In my class this year (when does 2014-2015 become LAST year and not THIS year anymore?) I had an amazing student named K. K has some physical challenges because he was born with Arthrogrypossis which causes severe joint contractures and muscle weakness. I know K's family as I had the pleasure of working with his mother (who is an teacher!) a few years back. They have never let K use his challenges as a crutch and have always treated him like everyone else and wouldn't have it any other way. He's a very resilient little boy and perseveres through the tough times. Living in a very active family, K has learned how to ride a bike, play soccer and ball and swim like all the other kids, something that I admire so much in him, especially knowing that he sometimes suffers a lot of pain.
In class, K works very hard and doesn't like to be treated differently. When his hands cramped up, he would keep writing until he just couldn't take it anymore. He would then raise his hand and give me the signal and I would discreetly finish writing his notes for him as I kept teaching. Things like tying his shoes and cutting sometimes took a bit longer than other students, but that's ok, we just got used to it.
I was so used to treating K like all the other students that I sometimes forgot that he had some physical challenges and he would have to gently remind me. This was the case when we were talking about our field trip just before last bell one day. The next day, we would participate in the "tintamare" (read this post to learn all about the francophone tradition) and would walk in the parade with 700 other students. Some kids complained about the 45 minute walk, but I brushed it off until K mentioned that the walk had been exhausting for him last year, so much so that he had a hard time participating in the activities that followed. You know...the fun stuff...the bouncy castles! I couldn't let that happen. While talking to him about it (and realizing that this was very last minute to try and figure something out), I mentioned that he could take the school bus with the younger kids (and a couple of his friends) straight to the park instead of participating in the parade. This option always makes me feel bad. The last thing he wants is to be singled out like that, but I didn't know what else to do. He insisted that he wanted to participate in the parade. Another kid suggested that we bring a wheelchair for him for when he got tired, and to my surprise, K loved the idea. We had a plan! I had to find a wheelchair for him! The bell rang and the kids went home, excited about the next day.
I went on the hunt. I mean, finding a wheelchair for him couldn't possibly be that difficult, could it? I started texting, emailing and calling everyone I knew, other schools, organisations in the community that could possibly lend us a wheelchair for the day. I posted in community Facebook groups and called the health unit and hospital. Nobody had one to lend out! By 8pm, I was totally bummed out.
Then a friend suggested a wagon, but I thought it was going to be too babyish for him and that he would reject the idea. However, I texted his mother and asked her if he'd go for it, which he did. I started the hunt for a wagon! An hour later, I had found someone who could lend us one for the day. I was thrilled that K would get to join us in the parade and stretched my muscles, thinking that I'd be the one pulling him for the walk.
|R pulling K during the parade|
Do you see the rest of the parade, way ahead of us (even though we cheated and took a sort cut)?
|K winning the race and coming out of the bouncy castle before R|
This is him winning the bouncy castle race against one of the friends who pulled him. We joked around that R was just too tired from pulling him.
|My son Ty (his school participated in the tintamare too) with R (one of his closest friends) and K|
**Pictures and story shared with R and K's parents' permissions.