GEMSS would like to thank siblings Courtney, Brendan, and their mother, as well as Madeline and her mother, for their generosity in sharing these stories with us. You have made the site come to life with the addition of your thoughts and feelings. Thank you so much!
Catching up with Courtney and Brendan!
If you meet Courtney, you might be greeted with a shy smile followed by a big hug when she warms up. When she is not in school, Courtney might be found rock climbing in the local gym, cheerleading, or in a dance class. Her family is very important to her: she loves family gatherings, visiting her grandmother on Lake Winnipesaukee, and surprising her aunts with texting using very inventive spelling!
Her first grade experience has been wonderful, according to her mother. Courtney is a regular first grader with “beautiful friends” and she goes to lots of birthday parties. She uses words at times and uses her communication book and an iPad to communicate other ideas. Her classmates are important to her learning and social life. And when Courtney goes through the lunch line, she is learning to use her own Pin Number to pay, just like everyone else. Her friends lend a hand when she needs help and she also has a paraprofessional providing supports.
At home, Courtney is happy listening to classical music and Barney, and likes to dance to the music. She loves any sports that are associated with a ball!
Her mother has advice for teachers and parents: Choose full inclusion! “It is what is natural and why do something unnatural?” Courtney experiences everything her classmates experience. “It is heartwarming to see how beautiful it is,” she states when thinking of a recent visit to Courtney’s school. Her mother also feels that communication is a key factor in making inclusion successful. Monthly meetings between school and private therapists and specialists have been helpful for problem solving and keeping everyone on the same page.
Brendan has just turned 21. “He is an amazing young man” says his mother, glowing about his life. Brendan has had a team of people helping him reach his goals. In high school, he became a 2nd LT in the JROTC Program and was presented with the Tuskeegee Award. His colonel was a believer in Brendan and worked to figure out how Brendan could be supported, not if he should be supported. Brendan was prom king in high school and rode to the prom in a limo with his friends. As part of his work experience in high school, Brendan worked at WalMart, Sam’s Club, Walgreens, a pet store and a restaurant to see where his interests and successes were. Through the VocTech, he worked in the school store, cafeteria, restaurant, and the preschool program where he read books to young children. He even played Santa Claus!
But the latest achievement is an outstanding success for Brendan and his team. Brendan has recently found full time paid employment with NexDine, a food service company doing business at a high school in New Hampshire! He will have benefits and his supports will be the ‘all natural’ kind – his co-workers! We congratulate Brendan and his dedicated team and wish him great success in his new job.
Madeline for President!
Madeline is having a great year in school. She loves to sing and school has given her so much to sing about! She has shown great improvement in her language since starting at her local school’s preschool program. She is a fun-loving and independent 4 year old girl and her mother says she is like a “mini-teacher”, often directing her friends at school!
Madeline uses lots of words and uses some signs to supplement when needed. Although she uses an iPad at home, it is more for practice for possible use in the future. She has even developed skills in fixing the iPad! She knows the alphabet, recognizes many words and counts to 20. Her family has been reading to her even before she was born. Her vocabulary has grown by leaps and bounds since starting preschool.
Madeline recently missed some school due to her open-heart surgery but has recovered very quickly and hated missing school. She kept asking when she could go back. Her social interests have always been strong and she gets along very well with all kids. She is invited to birthday parties and her mother hopes to start more play dates now that she is recovering from her surgery.
She is great with her younger 8 month old brother often hugging, holding, and feeding him. And she loves to copy her mother when she does chores and will wash dishes, pull out her mini-broom and help sweep, or help clean-up her toys.
Madeline loves her family and her grandparents who play a great role in supporting her. In fact, her mother states that their immediate and extended family, their friends, and their neighbors have been an “extremely supporting and loving community from day one.”
From Madeline’s mother: Her biggest fear was what would happen when Madeline got to school. Her advice is to “Don’t let your fears hold you or your child back. Get on board with inclusive education, even if you have to introduce the concept to your school.” On the advice of a wise pediatrician at her birth, they always treat Madeline like any other child. “Don’t expect anything less of your child. Give lots of opportunities. Don’t hold back- she is always surprising us on what she can do. I expect her to be President the way she is going.”
Her mother also attended the NH Leadership Series and trainings at the Parent Information Center. She feels more confident in her ability to be a good advocate, network with other families, and build a community of support due to her Leadership training. She says, “I feel lucky to have had Madeline. I have friends, connections and a purpose in life that I wouldn't otherwise have.”
Great wisdom and food for thought! We will be looking for Madeline in future elections!!!