Typically, Pembina Trails shares success stories from an educator or student perspective. This time, we are proud to share a courageous parent’s experience and her daughter’s incredible journey.
In May, Barbro Dick Steadman presented on inclusion to teachers at Institute collégial Vincent Massey Collegiate during their staff meeting. Barbro’s 16-year-old daughter Olivia is currently in grade 10 at Vincent Massey. She is a proud member of the high school’s choral program. Olivia also happens to have special needs.
For most parents, watching their child take part in concert is a wonderful moment – but for Barbro a winter choral performance meant so much more.
“How do I explain the feeling of achieving something that most people take for granted?” said Barbro, speaking of watching Olivia perform. “To be able to memorize lyrics to 7 songs and be strong enough to manage the evening physically and emotionally – that was so hard for her. Watching her participate to her potential, I felt a gratitude for everyone who helped Olivia achieve this goal, and an unforgettable happiness for my daughter. I was laughing and crying at the same time. “
For Barbro, Olivia’s participation in the choral program is an example of inclusion in action. This achievement represents 16 years of deliberate and thoughtful collaboration with key partners in Olivia’s life, including Pembina Trails staff at Whyte Ridge School, Henry G. Izatt Middle School and now at Vincent Massey.
To set the stage for their extraordinary story at the staff meeting, Barbro shared a bit of Olivia’s history.
Olivia had a stroke before she was born which impacted her brain in many areas. She has a visual impairment, cerebral palsy, an intellectual disability and had several neurosurgeries before she was one year old. Olivia’s family was told that it was unknown whether she would ever walk or talk, but through it all she was captivated by music.
From day one – when Olivia began at Whyte Ridge School, the family shares that they were met with openness and willingness to collaborate. There were challenges along the way, but the ultimate goal was never lost. The foundation for meaningful, individual programming paved the path to potential. Olivia’s Mother wants her daughter’s story to inspire other families. She understands firsthand the difficult times, but truly believes in positive outcomes.
Inclusion, as Barbro described it, is the result of the idea that everyone is worthy of belonging and respect. Inclusion means acts of unity born out of thinking of others.
“I believe students will embrace opportunities for inclusion constructed and facilitated by staff,” said Barbro. “There are ideas brewing, like the resource teacher’s vision of an all-abilities gym class led by students interested in education or rehabilitation, or mentorships among students in and out of the classroom. These ideas fit into my dream of ‘YAFI – Youth Ambassadors for Inclusion,’ an initiative that inspires students to own inclusion and recognizes them for advancing it.”
Olivia’s story is an inspiration, and really shows what we can accomplish when school, staff and families work collaboratively to support every student.