Looking back on 2021 & ahead to 2022
Updated: Jan 4, 2022
Hi readers! Happy New Year! We've neglected our blog in 2021 - my apologies! We're playing catch up. Here we go!
James is in senior kindergarten (SK) at Campbell's Children's School - his second year. If you didn't know, CCS is located in the Grandview Oshawa site (our local children's treatment centre). They typically just offer a 1 year placement for JK and SK kids that have various special needs but occasionally kids get a second year. We feel very fortunate that James was granted this. The goal of CCS is to focus on therapy goals in and out of a small classroom setting. With the help of a multi-disciplinary team, the intention of CCS is to transition kids to their home school with the appropriate supports in place. I (Ali) have a meeting with James' therapists (speech, physio and occupational) in mid January to talk about his progress so far, update goals as needed and talk about plans for the fall.
Some pics of school last year (JK):
James enjoys taking the bus each day. Our bus driver, Steve, is awesome! They rock out to some classic rock tunes each morning. James loves it! James' teacher, Ms. Hibbs, is wonderful. She has really taken the time to learn about James' needs, specifically his communication needs using his talker. He also has great ECEs who are so key in helping him with so many tasks. The right supports for James is SO important. James gets along well with his classmates and really enjoys the group environment. He's been introduced to his very own chromebook at school & working on his keyboard skills. James needs to be pushed sometimes to do the work - but he can do it! His educators & Mike and I have had some chats about working through his frustrations and some behaviours that occur in the school day.
A collection of pics from this school year:
James has progressed so well with his talker. Over the summer, Mike and I really focused on using the talker ALL THE TIME! As I mentioned briefly earlier, we've had some behaviour concerns both at home and at school. Communication, we've felt along with his therapists, is a big contributing factor to his frustration. So of course, helping James express himself using his talker has been incredibly important. His speech therapist at Grandview was so impressed with his progress when she saw him in September. That was great to hear after focusing so hard on it over the summer.
James is seeing a private speech therapist, Sabrina, once a week who is very knowledgeable with his device and the program (Unity) he uses. She's the first SLP I've seen come with their own device to the therapy session to communicate with James. I'm so happy to have her on James' team, coordinating efforts with our Grandview & Holland Bloorview SLPs. We've learned that once Holland Bloorview approves the equipment needed following the trial period, their involvement is significantly lessened so private therapy is really important to continue to progress. Communication has been such a big focus of ours in James' development over the last 2 years especially. More and more we use the term nonverbal when discussing James' speech development with professionals. That's been an adjustment as parents. It comes with a significant amount of grief, knowing the hurdles that places before him and us, not to mention the obvious challenges of having cerebral palsy. We soldier on though, knowing that by using certain terms (nonverbal) we will get the supports that he needs. I get asked often if he says any words. He says "yes", "no", "more". Those are the main ones. He's said other words in the past and we still have hope that more words will develop with the help of our speech therapists. He definitely babbles a lot, or tries to sing in his own way so we see that has a good sign. He now uses his talker with vocabulary builder off, meaning all words are unmasked. Our private SLP encouraged us to do this and we've been pleasantly surprised to see how well he's done to still find the words he knows and uses often while also finding new words and expanding his vocabulary. We're encouraged by this!
James did 2 one week intensives at SMILE therapy for kids over the summer and he continues to go weekly for 2 hours as well. There's a big focus on strength training when he goes to SMILE. They push him & he responds well! In the video below James is using the Trexo - a robotic walking device that combines James' initiated steps with a robotic movement of steps. If you have a moment, check out the story of the Trexo here
They always find fun and new ways to challenge James. We are big fans of this team!
I have to include a pic of this cutie!
With Shae now in JK at the local school in our neighbourhood (Whitby Shores), I've been meeting a lot of parents with kids her (and James') age. James' bus drops him off at Shae's school so I can walk both kids home together. This has meant many from the school community have gotten to know James as well as Shae and I. We've also had some park meet ups with some kindergarten families which has been fun. One mom in particular, Kerby, has taken an interest in James and we've had some talks about James' needs. She was amazed at the cost of all things adapted (vehicles as an example). Even as something as basic as a sled, when you purchase an adapted version is $1200 Canadian (thankfully I found cheaper options in the US- but still expensive). Kerby's husband, Jeremy, had his second open heart surgery in November and they experienced a lot of love from their community. They wanted to give back so Kerby asked if she could organize a fundraiser to get James a sled this Christmas! After posting some pics about James and sharing them on stories on social media, support was raised to buy James his sled in just 6 hours!
We were blown away by Kerby's willingness to organize this for James & the support from so many (and so quickly). There are a lot of good people in this world! Thank you to all who donated and of course to Kerby for organizing! The sled arrived just in time for Christmas and freshly fallen snow on Christmas Eve - couldn't ask for any better. James loved it as you can see from these videos:
It's difficult to talk about 2021 without mentioning covid. James was a close contact at school at the end of November and his class had to learn virtually for a period of time. We quickly learned that he was a positive covid case. And just a few days later, Mike and I tested positive too. Amazingly, James didn't develop any symptoms other than some GI trouble near the end of his quarantine time. Mike and I definitely felt ill. It basically felt like a bad chest cold & flu combined. The shortness of breath we experienced (Mike especially) was the worst symptom. Shae somehow managed to not get covid! She was a trooper for getting many swabs and being out of school for over 3 weeks to isolate. We're on the other side now thankfully. Health is never to be taken for granted.
The best part of 2021 was seeing my sister and brother-in-law in the summer. They visited from the UK. We rented a cottage for a week in Muskoka and had the best time together as a family.
I know it's a little late to talk about summer when we're in the middle of winter but I'm playing catch up! James went to camp at Grandview for multiple weeks last summer and had a great time. One of his best buddies he met there was a boy named Andwele or "Dwele" he's often called. He was so sweet with James. Even though he's about 3 years older, they bonded so well. We met up at a park once camp was finished and hope to meet again soon. When kids (and adults) make a deliberate effort to connect with James, it certainly does not go unnoticed.
Other 2021 memory highlights:
- Shae's preschool graduation
- Mike and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary
- Shae's first summer playing soccer
- lots of fun at the park, beach & zoo
- hangouts with cousins, grandparents & great grandparents
What's ahead for 2022? The biggest one is figuring out James' September school plans. There will be many meetings ahead to make sure James has the supports he needs to succeed at our home school, Whitby Shores Public School, in September. With the recent announcement of returning to Stage 2 in Ontario & doing virtual schooling, we are relieved to hear this does not impact James' school. He goes back to school tomorrow. Shae will be home doing virtual school (and Mike too!) It's an odd start to 2022 to say the least.
Thanks for your interest in our lives :) We feel blessed to have so many supportive people around us.