Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"courage and determination and happy smile"

Reflecting back on the Award Ceremony at Matt's School in November 2014...
Matt carefully walks up the stairs onto the stage. He know his balance isn’t great so he is cautious. His teacher is standing waiting with his certificate in her hand. Even though I am watching from a distance, I can tell that this is special for him. He takes the cardboard in his hand. Hugs his teacher. With a broad smile he thoughtfully walks along the stage to where his peers are standing. He turns to the audience. And he proudly holds his certificate for all to see. It is very affirming.
Each child in his class gets a certificate and each certificate is different because his teacher has thoughtfully described the one or two strengths or character traits that make each child shine.
Matt’s certificate says:
For his courage and determination and happy smile
And I think about those words. They resonate with me. Because I know that Matt understands a lot more than he can say. His mouth lets him down often.  I know that he wants to do more than what he physically can do. His body lets him down sometimes. I know that he sees this world a little differently to me, with some things that make headlines for him are not even noticed by others. Sometimes he doesn’t make sense to us and I am sure we don’t make sense to him.
And despite this he hasn’t given up or held back. Every day he has bounced out of our front door to school. He is always pushing the boundaries on what I think he can do. If he sees another child going down that fireman’s pole on the jungle gym then he wants to try too – even if his arms can barely hold him. If Nic says a poem then Matt wants to say it too, even if those words get stuck. There are many more examples of this strong drive that Matt has to participate. Even when it is hard for him. Even when it is new and scary.
And so yes, I too celebrate his courage and his determination and in the midst of joys and challenges…his happy smile.

Matt is the second from the left

Friday, December 12, 2014

He was shining

So grade 1 is over. And as the dust settles I am reflecting on Matt's year. I want to share with you some highlights and notable moments.
The first is when Matt performed on stage.

He danced with his class...doing all the moves at the right time. Yes, he did the moves in his own version given his body's unique way of doing movement...but he was right in there with everyone for the whole song!

He did this in 6 shows!

And he loooooved it!

Taking a bow at the end of the performance

His school puts on a 'real' play with music, acting, sets and lights. Everyone in the school gets to participate. Everyone. I was so anxious about Matt and how they would include him. But more about that later. Matt loved it. He loves music...and there was lots of music as each class did a dance. He loves movement and actions, as I mentioned, there was lots of dancing. (The only thing he didn't like was wearing make-up, and so he didn't have to.) And there was no talking required. Neither did his classmates do any talking on stage. Matt's speech remains a challenge and in this "talk-free" activity he could just participate like everyone else...doing just as they were doing. I think that meant something to him. Or maybe that just meant something to me.
The play took place in September (I think) and though 3 months have passed Matt is still slightly obsessed with watching the DVD of the play. As he watches he does the dance of his grade, remembering all the moves. And he also does the moves to the dances of the other grades, the teachers dance and the parents dance!

This play was also a journey for me. In the hours before we went to see the play, I felt nauseous with fear. I was trying to put my finger on why I was so anxious because Matt had already performed a number of shows and we had had positive feedback. I realised that I was terrified because for most of Matt's life I had been right beside him in case he needed me to reach out and intervene. It has been a big step for me to trust others - Matt's previous teachers and facilitators to step into that role of being there beside him. Now he was going to be on stage in front of 600 people and there would not be anyone beside him. And I would be sitting in the audience watching him. And if he needed me or if he did something inappropriate I would not be able to intervene or help him - I would just have to watch from afar. It was scary. But the truth be told, he wasn't alone...his teachers were waiting right in the wings of the stage...his friends were with him on his left and right. He was being held by this community. He was safe. And he didn't need any mommy intervention. He was shining.

Matt in his costume, ready to do head off to his first performance!
I am so grateful for Matt's exposure to dance, being on stage, and music. It has definitely sparked something in him. I am intrigued to see what will unfold - now that we have been made aware about how much dance means to him. Had I been given a choice early in the year, I would have seriously considered not letting Matt participate. Mainly due to my fears and anxiety, and I would have said something like "it will be too much for him". I'm glad I wasn't really given the choice. And I will remember this the next time I want to hold him back.