Special needs

Simple ways to help your child feel included

Anchel Krishna shares why community inclusivity is making a difference in her family.

IMG_6576

Syona makes a furry friend. Photo: Anchel Krishna

Follow along as Anchel Krishna shares her experiences as mother to Syona, an extraordinary toddler with cerebral palsy.

On Friday night, Syona and I headed out to an inclusive Halloween party at my workplace. We met up with my sister-in-law and her two kids at the party and Dilip joined us after work. Syona was a monster and my niece and nephew were Thing 1 and Thing 2 (we aim for costumes that reflect our kids’ personalities).

Syona hasn’t been all that motivated to user her walker lately, so I thought that taking her to this Halloween event might be a good place to reignite her passion for walking. So we hauled both her wheelchair and walker with us to the event and she started out in her yellow walker. In true Syona style she had her own priorities: she wanted to use the walker, but didn’t actually want to take any steps in it. When I asked if she wanted her chair, her response was no. So we slowly shuffled along, me pushing, her sort of hopping/sitting/dragging her legs. About 10 minutes into it we decided to switch to her chair. Anyone looking at us would probably think it was a big flop. But to me it was progress — at least she wanted to start in her walker.

Read more: What it’s like to have a child in a wheelchair >

Syona got an opportunity to be in a big crowd and go door-to-door asking for treats. She saw other kids in wheelchairs and using walkers and other children and families who are facing their own challenges. She also saw children who were “typically developing.” She’s getting the chance to be a part of a community, which I think is key. Last year, I wrote about how we adapt Halloween to accommodate Syona’s challenges. This year, she’s still small enough that we can carry her around, but I often think of how we can be more inclusive during Halloween as well. If you’re not sure how you can make Halloween more inclusive, check out this article from Children’s Treatment Network. We’re still planning on taking Syona trick-or-treating in our neighbourhood, but it’s nice to have options.

Earlier this fall, we headed to a place just northeast of Toronto called WindReach Farm. This farm is designed to be completely inclusive. Animal pens and feeding troughs are built at wheelchair-level height, hayrides can accommodate wheelchairs, all paths are paved and it’s probably one of the most calming places I’ve ever set foot on. It was the first time Syona truly paid attention to what was happening around her and she was really interested in the farm animals. I’m so grateful that places like this exist. With one visit they have become part of our family memories. They are currently in the process of trying to raise funds to build an accessible sensory trail that can help lots of kids. I’m confident that they will continue to help families build lasting memories. If you’re interested in what’s happening at WindReach be sure to check out their Facebook page.

Inclusivity allows our family to be an active part of our community. And that’s a great way to grow up.

Does your family participate in community events?