Sheldon and his family
Our family lived in Australia in 1980 for six months during which time our son, Sheldon, had access to an outreach Early Intervention Program for Children with Down Syndrome at Cremone, NSW, Australia. When our family returned to Canada, I advocated changing the teaching model for our son and also promoted a play school environment to the school component of the early education program, which would be more developmentally appropriate for preschool children. This would be similar to the Model Early Intervention Program for Children with Down Syndrome at Macquarie University at North Ryde, NSW. Graduates of this program were integrated into their local neighbourhood schools. I was committed to early intervention and had a vision for changes to the educational service delivery system in Alberta.
After my experiences in Australia and my commitment to continuing professional development, I concluded that the delivery system needed to change so that all children have access to education in their neighborhood school.
In 1981 the program director of Mayfield Early Education Program informed the Parent Association for the Mayfield Early Education Program of the threat of funding cuts. Three of us from the executive of the parent association prepared a position paper on the efficacy of an early education program and presented it to the Minister of Social Services and Community Health. We succeeded in averting closure of the Early Education Program.
I served as director of the Gateway Association, was a member of the education committee for eight years and chaired this committee for three years. After my experiences in Australia and my commitment to continuing professional development, I concluded that the delivery system needed to change so that all children have access to education in their neighborhood school. I authored a paper entitled Restructuring Our Educational System to Meet the Unique Need of Every Child: A position paper on integration within effective educational setting. This paper was published by the Gateway Association in 1987 and reprinted and distributed by Alberta Association for Community Living in 1988. Our work included participating in conferences, professional and parent panels, meeting with Premier Don Getty, Minister of Education Nancy Betkowski, school trustees, parent associations, and others to promote integration and access to education in our neighbourhood schools. My resolve for change overtook my life. I wanted to make a difference, but change was too slow to benefit our son, Sheldon