Personal Stories

“Flight Risk”

Jordan pedals his bike down the sunny, dirt path, handling his mountain bike like an expert. Determined to beat his best friend Travis to the bottom, he grits his teeth and concentrates. In the end, he makes it to the bottom just behind Travis, but it’s no problem. The two boys high-five and Jordan invites Travis over to his house.

Jordan enjoys mountain biking, but has challenges with sensory processing. The first time Jordan’s parents signed him up for a biking group with other kids his age, he was told to bring along a snack during the ride. During the ride, he stopped to eat his snack. However, the leaders of the group wanted their riders to have their snacks at a later time. They told Jordan eating early was against the rules. Jordan became upset and ran away from the rest of the group.

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A Little Bit at a Time

Matt loves recess, lunch, and PE and he feels his best when he’s playing tag, king-of-the-hill or hide-and-seek with the other kids. Unforutunately, whenever it comes time to return to the classroom and sit down to work, Matt has trouble making the transistion as easily as the other kids. This is because performing “simple” actions like sitting still or following along with what the teacher is saying represent daily challenges for him due to his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Matt’s mind has trouble focusing one thing for more than a short while, causing him to forget important information or leave important tasks like cleaning his locker or doing his homework unfinished. This has significantly impacted his performance in the classroom as his lack of attention to the teacher has caused him to be unable to answer their questions leading others to believe that he is “dumb.” This is far from the case.

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A Tricycle for Harriet

Harriet giggles and smiles as she pedals her tricycle down the path in Pacific Spirit Park using her hands. Racing against her brothers, Jordan and Mike, she takes great pride in not only being able to take part in an activity with them, but (to their amazement) being able to speed past them. What more could any little sister want?

Harriet’s family enjoys the outdoors and bike riding is an important part of how they relax and spend time with one another. Harriet, however, has spina bifida, and until recently she was confined to her home while the rest of her family went on outings. Getting a hand-powered tricycle has allowed her to rejoin them.

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An Uncomfortable Challenge

The buzz of the bell announces the start of another recess. Out of the crowd of children flocking to the playground, three make a beeline for their spot – the monkey bars. The trio careens to a halt at the foot of the iron frame. Two of them scramble deftly up the metal latticework, leaving the last girl alone on the ground. They settle themselves on their perch, munching on grapes and granola, and peer down on the lone girl.

“C’mon, come up!”

“Yeah, come eat up here with us!”

Still panting from the mad dash, the girl focuses her gaze on the metal framework. Today, she thinks to herself, maybe. Gingerly she lifts one hand, places it on the metal. The sensation of the contact is piercing, and her hand springs back from the metal as if it had burned her.

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An Upward Journey

Inclined plane: A flat surface, raised at one end, one of the six classical simple machines as explained by Renaissance scientists. By increasing the distance over which the load is moved, it reduces the force needed to move the load. That’s physics.

Peter has always liked physics, almost as much as he likes definitions; it provides him with a simple and clear explanation of the world.

When Peter was born, the doctor explained to his parents that their son would not be able to walk. Nevertheless, as soon as he left infanthood he zoomed around the neighbourhood on his wheelchair – much to Mom’s chagrin – as fast as any of the other boys on their legs. In childhood, he had no fears and bowed to nothing.

Except stairs.

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Inquire at the Front Desk

Carlos could walk, but only barely. Carlos could read, but only barely. Reading at a second-grade reading level, and requiring a cane to walk (slowly) Carlos felt stupid and useless.

From his window he saw other teenagers on the street enjoying the freedom of summer, punctuated by shouts of laughter and rambunctiously slurping popsicles. How he yearned to join them, to have one of them knock on his door, call his name, and invite him to hang out. But whenever he passed by them he felt their stares on him, judging his lead-footed walk and his cane.

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Cut Off from the World

When I was growing up, I feared playing on the playground. I never really fit in, and I was bullied relentlessly. I never had the benefit of a program like My Stronger Self to help me on my way.

Not being identified as autistic until I was eighteen threw me into the enormous grey area between “normal” and “visibly disabled.” This grey area is a vast, gaping chasm and escaping from it is extremely difficult if not impossible. As a result, no one really knew what to do with me, and I never received the support I needed to succeed, either in school or at home. It is only now, going to university so many years later, that I am finally beginning to succeed in life.

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Max-imum Coordination

Max has difficulty with non-verbal communication. He can be awkward and clumsy, and his body language doesn’t match what other kids expect to see when talking to him. As a result, he has often been bullied and teased in school. Socially, he was isolated, as others labelled him the “school weirdo.”

Then Max joined the Air Cadets. There, Max discovered that the controlled movement of military drill helped him improve his coordination. Like Tai Chi, drill involves focusing on one’s movements. In addition, drill is taught by breaking down complex actions into a series of smaller ones—something Max has benefited from greatly. When all the motions are put together, the result is a group marching in formation.

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That’s Not What I Meant!

Kyle is an energetic kid who laughs easily. Recess is his favourite part of school and he loves running around the playground at top speed, giggling the whole time. Like all kids, he finds school challenging and sometimes difficult. Kyle, though finds school challenging for different reasons than other kids. He faces extra barriers other kids don’t have to deal with.

Kyle is non-verbal and has some intellectual challenges. Communicating isn’t easy for him. While Kyle tries hard to do his best, he can sometimes get frustrated in class. This is because while Kyle usually knows what he’d like to express, it doesn’t come out very easily.

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Urgent Hope Fund

The first time Dave opened his round brown eyes, his parents and grandparents speculated on his grand future.

“Doctor, definitely,” said his grandmother. “Look at that big forehead, this boy is going to be very very smart.”

“Well,” said his mother, who taught Law at the local high school, “smart boys can be lawyers too.”

His father, a PE teacher at the same school, reached down and tickled Dave’s tiny, soft feet. “Maybe he’ll be an athlete. A runner.”

Dave’s grandfather beamed down at his grandson as the boy’s tiny hands grasped his grandfather’s paint-stained fingers. “Maybe an artist. But only as a hobby!”

Dave acknowledged this discussion by opening his mouth to bawl, forcing his loving family to acknowledge that his diaper needed changing.

As days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, Dave learned to say “mama” and “dada” (to everyone’s intense delight) and learned to throw food that he didn’t like on the floor (to everyone’s intense annoyance). He also learned to walk. But at age three, his parents started to notice it – Dave limped. It was only barely noticeable, really, and it wasn’t too striking given that Dave was only three.

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Inquire at the Front Desk

Carlos could walk, but only barely. Carlos could read, but only barely. Reading at a second-grade reading level, and requiring a cane to walk (slowly) Carlos felt stupid and useless.

From his window he saw other teenagers on the street enjoying the freedom of summer, punctuated by shouts of laughter and rambunctiously slurping popsicles. How he yearned to join them, to have one of them knock on his door, call his name, and invite him to hang out. But whenever he passed by them he felt their stares on him, judging his lead-footed walk and his cane.

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