Catching up with Courtney and Brendan!
GEMSS would like to thank siblings Courtney, Brendan, and their mother, as well as Madeline and her mother, for their generosity in sharing these stories with us. You have made the site come to life with the addition of your thoughts and feelings. Thank you so much!
If you meet Courtney, you might be greeted with a shy smile followed by a big hug when she warms up. When she is not in school, Courtney might be found rock climbing in the local gym, cheerleading, or in a dance class. Her family is very important to her: she loves family gatherings, visiting her grandmother on Lake Winnipesaukee, and surprising her aunts with texting using very inventive spelling!
Her first grade experience has been wonderful, according to her mother. Courtney is a regular first grader with “beautiful friends” and she goes to lots of birthday parties. She uses words at times and uses her communication book and an IPad to communicate other ideas. Her classmates are important to her learning and social life. And when Courtney goes through the lunch line, she is learning to use her own Pin Number to pay, just like everyone else. Her friends lend a hand when she needs help and she also has a paraprofessional providing supports.
At home, Courtney is happy listening to classical music and Barney, and likes to dance to the music. She loves any sports that are associated with a ball!
Her mother has advice for teachers and parents: Choose full inclusion! “It is what is natural and why do something unnatural?” Courtney experiences everything her classmates experience. “It is heartwarming to see how beautiful it is,” she states when thinking of a recent visit to Courtney’s school. Her mother also feels that communication is a key factor in making inclusion successful. Monthly meetings between school and private therapists and specialists have been helpful for problem solving and keeping everyone on the same page.
Brendan has just turned 21. “He is an amazing young man” says his mother, glowing about his life. Brendan has had a team of people helping him reach his goals. In high school, he became a 2nd LT in the JROTC Program and was presented with the Tuskeegee Award. His colonel was a believer in Brendan and worked to figure out how Brendan could be supported, not if he should be supported. Brendan was prom king in high school and rode to the prom in a limo with his friends. As part of his work experience in high school, Brendan worked at WalMart, Sam’s Club, Walgreens, a pet store and a restaurant to see where his interests and successes were. Through the VocTech, he worked in the school store, cafeteria, restaurant, and the preschool program where he read books to young children. He even played Santa Claus!
But the latest achievement is an outstanding success for Brendan and his team. Brendan has recently found full time paid employment with NexDine, a food service company doing business at a high school in New Hampshire! He will have benefits and his supports will be the ‘all natural’ kind – his co-workers! We congratulate Brendan and his dedicated team and wish him great success in his new job.
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