Roughing it in The Beast!

Last summer, when we were getting the insurance for our wacky old motor home, we had a chance to see this beast through H’s eyes.

He announced, “A motor home is way cooler than a fannypack…”

So ya, a motor home is cool in ways that are almost too great to define, and thus we shall rely on H’s fannypack coolness scale. This needs to be a thing! OMG!

And then, later, when I explained that we were going to move our camping stuff from the basement and keep it in The Falcon, the realization for him was delightful to witness, “You mean we can go camping without even PLANNING!? Oh ya!!”

Here is a shotH-CBRadio.jpg of H working to figure out the CB Radio. He quickly picked his CB name – and he was clear in pointing out that we are now not only in possession of a vehicle clearly as cool as the motor home in The Walking Dead, but also, in case of an actual Zombie Apocalypse, we are in good stead.

H stated, “When all other communication fails, because of loss of power and satellite communication, we will be in good shape and grateful for the low-tech CB radio.”

Seriously, H spend the first two days that The Beast was in the driveway, marking his territory and staking out his ownership and listening to music in the driver’s seat. I think he is in love!!! (And I’ll have to admit that I am a little bit in love as well.)

Like I already said – it isn’t pretty – and there are clearly things – potentially leaky things – that need repairs.StairFix.jpg.. on an ongoing basis.

Craig did a little surgery on the bottom stair that had rotted away… and I made a few curtains and collected a bit of melamine and other cool kitschy stuff to round-out our rather rustic camping supplies.

And though we were certainly not done with the repairs, off we went for a trial run. In British Columbia we are lucky; we have plenty of beautiful places to hang out and hike and camp.

We headed off forRelaxed.jpg one night, on the day after I completed my summer work with the university. I hadn’t really felt like summer had begun – but 20 minutes after parking I was sitting back and relaxed.

Ahhhhhhh…

Ya… pretty luxurious compared to tenting. 

Our goal has been that we will be able to head off for a night – or the weekend – with little or no packing.

I love camping – but I hate the stress of packing and unpacking. I just don’t seem to have to spoons for it – so often the result has been that I would rather stay home. Newcurtains.jpg

It has taken us (well, mostly Craig and H) a bit of time (like over a year) but this November weekend we went for a glorious overnight with no real planning… and it felt just like running away. Craig and H had novembercamping2.jpgeverything organized, so I popped home after work, threw some clothes in a bag, and we were off.

It was spectacular…

H and I sang “Moon Shadow” together by the campfire and made banana boats…

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We had time to connect as a family…

I had time to wander about alone with my camera and my thoughts…

And I feel renewed…

Thank you Craig and H…
I love and appreciate you!

And both of you are way cooler than a fannypack!!

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30 Days of Autism is a project designed to promote social understanding and offer a glimpse into the perspectives of those whose lives are touched by Autism.

©Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism (2014)   

Posted in Autism, Autistic, Sometimes the pace chooses me..., Space and Pace, The Beast | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Considering 50: Trajectory of Development, Independence, and Accidental Unfoldings

Often birthdays are a quiet affair at our house, which is just fine with me, but this October marked my 50th and we ushered it in with a wildly fun Elton John themed party.

Leahfifty3.jpgSeriously, for people who are pretty much homebodies, we threw quite the celebratory shindig. My amazing friend G♥ created one her fabulous dance playlists of 50 songs, which had us on the go till all hours. We finished the list at 4:30 in the morning… and yes… my leg muscles were hating me for the next few days, but it was entirely worth it.

A few weeks later, we are still finding bits of glitter, stray feathers from the flashy abundance of boas, and the odd pair of party shades stashed in spots we are shocked we hadn’t noticed.

So ya… 50…

I figure this perhaps marks the half-way point of my life (which may be revealing of my cocky attitude)… but really, in many ways – I feel like I am just getting started.

There is a part of me that feels like I should be looking back – taking account – and settling in to something more… I don’t know… settled???

But I find myself instead looking forward… and wondering about new possibilities and feeling really excited…

I don’t know where I am going exactly – and I don’t need to – I just have a kind of general feeling and trust that whatever it is that unfolds and that I make happen (I have no doubt that these are combined: luck, unfolding motions of the universe, mixed with my choices and actions) will be well situated in and honouring of the things I value.

I feel stronger and more sure of myself than I did when I was younger, more trusting of my busy, messy brain, and my learning style and my ability to separate out the entwined threads of my thinking and then communicate these with others.

My understandings are deeper, I can shift in and out of the meta and the minutia, and I am more productively sensitive and aware of that space between myself and others. I am fascinated by that space between – and the connections with others – that place where we interface and where a word, or a look, or perceived tone can shift and change things and open up possibilities.

And too, as my world has expanded with my wonderful connections within disabilities communities, and as I have developed close friendships with Autistic people, I have become more aware of what I am seeing as my responsibility as a person with privilege.  I am committed to continue to work with other activists to affect change and to move the world (or at least one small part of it where I might have some tiny dominion) in a positive direction.

When I consider how I feel about my future – I cannot help but also reflect on H and that I am increasingly comfortable with understanding that I do not have the ability to see his future.

Of course I project about the ways his future might be shaped by actions and decisions  (his, mine and Craig’s, and other circumstances), but I also feel that I am welcoming his transition to adulthood with an increasing trust in how things will unfold, and in his capacity to learn, and to make self-determining decisions.

During a presentation last week, I was asked about what I see for H’s future. I responded that I don’t really know, that I have learned that I cannot know, and that my role is to support him in authentically being himself, to find his way, his path, to be fulfilled, and to ensure there are opportunities for him.

The truth is… I can’t know H’s future any more than I can know my non Autistic daughter’s future, or my own, or any more than anyone truly can know the future of another.  I made the point that what I am learning is that it is really important for me to be okay with not knowing how everything is going to unfold, and though it may not be easy, I trust this process.

Periodically, I am also asked by someone, a friend or colleague, about what I imagine for H in the future, including whether I think he will ever live independently

This question about independence happened recently, and for a second I felt a bit put off or defensive about this query, but that’s when I took a breath and settled deeper into my thinking… to let that moment pass.

My response, after the breathing beat, was something like this: “Independence… ya… I am not sure I know what that even means. It is a good question to consider – but really – I am wondering if any of us actually live independently… because… I know I don’t.”

I just love this particular friend, and the way we went on to discuss ideas around independence as well as the role of a parent supporting this process of transitioning to adulthood.

And too… this had me thinking further and considering that this drive for independence is perhaps situated as an unachievable standard that we hold up as some kind of measure of success for people with disabilities, but that we don’t do this to non-disabled people.

We don’t do this… because it isn’t real…

I mean that independence… it isn’t a thing… it isn’t a destination in itself.

Consider for a moment that we don’t generally ask someone with a son or daughter who is 24 and still living at home, with that kindly gentle tone laced perhaps with subtle underlying pity, “Do you think ____ will ever live independently…?”

So ya, for H, the word independence does not capture some destination as he makes his way to adulthood. The goal is that he has the resources and capacity to be emotionally healthy, self-determining, able to problem solve, connected to community, and interdependent with others whom he cares about and who care about him, and hopefully that he can spend time doing things that he is passionate about, and that give him a good quality of life and a feeling of fulfillment.

So – now – when I think upon myself – and how long it has taken me to get to this place, and how I am still learning and growing and even now contemplating things that years ago may have seemed entirely beyond the realm of possibility…

I will gift my son the same time and faith that I gift myself…300px-Pluma-azul

I will believe in my son as I believe in myself…

I will trust in the unfolding of possibilities…

Related Post: https://30daysofautism.wordpress.com/2013/08300px-Pluma-azul/16/problem-solver-and-redefining-independence/
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30 Days of Autism is a project designed to promote social understanding and offer a glimpse into the perspectives of those whose lives are touched by Autism.

©Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism (2014)   

Posted in ableism, acceptance, accident, Activist, Autism, Goals, letting go, Space and Pace | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Easy Silence: I am still learning to communicate

Leah Kelley:

Yesterday I saw a disturbing video posted on facebook – where a child was being forced to say “mama” or make an “mmm” sound.

All the communicative efforts of that little girl were ignored, which was dishonouring of the child. What I saw was a compliance based approach that is destroying of trust and damaging of a relationship this young child should be able to count upon (her parent).

And from an educational perspective the desired behaviour was so narrowly targeted that success was a long shot. That does not build confidence and capacity – that is not how good responsive teaching happens. I suspect that she did not even understand why she finally got the fricken gummy.

Good teaching (and parenting) is a dance – with two (or more) partners…
It is give and take…
It is turn taking…
It is “Here, you take the lead for a while…”
It is “I see you…” “I hear you…” “I understand…”

Here is a post from the 30 Days archives that I think is relevant to consider…

Originally posted on Thirty Days of Autism:

I was once working with a child on the autism spectrum… (not H) and this opportunity had me considering, I mean really considering, what it must be like to be him. He had so many challenges and did not use words to communicate. He did communicate though: his actions and his behaviour were his communication, and it was up to the rest of us to figure it out and learn his language.

How often do we have our world, our schools, our expectations set up so that it is those with the social cognitive challenges that are expected to “fit in” and “get it”, instead of having those of us with the social cognitive strength doing the work – or at least a fair part of it?

Our work together was challenging, but often joyful. I was relaxed and counted upon his ability to communicate the pace, and my…

View original 239 more words

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Sharknado 2: A Review by H

sharknado2headernewLast night me and my mom watched Sharknado 2: The Second One, and we were really impressed with it.

I loved the beginning how it was a take off of the 6o’s Twilight Zone, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, and how there were sharks on the wing on the plane.

That was just hilarious!

I think the opening of the film with the plane for a second looked like a flying shark. I also think this scene would make a cool theme park ride or a simulator game.

That was the best opening ever, and I think I saw Robbie Rist in the opening credits… but my mom and I think we shouldn’t spoil the Where’s Waldo search for everyone else if it is him!

The effects improved as well. The sharks looked a lot more like sharks – like realistic – almost…

I like how Fin was wearing a shark tooth around his neck and how he used a broadsword to chop sharks in half.

And OMG – the CHAINSAW! It was a masterpiece. That chainsaw was brutally stupendous in size. I also noticed the chainsaw didn’t get bloody at all, which my mom and I thought was hilarious.

And just the idea of having Fin lifting that thing with one arm was mind-boggling.

And Finn’s wife, April, went all “Evil Dead” on her arm – but not with a chainsaw – but a circular saw, which was very unexpected and awesome.

Some of my favourite lines were:

“If anyone is gonna play me in the movie – it’s gonna be me.” (Fin)

“I hate the subway” (Fin –  which was like “I hate the 405″ in the first movie)

“I know you’re upset” (the cop after the harsh plane landing)

“This is a twister with teeth… Enough said” (News announcer – “enough said’ was the slogan in the first movie)

I like how Sharknado 2 takes after awesome bad 80s B films like Chopping Mall, with good bad acting.

Sometimes sequels are horrible, like Gremlins 2, and Troll 2, and sometimes the second film, like Teminator 2, is better than the first one. I think Sharknado 2: The Second One was well made and is just as good as the first film.

I send a lot of credit to Anthony Ferrante and The Asylum, and I give it another 4/5 disembodied shark heads on my shark head rating scale.

Decapitated shark head rating scale

People who like movies like Chopping Mall or Return of the Living Dead or the first Sharknado… this is for you! Here is a link to the trailer for Sharknado 2.

*Please Note: H and I feel it is important to share that H authored the words of this review and it was scribed for him by me.  There are many people who find that writing is an opportunity for expression, and conversely some people, like H, who at times find it a barrier. It is helpful if we understand that one experience is not preferable to the other, but rather focus on effectively matching supports and accommodations for individuals with a variety of strengths and experiences. This is honouring diversity ♥

_________________________________________________________ 30 Days of Autism is a project designed to promote social understanding and offer a glimpse into the perspectives of those whose lives are touched by Autism.

© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism (2014)

Posted in Autism, Autistic, B films, Humour, New York, Sharknado | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Sharknado in the Mailbox! Dear Anthony

Sharktooth.jpgDear Anthony C. Ferrante and The Asylum,

I got your package and your letter in the mail today. I opened it with a shark’s tooth because it is the only way. I was expecting just Sharknado posters but I found all of these other awesome things that you sent me. I felt just so happy that you’d send such cool Sharknado memorabilia. All this time I didn’t know there were cups and mugs and Sharknado collectibles and now I am just shocked. It is unbelievable. I love them.

Thank you for the blueray DVD. I will be having the posters framed for my wall. I noticed the little hats you drew on the sharks and that made me laugh in a good way. I just loved it.

The Sharknado machine is so cool. It just blew my mind. I thought it was a blender at first, but when I pulled it out, it had these cute little sharks. I will have my very own little sharknado. I will have a lot of fun with this.Sharknado1.jpg

I can’t wait to show my friend Gord at his card shop. I am going to package everything back into the box so I can show him, except I will wear the t-shirt.

I love Sharknado! I am looking forward to the sequel.

I really appreciate all the amazing things you and The Asylum sent me.

Thank you so much,

H

PS.
My mom and I have been watching Z Nation, which I noticed is also made by The Asylum, and I thought is was awesome and really funny that they had a Zombienado.

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A little background for the reader:
Last summer, H and I went to see Sharknado and H was thrilled by this film. The following day he created his own severed leg prop and did some digital magic to fly a few sharks into the photo (I need to get him to teach me how to do that), and you can read about it and see H’s awesome prop here.

Recently the planets kind of aligned and I had the opportunity to connect with Robbie Rist (who plays the school bus driver in the first film – and also voices Michelangelo in The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live action movie). I thought H was going to flip right out of his socks – he was so excited!

Anyway, Robbie Rist saw the post from last year and shared it with Anthony Ferrante, the Director of Sharknado and Sharknaro 2: The Second One. And well… it kind of just unfolded that Mr. Ferrante was moved by H’s enthusiasm and he very kindly offered to send H two signed Sharknado posters. As you can see from H’s letter – there was much more that arrived than that.

Here are a few more photos that tell the tale:

Sharknado3.jpgSharknado6.jpgsharknado4.jpgsharknado5.jpgSharknado2.jpgThank you to Anthony Ferrante and The Asylum, and to Robbie Rist and Ryan Budds, who also acted in the first Sharknado for reaching out with such kindness and generosity.

This young man was over the moon…

_________________________________________________________ 30 Days of Autism is a project designed to promote social understanding and offer a glimpse into the perspectives of those whose lives are touched by Autism.

© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism (2014)

Posted in Anthony B. Ferrante, Autism, B films, Horror B films, making movies, New York, Sharknado, The Asylum | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chalk it up to Activism! #BoycottAutismSpeaks

Iamnotapuzzle.jpgSo, some people may wonder why I do this activism stuff with my son… and some might even think that it would be better to shield him from what Autism Speaks says about Autistic people.

If I thought for a moment that it was just Autism Speaks that conveyed the negative messages about what it means to be Autistic or the family member of an Autistic person, I might be inclined to entertain that. I might be tempted to consider, for just a moment, that my son might be better off if I gave no attention to Autism Speaks and instead steered him carefully away to avoid the damage.

The thing is, however, that the reach of Autism Speaks, and organizations like them (for instance Down Under’s equivalent, ‘Autism Awareness Australia) have had an impact well beyond the edges of their supporters and their supporters’ friends. The sad reality is that I am raising my son in a society that too frequently views disability through the lens of tragedy, burden, and hardship, and too often frames his way of processing and interacting with the world as something that is beyond acceptance until it is cured, fixed (‘fixed‘ meaning that he can appear to emulate those who are non Autistic) or otherwise eradicated.

These stigmatizing attitudes about disability that are steeped in the language of pathology and cost and deficit are pervasive and we, as a society, have become so accustomed to this stance that many of us cannot even see how problematic it is. The prevalence of stigma is so vast and dominates the discourse to such a degree that it may not even be seen, or questioned.

Sadly… we may be so used to it that we do not notice it until we see its impact on ourselves or the people we love.

Part of raising this young man to be a healthy Autistic adult is giving him the tools and the perspectives to understand about his civil and human rights. I want him to know he can rail against stigma, and I hope that I am modelling that we can work from within communities of support to change things for the better by speaking out and taking action.

You see – this is a kid who has grown up in the era of Autism Speaks. It breaks my heart to say so, but Autism Speaks is the most recognized (albeit – wrongly so) organization to spread [mis]information about Autism.

My son, along with other Autistic people, is excluded by this giant machine of a corporation.

But what he has not been excluded from is the stigma spread by Autism Speaks. He has been surrounded by it since 2005… which is by far the majority of his life.

And the really, really sad thing is… that I know my son already has internalized the negative and stigmatizing ableist messages, language and attitudes that seem to be everywhere. It is insidious and I know this has affected him.

So there is work to be done… and I am hoping – no, counting on it – that this is enough to mitigate hate.

Sometimes it is complex and involves networking with others to counter Autism Speaks and show that there are alternatives.

Sometimes it involves signal boosting the voices of Autistic people, because theirs are the voices we should be listening to – first and foremost.

Sometimes it is carefully choosing my words when my son asks a question – or perhaps monitoring my responses so that I am fully supporting him as our relationship changes.

Sometimes it is understanding that fully supporting him means stepping back and getting out of the way.

And sometimes it is as simple as drawing images with chalk alongside H in our driveway, because this is something that sends a message as well…

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30 Days of Autism is a project designed to promote social understanding and offer a glimpse into the perspectives of those whose lives are touched by Autism.

©Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism (2014)   

This post is part of the T-21 Down Wit Dat Blog Hop: Click here to enter your link and view the other participants.

Posted in ableism, acceptance, Activist, Autism, autism stigma, Autistic, Boycott Autism Speaks | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Talking with crows: A Sensory Break

Since H was very young I have made a bit of a habit of handing him my camera on long drives, or when he needs a break or is feeling overwhelmed… or when he points out something of interest.

This is also a really lovely way for H to handle crowds or noise – as it gives him some control, something to focus upon, and creates a little space between him and his environment with the camera as a kind of shield, or a mask, or a safe way to narrow his wide view of the world and focus in on something exquisite.

Yesterday at the ASAN Protest of Autism Speaks, H called me over to a little treed area and pointed out a crow that had caught his interest.

He was watching closely, entranced, noting and sharing how it made this clickitying noise…

I handed him my camera…

I love the way H can capture things: details and angles that I might not consider.
I love the glimpse into the way he sees things.
I love looking at the photos together later. It is like opening a gift!

H and I both agreed that these beautiful photos deserved a post of their own… so we are gifting them to you as well! ♥

"Talking with Crows"  by H: Photo 1 of 8

“Talking with Crows” by H: Photo 1 of 8

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“Talking with Crows” by H: Photo 2 of 8

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“Talking with Crows” by H: Photo 3 of 8

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“Talking with Crows” by H: Photo 4 of 8

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“Talking with Crows” by H: Photo 5 of 8

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“Talking with Crows” by H: Photo 6 of 8

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“Talking with Crows” by H: Photo 7 of 8

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“Talking with Crows” by H: Photo 8 of 8


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30 Days of Autism is a project designed to promote social understanding and offer a glimpse into the perspectives of those whose lives are touched by Autism.

© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism (2014)

Posted in ASAN, Autism, Autistic, Communicate, perspective of others, Space and Pace, support | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

ASAN Vancouver: Protesting Autism Speaks #boycottAutismSpeaks

ASProtest1.jpg

ASAN Vancouver: Protesting Autism Speaks Walk. H is holding a sign that reads “Autistic Rights are Human Rights #lovenotfear”

Last week H and I made our way into the big city to attend an ASAN meeting with the newly founded ASAN Vancouver Chapter. (ASAN = Autistic Self Advocacy Network)

H was pretty quiet during the meeting, and was creating things on his iPad, but he was definitely listening.

He was at the table… and my intent is to support him in gaining a sense of community and a way to be involved in activism and disabilities rights should he so choose.

I cannot say if he will wish to continue with this as he transitions to adulthood – though he is my son and has a heart for social justice – so I suspect he might.

The point is though – that I see it as my role and responsibility to support him in connecting to other Autistic people as well as people within broader disabilities communities. I want him to know that his voice matters – that he has a place at the table – and he can sit – or not – but the possibility will be there for him.

His activism right now is about empowerment and pride – and supporting him in this is a way of mitigating the negative stigma of organizations such as Autism Speaks.

So… today we once again headed into the big city, this time to participate in ASAN Vancouver’s protest of the Autism Speaks Walk.

On the drive in we discussed many things, as is always the case on our drives. Today, among other things, we talked of stigma, and eugenics, and how sad it is for families to hear the message that their Autistic child is a tragedy… and be sucked into believing it…

H gets this stuff… and I can tell you that I feel pride in his indignance!
And he is proud to be playing a role in combating the negative messages!

So the protest was small, but it was almost entirely well received. Our rough estimate was that there were about 50 conversations today that were game changers, and an enormous amount of ASAN and #BoycottAutismSpeaks flyers were shared with people as well.

ASProtest2.jpg

Sarah, H, and Amethyst at the ASAN Vancouver A$ Protest.

H said: “If they knew what Autism Speaks is doing – they wouldn’t be walking – but protesting with us!”

I concur!

And maybe as a result of today’s efforts, some of those walkers will be along side us next year…

Because this is how change happens… and H and I agree that today was made of win!!

H, wearing his #BoycottAutismSpeaks shirt, is standing in front of an old building. He is looking at the Margaret Mead quote that has been painted on the side. Text reads: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

H, wearing his #BoycottAutismSpeaks shirt, is standing in front of an old building. He is looking at the Margaret Mead quote that has been painted on the side. Text reads: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

_________________________________________________________ 30 Days of Autism is a project designed to promote social understanding and offer a glimpse into the perspectives of those whose lives are touched by Autism.

© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism (2014)

Posted in ableism, acceptance, Activist, Advocacy, advocate, ASAN, Autism, autism stigma, Autistic, Boycott Autism Speaks, Margaret Mead, social justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Voting “yes” – because I trust you… #bced

Yup… Voting ‘yes’ and that vote is not saying that I think this is a good deal… because it is not…

But it is better than I think we would get if we were legislated back… and I trust, respect and appreciate the work of our BCTF Negotiation Team.

Whether or not the deal is a go (and I hope it is) there remains some troubling deficits in the values of this government. These have resulted in giant corresponding gaps in the health, education, and social services support systems in our province, because the corporate model does not support the kind of society that cares for ALL of its citizens.

I have no doubt that it is the massive networking of groups, like BC Voters Supporting Public Education on Facebook, that are playing an important role in informing people of the issues and building understanding. When I talk to my neighbour, a man at the grocery store, the woman who cuts my son’s hair, or someone on the street, I am impressed with their knowledge of the issues and the level of their support. They are listening and they see things differently now. The issues are finally being talked about, largely because of social media, in a way that allows people to see through this liberal government’s spin and lies…

I am endlessly grateful for that… and I hope this continues to grow… in fact – I am counting on it!

A ‘yes’ vote doesn’t mean capitulation.

We held the line and we took this hill!

This is not a surrender!

Rather, it is an acknowledgment that this is the best teachers can do right now, but we still have work to do to support and fight for a fair and equitable public education, and our children’s rights to access this.

And teachers need your help!

There are actions that can be undertaken by parents, and community members, and School Boards who are willing to advocate along side teachers. Here are just a few of the possibilities that community members are already discussing and taking action upon…

• Elect School Board Trustees who care and are willing to speak up and advocate for public education (as is their mandate)
• Work to shift/end intervenor status of BC Coalition of Businesses in October’s B.C. Court of Appeal review.
• Work on Recall Process for BC Liberal MLAs who are not effectively representing, listening, or even talking to the citizens in their constituencies
• keep sharing info about Class Size and Composition (CS+C) and build informed networks of support to fight for social justice (issues in education intersect with many things – disability/poverty/etc)
• Support parents in grassroots actions such as possibly boycotting of FSA tests

I LOVE this last idea, put forth by a parent who suggested that families refuse to have their children participate in the FSA testing,  the one that is used by the Fraser Institute to rank schools.

Parents have that right to opt out… but many do not know this…

Imagine the time gained for students and actual teaching if enough families said NO to this particular standardized test: it would add at least a week to the instructional time in our schools.

Wouldn’t it be a powerful push back against this government’s corporate/political goals for BCED…

And then consider the potential chain reaction…

Maybe the Fraser Institute would be unable to RANK schools based on these shoddy standardized tests (with their questionable and statistically unreliable results) because nobody came to their elitist party!!

Now that is SOCIAL JUSTICE and collective responsibility in action!!

And as a part of our collective action we need to make sure we don’t turn off the heat on Social Media. We have growing networks of people who understand the issues and want to support and protect public education.

We must keep holding the BC Liberals accountable – feet to the fire (so to speak)… and we must not let them rest for a moment, with their false claims that they have calmed the seas and made things better for kids.

That hasn’t happened yet… but collectively, as citizens of BC, I think we can do this…

So I am voting ‘yes’… because, even though I don’t think the offer by the government gives us what we hoped,  I don’t think teachers are alone in this battle anymore…

And I trust the citizens of BC to have my back and to be there for the future of public education and the children of British Columbia!

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_________________________________________________________ 30 Days of Autism is a project designed to promote social understanding and offer a glimpse into the perspectives of those whose lives are touched by Autism.

© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism (2014)

Posted in Autism, BC Teachers Federation, BCTF, Christy Clark, Collective Responsibility, family, Parent, Public Education, social justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ken Bramble: Connecting the Dots in #bced

Some may wonder why a blog that is generally about Autism would be so closely focused on matters of public education of late, but the reality is that these matters are connected, and there is an unquestionable intersectionality between social justice issues. Prejudice based on gender or sexuality, race, religion, disability, class, or the struggle for worker’s rights, or disabilities activism, or railing against racism, sexism, ableism, poverty… these all intersect when we talk about human rights.

The struggle for social justice is inherently entwined in fighting for public education, the rights of our students, and the worker’s rights of our teachers. When a system is chronically underfunded, those with the least privilege are the most vulnerable. However – there are some deeper trends and patterns here that are insidious, and disturbing, and need to be discussed.

The following is a guest post written by BC educator, Ken Bramble, B.Ed. M.A.  Ken is a N.Z. trained teacher with forty years of public school service. He came to Canada in 1966, and though he retired as an Elementary School Principal in 2001, he has remained a tireless political activist and a dedicated public education advocate. He is has graciously agreed to write this post to explain the trends and patterns he has observed, in order to connect the dots of the political/corporate agendas that have been influencing our system. Ken’s observations are of the school system in British Columbia, and is a supporter of equitable education for all B.C. students, but the implications of what he shares are frighteningly far-reaching and alarmingly applicable across a much wider global framework…

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Connecting the Dots

By Ken Bramble

Change has always been an important part of public schooling. Changes initiated and implemented by professional educators have been the foundation for improving teaching and learning in education for as long as I have been involved.

This healthy, if sometimes painful reality, ensured my ongoing enthusiasm for the work I was doing with children. I participated in the development and provision of numerous initiatives over the years; without exception these were designed and intended to improve the service we provided to our clients, the children of B.C.

Without fanfare or ceremony, change in our school system has insidiously and quietly shifted from best practice to political interference. I have witnessed this shift as professional educators and their expertise have been systematically removed from positions of influence and leadership, to be replaced with political appointees.

It all started for me with the removal of school catchment boundaries over a decade ago. This insidious move was made in the name of “Choice.” whereby, parents would now have more choice in which school they wished for their children.

Hello Competition: Using a corporate model, the political belief was pushed that competition was good in that it brought out the best in everyone. In the production of widgets, yes… in the education of our children, no. Declining enrollment and empty classrooms prompted school administrators to attract students from outside their traditional catchment areas. When this happened, Competition then began to replace Cooperation.

Magnet Schools: In British Columbia, this shift from cooperation to competition was most effectively done with the creation of “Magnet Schools.” Offering something additional which was over and above the basic curriculum, was intended to ensure special status within the schools of choice model.

Parents began to shop for a school before buying a house.

Fine Arts, Hockey Academies and perhaps the most attractive of all, Traditional Schools were now on the à la carte menu.

Enter stage right: The Fraser Institute and FSA (Foundation Skills Assessment) province wide standardized testing to build and foster the stress of competition. Test results were published for all to see and schools for the very first time were being compared using numbers.

The concept of Magnet Schools expanded to include schools better rated by the Fraser Institute. Like all magnets these schools pulled students from schools in what were considered less desirable socio-economic areas. This was the beginning of a downhill slide in public education, where equity and universality had always been hallmarks of a healthy system. Rapidly, we witnessed the creation of ‘Have’ and ‘Have Not’ schools within the public system. In effect the result was a complex of ‘pseudo Private Schools’ within the public system. Chronic underfunding combined with this competition have subsequently placed huge amounts of pressure on our schools. Fund raising has become an essential service, further exacerbating the differences between schools.

Okay…  now let’s get to what is really going on and what is behind these changes?

We can only speculate of course and pull together the threads from various sources, but in my personal view our schools system is being subjected to a political agenda which is global in influence.

The Teachers’ Strike: Currently in British Columbia, our schools are closed pending a resolution of differences between our teachers and our government.

But… is this just a labour dispute?

I don’t think so.

Our BC Teachers are fighting for the survival of a public school system which is consistently rated in the world’s top ten. For what it’s worth, I have for your consideration a probable cause and I will lay out for you why, in my view, we are at a crucial tipping point.

After connecting the dots and undertaking considerable research I propose the following possible explanation of the actions and motivations of the government:

Get rid of the Teachers’ Union: Our current government wishes to remove any union involvement in schooling. In addition they want to privatize the system by applying an industrial model to its structure and performance. Strangling the system financially and creating chaos and confusion with this strike will provide them with the opportunity to step in and make sweeping legislative changes. They will claim that the system is broken and must be fixed. These changes will be politically motivated and based on a conservative agenda recently seen in the USA and other western countries.

Further Fragment the System: Fragmenting the system with tiers of service will come first. Private or Charter Schools will be touted as the choice for academic students with smaller classes and fewer if any special needs students. Parents will be issued vouchers (links below) to supplement the cost for their child’s education at this level.

Focus on Jobs Training: Second, schools focused on job training. These schools will follow a recently published Blueprint for Re Engineering Our School System (link below) to create jobs for the BC Resource Industry.

Instruction would be provided by three levels of instructor: 1) Teachers, with the option of leaving their union 2) Educators, with minimal training, to do job training and essential math, reading and writing and 3) Support Staff to work with our students requiring special education services. This third group would include Resource Teachers, Counselors, Specialists and EAs (Educational Assistants and Para-professionals).

Charter Schools would be managed and governed by a School Council and a Management Team contracting our clerical, custodial and maintenance services to the lowest bidders. School Boards would become redundant, replaced through the further amalgamation of our current school districts. These new Super Districts would have a Board of Directors and a CEO. Their role would be to distribute limited funding and centralize services while seeking and implementing cost saving measures.

Now let me emphasize that this scenario is speculation on my part: evidence may be hard to find but I believe that there is enough empirical evidence (links below) to support that this is the intended direction of the current government. I feel dishearteningly confident that we should anticipate significant changes in the near future which will have a dramatic and detrimental impact on the school system as we know it. These changes will all be politically motivated and have little to do with improving teaching and learning: in fact the reverse will prove to be true…

Sources, Footnotes, and Additional Information:

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Thank you, Ken,  for connecting the dots and for sharing your thoughts, research and readings, and also your all too frightening predictions. Clearly, this is a call for collective responsibility, and along with other concerned citizens of BC, we must continue to take action to ensure the survival of our public schools…

                        …before it’s too late!

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_________________________________________________________ 30 Days of Autism is a project designed to promote social understanding and offer a glimpse into the perspectives of those whose lives are touched by Autism.

© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism (2014)

Posted in Activist, Advocacy, advocate, Autism, BC Teachers Federation, BCTF, Educator, Public Education | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments