summer break begins

So sink me...  Summer is here.  Arrr!   

So says this pirate Rachel.  This is a snapshot from today, her last day of school until September.

The end of school is not a favourite for many families with special needs.  Kids who crave routine and have difficulty with transitions can't just sail from school routine to summer flexibility.  I am conscious of that with regards to parents of children who live with ASD and related hurdles - and wish for our friends a summer of grace, patience and good experiences.  Rachel seems to be okay with the change in day-to-day, but it is a challenge for us as parents to fill her day with meaningful activity.  

Rachel has had another wonderful year with the staff and students at the Niagara Children's Centre School.  We are thankful for the love, care, advocacy and determination of all those who work with Rachel at her school.  Our thoughts from last year are echoed in this post: We are encouraged and motivated by teams of people like the Niagara Children's Centre School who believe firmly that:

Rachel's team of support included Mrs. Stewart (seen in these photos).  She challenged Rachel to use her "talker" and other ways to interact in the classroom.  I had to laugh when I reviewed the photos and video from Rachel's art show.  Rachel does not enjoy being in front of a crowd of people, and her frowns in the two following photos support this statement.  Rachel is seen looking away from her teacher and choosing not to use her talker to explain her art.  How typical of a stubborn 7 year old! 

With just a small group of students, the Niagara Children's Centre School works hard to set and meet individual goals that may be difficult to achieve in a typical classroom setting.  Even though the school day may appear a-typical, there are many experiences similar to other schools.  Rachel was in several class plays, and she recently starred as the singing bridge for a pirate play.   Once again, we were gently challenged by the staff to see what Rachel is capable of doing - and to expect the unexpected.

This past school year also included tremendous support from Marlene Teeuwsen.  She came into our home on school days at 7 A.M. to help get the girls ready for their day.  Marlene quickly learned the tube feedings and morning care routine, adding her own loving touch for the girls. Rachel and Janneke often greeted her with smiles or sounds.  (Mind you, both Rachel and Janneke also mastered the art of sleeping through their morning wash and care.)  

With the start of summer comes the annual Easter Seals Regatta in Port Dalhousie.  John and Margaret Krall were our hosts again this past Sunday, and we loved the ride on Lake Ontario.  Always a treat for the family, and the Kralls are wonderful company.

Katelyn (niece and respite worker) came along this year, and we were thankful for the extra help, allowing us to relax and enjoy the ride.

Even though Janneke was still not feeling well, she mustered enough energy to make the most of the ride.  She was able to put weight on her feet for the view - and we wondered if she was considering a quick dip in the water.

Lest we forget, our American friends are often finished with school three weeks before we are - and we were happy to host them as part of their already-into-summer plans.  The Eenigenburg family stayed for a night as a pitstop - er, Potstop - en route to Washington D.C.  Our kids instantly connected again, and we loved the sweet but short time together.

We continue to take life one day at a time.  This weekend, we hope to install a second deck lift that will give Rachel and Janneke a second exit/entrance to our home.  A family in our neighbourhood is giving us their lift, as they no longer need it.  They have their own story, and we grieved with them and for them, as they shared small glimpses of their daughter's life and death.  We hope to honour their daughter and family by planting a bush or flower that will bloom each year in her memory - and out of our thanksgiving for the lift.

Peace to your homes tonight.

Wait - and a special thanks to our transport staff, Pina and John, who safely carried Rachel to school every day.