Include Us

I wrote a letter to my local council member this week. I live within 5k’s/2miles of our city centre in a great little suburb. I feel pretty lucky to live in a nice little house with a big backyard, plenty of greenery, kind neighbours and a great community of friends scattered around the area. But…

As anyone who is raising a child with a disability knows, there are many hidden challenges that most people are just not aware of. Inclusion sounds good and is an important goal when it comes to creating & developing ‘community’. For many families though it’s superficial and it’s just not enough. The result is a terrible sense of isolation and exclusion, right in the middle of a wonderful community. How ironic!

So here’s my letter…

Hi Nicole,

I wrote to you last year about the possibility of having the latches on the fencing at the Jessica Andrews playground upgraded to make them child proof.

When we last emailed you were pursuing this, but as yet, there has been no change.

I have tried to use the playground periodically throughout the time it has been in place and there has never been child proof latches on the 3 separate entrances/exits. It is such a small thing, but would make an enormous difference to the levels of safety, not just for my kids, but for anyone with more than one child wanting to use the playground.

It’s frustrating! I have three children in my care (I’m a foster carer) my eldest is 6 and has autism. He is what they call an ‘absconder’ – a child who will run off, with no sense of personal safety, no road sense and as quick and as determined as an olympic sprinter! He has never been able to use that playground. It’s impossible for me to keep him safe, let alone care for the other two younger children in my care at the same time. I’ve even tried to go there with two adults – still not possible – he knows he can get out, so that is his mission. So he is stuck in my backyard – so much for inclusion.

Which brings me to the next topic…the new ‘all-abilities’ park at Tennyson. How wonderful it is! What a beautiful looking park! Full of kids playing, having birthday parties, families coming together. We can never go there.

My boy doesn’t need a liberty chair. His disability is not physical. I’ve tried (I am a ‘try-er!). We went there earlier this year after driving past it so many times and having my 3yo beg and plead – can we please go to that park. I relented and thought we would give it a go. Well it was an absolute nightmare. My 6yo spent the entire time running up to the road or down to the river. I had to abandon the two little ones (3y & 18m), trusting the other parents in the park (none of whom offered to assist) to watch the little ones while I ran after him. I could NOT stay there longer than 20 minutes. We left – everyone, including me – in tears.

It’s SO incredibly hard to do ANYTHING inclusive. The Council think they have ticked their disability/inclusive box by creating these playgrounds, but all they have done is to create really great playgrounds for kids who can already access EVERYTHING! It’s heartbreaking and cruel to be locked out of so many activities and services.

There is a campaign for the fencing of the all abilities parks – so that children of differing abilities can actually enjoy them alongside their peers. As you can tell, I’m a strong advocate for this, but, seriously…for the sake of a few child proof gate latches on our local playground, a negligible cost – it would be wonderful to see my little boy doing something within his local community.

Can you please help to make this happen?

Thank you,

 

Autism-Wandering

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Eye of the Storm

I am caring for my cousin’s daughter. She is a beautiful bouncing baby who is now almost four months old and has a head full of beautiful, lush hair. In doing so I’ve stepped up to help my family in a way I couldn’t have imagined I would ever be called upon to do. But truth is stranger than fiction (who said that? they were very smart!).

Of course it’s a delight to be caring for this lovely little speck of humanity. Seeing her little face light up and her whole body quivering with the anticipation of cuddles, kisses & loving interaction is food for the soul. She is passionately adored by J, my big 2yo. He leaps to her every need, patting her, putting her dummy/soother back in, tickling her toes, giving her big brotherly hugs and telling me in his own pre-verbal way what I should be doing to make our little darling happy. L (my 6yo with autism) doesn’t really care so much about her, but acknowledges her presence and so long as she doesn’t intrude on his space and needs, then he’s OK for her to hang around.

We are slowly settling into a rhythm and a dynamic that everyone is feeling the benefit of. There’s an awful lot going on around us and life is choc-a-blok, but we are in a good place in the eye of the storm.  It’s calm there.

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