The Ongoing Work of Building a Diverse and Inclusive Society
“When I was 12, I didn’t know about disability. I didn’t know how to play with a boy, like my son,” shares Sheila Graschhinsky in the most recent Inspiring Change podcast episode. Sheila is the mother of four boys and founder and president of Fundación IAN, an organization in Buenos Aires focused on promoting a diverse and inclusive society.
Sheila’s son, Ian, was born in 2007, and due to a lack of oxygen, he has a motor disability, which impairs him to move, talk, and coordinate some movements. Ian turns 14 this year, and it’s been a long path for the family.
“Being the mother of a child with a disability, there are a lot of things to learn about,” she explains. “I had to learn about medicine, a lot about laws, and when talking about Ian and all his treatment, I also say that it’s as if I run a small business at home. He has more than seven therapies that I have to coordinate and all the treatments and so forth.”
From the beginning, the family had to work on not only inclusion, but how to manage their anger when not being included or accepted. Ultimately, the family had to decide to turn their anger into action.
What does inclusion mean, and how does it happen?
For Sheila, the answer to both of these questions came through a literal story called, The Gift, inspired by Ian.
“I remember taking Ian to the rehabilitation center, and in front of that center, there was a school, and I could hear some children laughing at Ian’s disability. After several similar experiences, I crossed the street and knocked on the door of the school. I was very angry and I wanted to speak with the principal. In my head, I remember I had many ideas and insults and not happy things. As I waited for the principal to come, I think that was a transforming moment for me.”
“As I sat there, I asked myself, what was the difference between those boys at the school and my own knowledge about disability when I was 11 or 12 years? The truth is that there was no difference. When I was 12, I didn’t know about disability and I didn’t know how to play with a boy like my son. I realized that getting angry at the children who were laughing would be no answer to the situation. So I said to Ian, ‘what do you think if we write a book to show those children that you are also a child who has rights, who wants to play, and who can do many things if they help you.’ That’s how the book, The Gift, came about.”
For an entire year, Sheila took the book with her everywhere, and if she encountered a situation with children who would laugh at Ian or would leave him out, instead of getting angry, she would give the child a book. That’s when they started to see a change.
“After a child would read the book, the child would get closer to Ian and say hello or ask if he wanted to play. It was very inspiring for us and showed us a path, not only that we had to work with inclusion, not only that we had to manage the anger, but also to be active to get society involved. That’s how we turned our anger into action.”
Sheila also collaborated with Mundoloco CGI to produce the short animated film Ian, which is based on a real life experience involving Sheila and Ian. The film addresses discrimination and bullying and helps all of us understand why inclusion and diversity are so critically important to our society.
“We are all made of little pieces of our own experience, of our own lives’ experiences. And when inclusion occurs, when inclusion happens, these pieces mix up together, and you can get some other pieces of a classmate, and you grow as a person, and society grows when including.”
How are YOU building inclusion in your own community? OCALI wants to know! We’re looking for interesting and innovative stories to highlight in future issues of OCALI Now. Share my inclusion story.
Honoring Families Through the Lens of Universal Design for Learning
Family involvement is something we all want. However, how do we make it happen? Furthermore, how do we move from engaging families to empowering them, especially during unprecedented times when the connection between homes and schools must be even stronger?
To build effective programming, we must begin by ensuring that we honor our families and include them as partners for the education of all our learners. Our recent InspirED virtual learning session (from June 16) explores how Universal Design for Learning (UDL) can boost connections and engagement to meet the varying needs of families. The session also highlights these connections with Ohio’s strategic plan, Each Child, Our Future.
Hear from Andratesha Fritzgerald, Director of Human Resources, East Cleveland Schools and Founder, Building Blocks of Brilliance, LLC; Jen Bavry, Program Director, Family and Community Outreach Center at OCALI; and Ron Rogers, Program Director, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Center at OCALI as they share more in this 30-minute session.
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At OCALI, inspiring change and promoting access for people with disabilities is at the heart of everything we do. We believe that all people with disabilities deserve to have the opportunity to live their best lives for their whole lives — at school, home, work, and in the community. If you share our passion, and want to work with a team of committed and compassionate colleagues, check our newest employment opportunities. We are hiring an Early Childhood Specialist and a Transition to Adulthood Consultant.
Addressing Challenging Behavior Webinar Series
Every person is unique and has different strengths, talents, and skills. When addressing challenging behaviors for people with complex needs, it is essential to individualize the process in order to develop effective intervention plans. This 14-part webinar series is based in positive behavior intervention supports (PBIS), functional behavior assessment (FBA), and behavior intervention planning. The series explores the belief system and a systematic process essential to understanding and addressing challenging behavior. It also includes team-based strategies that focus on matching evidence-based interventions to a target behavior, after in-depth exploration of the individual’s strengths and challenges. This series is ideal for anyone supporting school-age children, adolescents, and adults. Inclusive of the components of PBIS, this training can support educational teams working with students in need of Tier 3 support.
Unlocking the English Code: Literacy for Learners Who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing or Blind/Visually Impaired
Nationally, prioritizing language and literacy development for all learners has been a focus for many educators. This focus requires that educators build their capacity to support evidence-based language and literacy instruction, particularly for educators supporting deaf/hard of hearing (D/HH) or blind/visually impaired (B/VI) learners, who access English and print in different ways. To help those who are assessing and teaching literacy for these learners, the Outreach Center for Deafness and Blindness at OCALI is pleased to offer the recording of our professional learning event designed to explore and connect the areas of phonological awareness, phonics, writing, fluency, vocabulary, communication, language, and comprehension specifically for learners who are D/HH or B/VI. Certificates of completion are available and provided on completion of the recording and accompanying survey.
Administering Telepsychological Assessments
The transition to remote learning left instructional leaders and educators little to no time to prepare and transition how they deliver instruction. Meeting and assessing the needs of all learners in this online environment has been challenging, particularly for students who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or visually impaired. To help school psychologists and district and building leaders build comfort and confidence in virtually assessing all learners, particularly those who are deaf/hard of hearing (D/HH) or blind/visually impaired (B/VI), OCALI launched a free webinar series, Building Capacity to Serve All Learners: Effectively Assessing Learners via Telepsychology. Parts I and II of the series explored preparing for and completing telepsychology assessments with learners who are D/HH or B/VI. Expanding off of Parts I and II, Part III is designed to focus on the practical demonstration of specific aspects of telepsychological assessments, including how to administer a standard test battery to learners who are D/HH or B/VI. Check out the recordings.
InspirED Virtual Learning Series
The InspirED Video Gallery has recently been reorganized by audience – for families and professionals – and by topic, including: accessibility, autism, early childhood, family and community, PBIS, remote learning, transition, universal design for learning, wellbeing and self-care, along with assessment and data for professionals. As always, all sessions include interactive transcripts, audio description, and supporting materials, and the opportunity to earn a professional development certificate by completing a survey at the end of each session. A great way to get FREE professional development hours.
Last fall, OCALI, in partnership with the Ohio Department of Education’s Office for Exceptional Children, launched the InspirED Virtual Learning Series. The free learning series consists of 30-minute recorded, facilitated sessions focused on increasing successful engagement of diverse learners in a remote/virtual instructional environment, linking the users with appropriate resources and tools. The InspirED Video Gallery has recently been reorganized by audience – for families and professionals – and by topic, including: accessibility, autism, early childhood, family and community, PBIS, remote learning, transition, universal design for learning, wellbeing and self-care, along with assessment and data for professionals. As always, all sessions include interactive transcripts, audio description, and supporting materials, and the opportunity to earn a professional development certificate by completing a survey at the end of each session. It’s a great way to get FREE professional development hours.
The Journey: Webinar Series Video Gallery
The Transition from School to Adult Life is an ongoing journey. Youth with complex and unique needs often require teams to have access to a variety of tools, resources, and people to plan and prepare for the future. These webinars are designed for teams assisting youth with complex support needs and their families to better navigate the process of the own journey to adulthood.