I had the pleasure of taking a tour of one of my student's new school with his parents this week which reminded me of just how important a role we have as voices. English is their second language and they are learning about our Canadian school system. It was my principal who reminded me that this child is one who could easily get lost in the system. He is a quiet, shy young man with a great heart and a quick smile. He struggles, though, with understanding who makes a good friend and who doesn't make a good friend. His new school and I have had several conversations to date but his direct supervisors had only met him once three months ago and had never met his family. He had his IPRC meeting, he has an IEP, he has a five-step transition plan, he has an EA allotment profile, and it took the face to face meeting interacting with the direct supervisors for 15 minutes before a truly successful plan was created. I feel so much better now in terms of what next year is going to look like for him. He will be fine.
It is amazing, though, what the face to face conversation does. When I think about when our truly effective advocacy happens, the direct conversation is always the best. You know what I am talking about. So many of you are fabulous at banging on people's doors and refusing to go away. It is absolutely a skill being able to walk into intimidating places and meet with strangers. Articulating a need in a way people can understand is a challenge onto itself as well. It is why we surround ourselves with quality people who can support us in these different environments. My eldest daughter graduated from high school a couple nights ago to great fanfare. While we have no idea what September is going to look like for her yet, there was one key point from last night we are holding tight. She won the award for the most volunteer hours with 184 hours. That award represents her ability to put others first, being willing to serve, her courage to speak and work with different people in different environments, her belief that she has something valuable to contribute, and her strong sense of community. She has most certainly found her voice.
What happens, though, if someone doesn't have a voice. One of my passions is to tell the stories of our WWI veterans. Lance Corporal Cecil Smith is a great example of what happens when someone doesn't have a voice. Lance Corporal Smith was a 17-year-old man who sailed to Halifax from England after all his relatives passed away. He later died in WWI and all his papers and medals went into Archives. However, a Beckwith Township farmer, who Cecil helped for three months, convinced his local municipality to add Cecil’s name to their cenotaph. Through that farmer’s voice, a hundred years later, Cecil’s sacrifice has not been forgotten.
It can be frustrating trying to be that voice, though. We remind others constantly, review frequently, teach repeatedly, and occasionally find success. I personally am excited about yesterday’s cabinet announcement and particularly one thing. Doug Ford has created a new ministry called Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services and appointed Lisa MacLeod as Minister. I am excited because what he has done is combined children and adults together under this portfolio. We are no longer dealing with one ministry for children and another ministry for adults. For us, this hopefully will eliminate that huge transition we experience when our children living with FASD become adults. And Lisa MacLeod, champion of Rowan’s Law and the Acquired Brain Injury group is in charge. I believe we will find a receptive audience in Minister MacLeod. For me, that is a success. While it would be nice to have things move faster, ask yourself this. Are we in better shape today than on June 30, 2017? Or June 30, 2013? While we haven’t hit the homerun yet, single after single will get us there as well. Remember, the only way we lose is if we quit. As long as children living with FASD need a voice, we will not quit.