitated a question + answer session and there were thoughtful questions about stigma, independence, health concerns and the differences in education systems between provinces.  I felt a bit desperate to show them that we have a rich and full life (because we do), so I ended up rambling too much.  There are always lessons for me after every talk.

At the end, I made a request.  I said if they saw kids from the Access Program (the school district’s ‘special ed’ program) in the hall, not to be afraid to go up and say hi or give a fist bump or high five.  At least acknowledging people’s presence is a start on the long road to belonging.

I felt extremely proud of Aaron’s moxie.  He stood up and spoke for himself.  I was reminded how much he has to overcome to be a part of this world.  I admire him so much.  His ending comment:  I am a human being just like you – offers up with great clarity, everything you need to know about Down syndrome.

Did the talk make a difference?  I am not sure we will ever know for sure.  But if one person in that class is even just a little less afraid of a disabled person, then Aaron’s job was well done.

The Down Syndrome Rocks Talk, part 1

Slide5

This week, my son Aaron and I were invited to give a talk about Down syndrome to a class at his high school. We’ve co-presented once before, three years ago when Aaron was 13.

At that talk, Aaron read a one-page speech to a group of medical students. It was interesting to watch the students’ reactions to him. At first, when he stood up at the front of the room, they looked mortified. I asked them how many of them had disabled people in their lives. Only one of the medical students, out of 20, raised their hands. The concept of a disabled person giving a speech to them – in fact educating them – seemed new to most of them.

Once Aaron started reading his talk, I could see the look of surprise on their faces. Yes, some people with Down syndrome can read – not everybody can read and that’s okay – but some people can.  Note: you don’t need to read to give a talk, just the same as you don’t have to verbally talk to communicate.  But Aaron reads, so he read from his notes.

By the end of the session, a few of the students approached Aaron on the way out to give him a high five, or to comment on his hockey t-shirt. They made real effort to connect with him and for me it was heartening. It was a positive session. I hope they remember Aaron when they embark on their medical careers, and even the memory of him confidently standing in front of the room reading will dispel a stereotype or two that they might have had about people with intellectual disabilities.

Last week, when the teacher asked if I could come speak to the class and maybe bring Aaron, I flipped the request upside down. I asked Aaron if he wanted to speak to the class and if he maybe wanted to bring me.  I explained what the talk would probably be like and who would be in the audience.

‘Sure!’ he said. We were on.

I’ve been considering lately how I do too much for Aaron, instead of with Aaron. Or even better, how I should be giving Aaron the space to take the lead himself. As his mother, I think I have taken away a lot of his agency by making decisions for him. It is high time for me to give him control in his life back.  He would agree.  He often tells me:  “Mom I want my freedom.”

So I’ve included my lessons that I learned in the process of working with him to prepare his slides and speaking notes for the talk.

Lesson 1: It was his decision to speak.

Lesson 2: It was his talk, not mine.

It is always a good idea to ask organizers what they wanted for key messages for the audience. So I asked the teacher what she thought the students would like to know. She said: to dispel some of the myths about potential and abilities about Down syndrome, and to inform about some of the potential physical challenges. 

Aaron and I sat down to plan for this talk. ‘Do you want to use slides?’ Yes he said. We opened up PowerPoint and I handed over my computer. He picked his own template. ‘Do you want to type or should I?’ You do it Mom, he said.

Lesson 3: He chose his own template.

Lesson 4: I told him the key messages, but I did not tell him what to put on the slides. I only was the transcriber.

Lesson 5: He chose all his own images.

In the end he had six slides. I guided him with the topics that matched the organizer’s key messages. (This is what I would do if I was doing coaching for any speaker, something I do in my consulting business). He had an introduction slide, then talked about genetics, how he was different and how he rocked. The second last slide is the one that’s pictured above.

“What do you want the students to know about Down syndrome?” I asked. Respect, that’s the key he kept saying so it got its own slide.

For his final slide he wanted a picture of a black hole. He looked around Google images and he chose a picture of a black hole that was embedded inside Earth.

Then he dictated his speaking notes that matched up with his slides. I prompted him only by asking: What do you want to say when this slide is on the screen?

Lesson 6: The words on the speaking notes were his. I merely typed out what he said onto his speaking notes. I repeated his words back to him. Sometimes I suggested fixing some grammar, but otherwise I merely served as a copy-editor. The writer in me bit my tongue. I did not write or ghost-write his talk.

When we got to the last slide with the black hole, I asked what he wanted to say.

“I am a human being the same as you,” he said.

“That’s your final message?” I asked. Yes, he said firmly and definitively.

He then practiced reading his speaking notes. I emailed them to the teacher and asked her to provide copies to the students. People sometimes have a hard time understanding Aaron’s speech, especially if they haven’t developed an ear for him. The notes served as a tool to make his talk more accessible to the students. We adapt and modify where we can.

Aaron presented his talk on Wednesday. I’m waiting on the student feedback from the teacher. When I get the evaluations, I’ll write another piece about how his talk went. That’s for another blog post.

In the meantime, I learned a lot about taking my sticky hands off the steering wheel (as Anne Lamott says) and ‘allowing’ Aaron to create his own damn talk about his own damn self. These are new lessons for me.  I’m sure I did still have a sticky finger or two on the steering wheel and I will vow to improve next time.

I’ve been so wrapped up in my own identity of being the mom of a kid with a disability that I’ve forgotten that I don’t have a disability. Aaron’s Down syndrome is his, not mine. I may be an old dog, but this kid is continually teaching me new tricks.

All the Feels: The Breast Biopsy

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Since I started writing about breast cancer on my blog, I’ve had the good fortune to hear from some lovely women who are in the midst of their own cancer scare or cancer experience, which of course starts with diagnostics.

On any given day, there many women (and some men too) are waiting for a breast biopsy appointment. While I was handed a mountain of patient education pamphlets over this past year, nobody told me how a procedure or test actually feels. Here’s my take on my own breast biopsies, with the important caveat that everybody’s experience is different – because of differing personalities, way to cope with stress, type of biopsy, health care environment and health care professionals.  This is a personal insight into the way I felt last year this time.

1. Waiting Sucks

The waiting really is the hardest part. When the day of your biopsy comes, you put your head down and get it done. But waiting beforehand can be excruciating. Acknowledge that it is hard. Be kind to yourself. Use whatever distraction and comfort methods work for you. For me, it was long walks, movies, Netflix, baths and sleeping. A beautiful healing book I read during this time was Birds Art Life by Kyo McLear.  Looking back, I realize that it was torture to wait but somehow you just do it, one day at a time.

2.  Nuts + Bolts of a Breast Biopsy

I’d recommend getting a ride there and back.  I was anxious during the drive there and afterwards I was sore and bandaged up. Make sure you ask the staff how long you are scheduled for so your support person can go for a walk during your biopsy and not be stuck in the waiting room.

There is no shame in taking your doctor beforehand about anxiety medication. There was no sedation with my biopsies (I had two done at once). Ask your GP about a prescription. For me, it was Ativan.  All it does for me is take the edge off my anxiety and makes me feel ‘ok’.  I don’t like taking pills, but I’ve also learned the hard lesson this year that I don’t have to be strong all the time.

Here’s what I wrote about the mammogram tech at my biopsy:  “The tech there is matter of fact but kind.  She rubs my arm when I get the freezing – I think her kindness is what made me cry.  When I was distorted under that mammogram machine, she brushed my hair out of my eyes.  I think she must be somebody’s mom.”   May you have a kind mammogram technologist and radiologist assigned to you. You can ask them to explain what they are doing during the procedure to help with your anxiety.

The whole procedure is weird.  I had core needle biopsies.  One biopsy involved being positioned in the mammogram machine and being squished and the other one was guided with an ultrasound.  Ask what kind of biopsy you are having.  They give you a needle for freezing before they take the biopsy.  That pinches.  Then there’s this strange ‘box’ that has the core needle in it and they press it down on your like an old-fashioned hole puncher and it extracts the biopsy.  It makes an awful noise.

I looked down during the biopsy extraction and wish I hadn’t because I was bleeding a bit and this made me woozy.

I thankfully kept my eyes closed most of the time, did some breathing like I was meditating and pretended I was on a beach in Hawai’i.  Breathing and visualization has helped me a lot through this whole damn thing.

I walked out with bandages on each biopsy site – which were basically little ‘pokes’, not scars.  My arm was sore for a couple of days from having been in one position for so long.

They likely won’t tell you any results at the biopsy, but you may get hints from the radiologist.  Ask them how long before the results will come in and who will call you. For me, my pathology results came back in 7 days and I got a call about my diagnosis from my family doctor, who had to give me the bad news that I had breast cancer. I hope you are in the 80% of women who have benign results! Again, waiting for results is a horrible time too. My most important tip continues to be: BE KIND TO YOURSELF.  This is a very stressful time even if it isn’t cancer – don’t minimize that.

It is a strange thing to wait for a breast biopsy (or any diagnostics) and then the results.   You don’t belong anywhere – like to a patient community – but you are suspended in an awful purgatory.  I didn’t want to talk to friends who had breast cancer about it because I was worried if my results had come back benign, that might have upset them. I realize now that I’ve had breast cancer, I’m happy to talk to anybody during this awful waiting, whether they end up with breast cancer or not. It does help to connect with folks who have been through similar experiences.

I’ll write more about All the Feels in future blogs…

teach our children well

heart-sing

The timing of last night’s Start with Strengths session could not have been better.  Just three hours earlier, I was standing by my car, listening to my son’s teacher recite everything my boy had done wrong that day.

“What did he do right?” I asked her, tears threatening to spill out of my eyes, my voice tinged with desperation.  Surely there was something.  “Oh yes,” she said, “he participated in our class discussion, did well in English class…” and then reverted back to the ‘rap sheet’ of bad behaviour.  My son sat slumped in the car, knowing full well the tone of our conversation.

I got back into the driver’s seat weary and defeated, my cheeks burning with shame. If I felt like crap, I knew that my son did too.  I also knew there’s got to be a better way.  Later that night, family leader Karen Copeland and Langley principal Chris Wejr confirmed that there was:  a strengths based approach to education.

The session was warm and lively and involved both lecture-style with funky visuals and small group work.  It was a great mix of storytelling, video and interaction.  All the way home I thought about how I had failed miserably to communicate effectively with his teaching team about what’s awesome about my boy.

Learning about what makes my son’s heart sing and then building on that does not mean spoiling or giving into him.  (I hate the term ‘giving in’ – it implies a constant battle.  I so wish his life wasn’t such a big fight, because that always means there are winners and losers.  And he usually loses).

Last night, I confirmed that the research tells us we all perform better when we focus on our strengths, not our weaknesses.  We often label behaviours as negative, instead of seeing the talents they might be masking.  My son often gets in trouble for blurting out how he feels – but expressing his feelings is a good thing, and I admire his talent for word play. Yesterday he angrily called a teacher ‘Trump-Lady’ which is of course not okay, but it does display his good grasp of both current events and the English language.  The key is to redirect his quick wit into something productive instead.

The workshop was powerful.  Chris affirmed that many kids go through school reminded of what they can’t do, not what they can do.  That’s because schools (and the world) concentrate on deficits, not strengths.  But if we work on our deficits all the time, we will only become okay – but if we work on our strengths, we can be outstanding.

Karen and Chris referenced a lot of great work, like Rita Pierson’s TedTalk called Every Kid Deserves a Champion.  (A favourite quote:  kids don’t learn from people they don’t like). This is important to work about human connection for all kids – especially for our kids who struggle with connection.  They talked about helping kids to bring forth what is within.

Chris asked:  how can we help kids see themselves through a different lens?  So that they believe that they CAN, not that they CAN’T.  Kids do not need fixing, as they are not broken and as Karen said, sometimes it starts with remembering what it is about children that brings us joy.

Kudos to Karen and Chris for a well-organized and thoughtful learning opportunity.  I loved that both a parent and a principal shared the podium – it really modelled what true partnership can look like in education.

Today, I had a chance to practice what I learned.  After school when the teacher started to recite my boy’s transgressions, I put up my hand.  Please stop, I said. First tell me something he did well.  Her tone changed and she told me about a picture of a city he’s painting in art class.  Aaron’s demeanour transformed from stressed and distraught to relaxed and smiling. His relief was instantaneous.  Then we were both open to hearing about more constructive feedback.  As Chris said, the struggle is important – that’s where you learn.  It doesn’t mean you don’t address the hard stuff – but why not start with what’s good?

I learned last night to start with www (what went well).  This approach is very powerful and it can make all the difference to a child.  It can also show them that they matter.  And in this world of uncertainty and growing repression, we need more people to feel that they matter, to stand up for what’s right, to make a difference.  That’s what’s called teaching our children well.

my secret weapon

It was Aaron’s last IEP meeting for elementary school yesterday.  These are meetings held at the school twice a year for kids with ‘designations’ like mine.  I am famous for being whacked out with stress and crying at these meetings.  This year I did not cry at all.

This is perhaps significant only to me, but after 23 years of being a mother, I think I’ve finally matured.  I don’t walk into these meetings with all guns blazing. I have decided to give everybody who shows up to Aaron’s meeting the benefit of the doubt:  they are not all my enemies. The very fact they sitting around the table means they are interested in my son’s learning.  I walked out realizing that they are all doing their best with what they’ve got.  Did so many people show up at that meeting (including the principal of his new high school) because we’ve been labelled as pain in the butt parents?  Why yes they did!  (I choose to wear this as a badge of honour instead of shame).  Do we have to supplement our son’s learning with privately paid programs to help advance his reading?  Why yes we do! Welcome to BC.  It is what it is.

Here’s another thing that helped.  My kind colleague Isabel Jordan shared this video from Shane Koyczan‘s spoken word masterpiece ‘This is my Voice.’  Now there was something about knowing that I had a voice that mattered – even if I didn’t have to use it strongly yesterday – that gave me great comfort.  I felt equal at that meeting table, with my voice tucked into my back pocket just in case I needed it.  My voice is my secret weapon.

The next time you have a challenging phone call, or appointment or meeting, listen to Shane.  He will reassure you that you’ve got everything inside of you to do what you need to do.

searching for schools

IMG_5174I have three kids.  My eldest two are ‘typically developing’ kids.  When we lived in Winnipeg, I sent them to the school down the street.  It was a Hebrew school with an English stream.  Then when we moved back to Edmonton, I sent them to the community school close to our house.  I then got remarried, and moved into a new neighbourhood with my new husband.  Someone told us the elementary/junior high school was ‘good’ so we sent them there.  They went to the feeder high school.  Then they both graduated.  That’s the end of their school story.  My poor eldest kids were shipped down the road to the school of convenience without much thought from their mother.

The school system calls our third, and youngest kid, ‘coded.’  Or ‘funded.’ Or ‘with designation.’  Or ‘special needs.’  Or a ‘diverse learner.’  Or a ‘student with a difference.’  We just call him Aaron.

School for our kid who happens to have Down syndrome is infinitely more complicated.  With my other two kids, there was an assumption that I sent them to school to be safe, be taken care of, and to learn.  And that’s what ended up happening.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was fine.  With Aaron, these assumptions do not exist.  Having a kid with a disability in a regular school and regular program is exceptional here in Alberta.  We have special education programs and schools in this province.  Inclusion is not a given.  Families are often forced out of community school settings and strongly encouraged to look at special education options.  They are told:  we don’t have enough support for your child.  This isn’t a good fit for them. Go somewhere else.

We chose Aaron’s current school in Edmonton three years ago.  We personally knew the Assistant Principal well, and we knew that he believed in Aaron.  I remember when I first dropped Aaron off at school, he said to me:  “We will take good care of him here.”  And that they have.  As an added bonus, Aaron has also learned and grown academically too.  Last night , when we were playing a board game, Aaron had to answer:  what is 25 plus 5?  Thirty, he replied quickly.  Last week, he excitedly took a Harry Potter book out of the school library.  BOOM.  Mission accomplished at his school that tries very hard to accept these kids with differences who show up at their door.

Now we are moving to Vancouver.  Aaron is in Grade 6.  We have to find him a new elementary school, until he’s in Grade 8 and transitions to high school. This has been an interesting journey.

Instead of picking a neighbourhood and then simply sending Aaron to the local school, we have gone through many hours of research of different school districts.  We settled on Burnaby, which has a good reputation for doing inclusion well, and for supporting their students and teachers.  We made this decision based on many conversations via email with local disability community champions.  We also have friends who are happy with their daughter’s school experience in Burnaby.

So we opted out of the more-hip Vancouver locale for the municipality next door.  Burnaby is chock full of small neighbourhood schools that have closed boundaries.  That means there is a tiny attendance line drawn around a few select streets in the neighbourhood.  You have to live in the neighbourhood to get into the school.  This was particularly challenging in a tight rental market.  There were not a lot of options for us (and our cats) to live in.

The deal with British Columbia, in general, is that all kids go to their neighbourhood school.  For the most part, there are no special ed programs to push kids into.  BC is committed to having to educate ALL the kids in their community, no matter their needs. (Now, please note that I think special ed sites & programs can provide awesome experiences for children and families.  But if there is always a special ed option in your school district, asking that your child be included in a community school can be challenging).

This brings us to the chicken and the egg scenario.  We had to find a rental home in the catchment area of a good school.  Our challenge was to define what a good school means for Aaron.  So here’s the process we embarked on…

In January, we had seven phone interviews with North and Central Burnaby principals.  I chose the seven schools based on reputation and their ‘special needs’ rate – I didn’t want Aaron the only kid with needs in a small school.   All the principals responded immediately to my initial email contact.  My husband and I were nervous calling the first principal.  What if he didn’t want our son?  What if he directed us to another school?  What if we had to beg to get Aaron in and sell him as being low need and as ‘normally’ behaving as possible?  (This happens all the time in Edmonton).

Six of our seven principal interviews turned our fears upside down.  The principals were friendly and welcoming.  They asked about Aaron and what he was like.  They told us how they included kids with all sorts of needs in their school.  They talked about learning resource teachers, and Educational Assistants and Speech Language Pathologists who had offices at the school. They apologized for the lack of funding compared to wealthy Alberta.

A couple of times I almost dropped the phone.  Alberta has a lot of money, yes.  (Well, but the price of oil is falling, FAST, so the bust has begun).  But Alberta does not put its money towards supporting their most vulnerable citizens.  My home province’s funding levels for Educational Assistants are considerably lower than Burnaby’s.  Like about FIVE TIMES LESS than Burnaby’s.  Now, we know that funding isn’t everything – it is how the philosophy of inclusion is executed that’s important.

I knew from the first three minutes talking to the principals, what the culture and leadership was like at the school.  I asked them:

1. Tell us about your school 2. What is your philosophy about inclusion – academic and social/emotional elements  3. How do you partner with parents? 4. What would a typical day look like for Aaron? 5. Do you have any experience with kids with Down syndrome? 6. How will his support be assigned? 7. Can we have an in-person visit on February 9?

We discarded only one principal.  She was on and on about how much Aaron would cost her, and it took all my polite-Canadian strength not to hang up on her.  But the other six!  They said:

We believe in kids’ social and emotional needs.  We focus our resources on kids.  We believe in being approachable and open to parents.  We do a good job for kids with special needs here.  Our kids are great.  We have flexibility in our funding for your son.  If your son likes soccer, he can play inter-murals at lunch!  We teach students to be responsible for their own emotional learning.  We are working towards independence for all our kids.  We have a can-do attitude.  I’d move here if I had a kid with special needs.  

We travelled to Vancouver last week.  With the help of a realtor, the rental gods shone down on us, and we secured a home in the neighbourhood of one of our top schools.  I cannot tell you the relief that I felt when we signed our tenancy agreement.

We went for a tour of Aaron’s new school.  The principal spent a stunning 90 minutes with us, chatting with Aaron and introducing us to teachers around the school. He proudly showed us the classrooms, and the services for all their kids.   Aaron was silent during the whole tour. (I told him to be polite, and I think he interpreted this as don’t say a word).  I asked Aaron afterwards:  what did you think of the school?  It is awesome, he said.  We are going to run with that, folks, to get us through this big transition for our transition-adverse boy.

Because choice of school for our kids means a lot – it isn’t just the building down the street.  It is where our youngest boy will learn, flourish, grow, make friends and be independent.  None of this comes easy for him, and he needs all the kindness, compassion and support he can get.  I’m optimistic with a touch of caution, and I know that the proof is in the pudding.  But so far, so good.  Thank you, Burnaby, for your warm welcome and your exceptional first impression.

 

what inclusion means to us

IMG_4067

Where’s the data, Sue?

When I speak in the health world, I complement my stories with research and data.  This helps in two ways:  it addresses the left-brain thinkers in the audience, and it expands my topic (which is usually patient-centred care) from a philosophy that is just ‘nice to do’ to a practice that is evidence-based.  I never forget that many health professionals are also scientists, and that they believe in data and research.

I found out last week that the same is true in the world of education.  I was thrilled to be asked to speak about What Inclusion Means to Us to an audience of parents, teachers and leadership at my son’s community school.  I think this was a great demonstration of partnering with parents.  Giving all parents a voice at the school is an important step to authentic collaboration.

I prepared stories about our experience with successful inclusion.  I also talked about challenges with inclusion, and how Aaron has encountered social exclusion.  The Assistant Principal wanted me to be honest about our experiences, and I was grateful for that support – it elevated my presentation beyond just cheerleading.

There were three parents with typical kids who attended the presentation.  I was thankful that they took the time to come to a session on inclusion on a Wednesday evening.  It was clear, however, that one of the moms there had concerns about having our kids with special needs in her children’s classrooms, and she expressed that she felt that our kids took away from teaching time for her children.

This is what I needed more than my inclusion is the right thing to do message.  Bringing up research that proved that typical children actually benefit from having children with differences in their classrooms would have really helped.  When I got home, I threw out a wide net to my contacts to gather inclusion research.  Here’s what I found:

  • Dr. Jacqui Specht makes a crucial moral point that underpins all discussions about including children with differences:  It is still a popular belief that students are more or less deserving of an education based on “ability,” yet if we substituted other forms of diversity (such as First Nations students, poor students, or girls), this attitude would be unimaginable. (from School Inclusion:  Are we getting it right? on the Canadian Education Association website).
  • Placement in inclusive classrooms does not interfere with the academic performance of students without disabilities with respect to the amount of allocated time and engaged instructional time, the rate of interruption to planned activities and students’ achievement on test scores and report card grades (York, Vandercook, MacDonald, Heise-Neff, and Caughey, 1992).
  • “As Roger Slee (2007), noted research in inclusive education observes, when we realize that persons with a disability can actually be a resource and not a threat to learning, we can begin to revise or transform our approach to inclusive education.”   -from Grace Howell, Canadian Research Centre on Inclusive Education, Western University.
  • Also from Grace:  “Peck, Donaldson, and Pezzoli (1990) found that ‘adolescents who had social experiences with peers with severe disabilities perceived that as a result of these interactions (a) their self-concept improved, (b) they grew in social cognition, (c) they were more tolerant of others, (d) fear of human differences was reduced, (e) they developed personal principles, and (f) they developed relaxed and accepting friendships.'”

I love stories.  Storytelling is my thing.  Last week I learned a valuable lesson:  next time I’m talking about Aaron’s experience in his community school, I will bring both stories and data with me.  Then I will have a more complete toolkit to answer any questions that come my way.

Note:  A special thank you to Jacqui Specht and Grace Howell from Western University’s Canadian Research Centre on Inclusive Education for generously sharing these references to research with me.