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Thoughts Before Opening the First Report Card

By: Sally Felkai I am about to open my daughter's first report card ever. I am curious about the mix of feelings I have in this moment. There is a little rise of trepidation, left over I'm sure from my own childhood dread and excitement at seeing my own. There is detachment or something like it as part of me knows that it doesn't matter what is in there. I can already see so much progress since our late September start to the school year and school career. It is that progress that matters. But I do care what the teacher thinks. I do care what the teacher sees. I hope that my girl is seen for who she is and that the professionals can feel the vastness in there. I can. I have spent many hours by her side growing in awareness and perception of the big person inside that little body. My time with her has opened up some kind of receptor to seeing and feeling more of everyone. Can everyone else see her? I know some can and some can't. I reunited with a long lost pal when A was about 2 years old. That friend could feel her right away. My Mom and sisters and brothers could too. I have other friends who tried not to show it but saw only a disadvantage and a disability and felt only pity. I say this not to condemn them but with curiosity about who can see and why. I want so much for her to be seen. I want that for all of us actually. My son too, myself, my partner, my siblings and their kids. I want that for the whole world. I want us all to have room for each other. So when I open that card in a few minutes I wonder what will be important to me? Will it be the grades that cannot possibly measure who she is? Will it be the comments? If she's done well will I breath a sigh of relief and congratulate myself on a parenting job well done as I've been trained to do, as we all do with our measurement-based judgements? If she's done poorly, will I try to suppress my disappointment using the kind of self-talk I'm using right now as I write this? Will it be a sort of non-event that reflects only one teacher's perspective at one point in time? Interestingly, I spent the day at work writing up 'report cards' or performance reviews on my own team. I am just coming from the perspective of evaluating people with a measurement scale and comments. It's painful. It's hard. It's useful for the discussion that it fosters. That discussion is necessary. The measurement can be useful if it helps mark progress but it's so easy to get distracted by that and miss the context and content and growth. I will take this as a first marker to be used to see how far we can go from here. Before I even open it, I know that her teacher and educational assistants are great and I believe they do 'get' her. That is so important and no matter what is in there, I know I am amazed at how far she has come since late Sept and I know we can work together to go furthe This post is reprinted by permission from Sally's blog, Wide Awake Planet.
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What does it look like when a family's world is turned DownSide Up? It looks like this: "My son has had more success with the DSRF reading program than with any other program - and believe me, we have tried many! The activities keep him engaged, and the fact that the words are personally meaningful to him is very motivating. He is now able to read an easy book independently with complete success. His verbal communications skills have increased, and he has learned to talk in longer sentences now instead of just using one word. His confidence in speaking to others has transferred into his job, and he is comfortable speaking to customers and asking them what they would like. He is much chattier amongst family and friends, and is adding in more details when talking about his day. This has also transferred to his telephone skills and phone messages. All these skills will be important for him in the workplace." Individuals with Down syndrome have tremendous UPside. At the Down Syndrome Research Foundation, that potential is unleashed - to the great benefit of our students, their families, and the entire community. Thank you for helping turn their world DownSide Up. Through your generosity, more than $37,000 was raised during the month of December. These funds will assist us in developing quality programs, supporting our many families and furthering critical research that helps us better understand how to help individuals with Down syndrome achieve their UPside. It's never too late to turn their world DownSide Up. Please donate anytime through our website, or make an ongoing impact through monthly giving. Thank you for your support!
Dawn McKenna, Executive Director of the Down Syndrome Research Foundation, celebrated 15 years with the organization on December 1. In a time when the average tenure for a director of a non-profit organization is just four years, McKenna’s achievement is significant. Through her dedication, personal sacrifices and commitment to serving individuals with Down syndrome, Ms. McKenna has made a substantial contribution to countless families in the Burnaby community and beyond. DSRF Chairman of the Board Victor Giacomin said, “Dawn has made a real difference in the lives of families of persons with Down syndrome. She has put the Foundation ahead of herself and built a quality organization over her many years of service. The Foundation is in solid financial shape with many exciting opportunities ahead of us thanks to Dawn’s leadership.” Ms. McKenna’s impact was evident at the recent 2014 Burnaby Board of Trade Business Excellence Awards, where the Down Syndrome Research Foundation made history, becoming just the second organization in 15 years to win two awards in the same year when they were honoured as Burnaby’s Not-For-Profit Organization of the Year and Family Friendly Business of the Year. "These awards are a testament to the work that we do in Burnaby, and what we do for the families we support, with very frugal management of expenses and lots of fundraising," said Ms. McKenna in accepting the awards. During her time with DSRF, Ms. McKenna helped spearhead the organization’s move from a 650 square foot trailer on the grounds of Sunny Hill Health Centre to their current 10,000 square foot facility in Burnaby, which opened in 2002. In 2006, DSRF hosted the World Down Syndrome Congress, bringing together parents and practitioners in the Down syndrome field from around the world. More recently, Ms. McKenna led DSRF through the difficult years of the financial recession, and now has the organization in its strongest financial position ever, while providing programs and services to more students than ever before. The Down Syndrome Research Foundation, based in Burnaby and active throughout the Lower Mainland, empowers individuals with Down syndrome to reach their full potential throughout life by pioneering and providing educational programs and services, grounded in foundational research. Working with researchers, professionals and families, DSRF is a bridge between research and practice. DSRF offers programs for individuals with Down syndrome from birth through early adulthood.
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