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If you had been following any of my social media accounts today you would have seen my proud pictures and posts about my boy receiving an award at his school’s presentation day.

Anyway, for those who missed it Gilbert received a certificate and medal to recognise he achieved the highest literacy result in his school for the Year 3 NAPLAN tests. You may not think this is overly amazing but for me, for us, this is huge.

First, I’m in awe that he has been able to achieve this result given the challenges of his dual diagnoses.

Having albinism and the visual difficulties that come with that is a challenge in itself. Gilbert exerts so much energy every day just using his available vision to get around – on top of this he uses his vision to read and write and keep up with his peers in the classroom. By the end of the day he is physically and visually exhausted. I’m in awe that in spite of this he has developed exceptional reading and writing skills.

In addition to his visual difficulties, he also has the daily challenges associated with his autism diagnosis. He exerts even more energy coping with the general demands of each day, dealing with changes in routine, the social niceties of the classroom and playground and being coaxed to do things that are not part of his preferred and special interests. He has an amazing team of teachers and aides at the school who have gone above and beyond to encourage him to learn – to them, I will be forever grateful!

Second, I’m amazed that he achieved this result as I didn’t even know whether he would be able to sit an exam at all.

He was lucky to have received special consideration and was able to complete the exam electronically so it was enlarged for him on the screen. He was also able to undertake the exam away from the rest of his class which limited potential distractions.

Even so, he was so stressed by undertaking the exam that he soiled himself on the first day – ironically during one of his literacy tests, the tests that he ended up doing so well in. It was a miracle that he was coaxed to return to the test and simply unbelievable that he ended up blitzing it after such an unfortunate start.

Third, I’m so proud that he has risen to the challenge of the mainstream classroom, especially as he has only been in this environment since 2012.

To see him initially struggle, slowly adapt, and eventually thrive in a rich learning environment (as well as make genuine friendships with his peers), that has been the most rewarding thing to witness. It culminated in his walk onto the stage today to accept his award, accompanied by his wonderful Itinerant Support Teacher (Vision) amid the applause and congratulations of the school community.

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I cried. Of course.  I’m good at that. But it was overwhelming to see him recognised for his amazing effort this year. To see him proudly accept his award. To witness him happily standing in front of a hall-full of people and not be perturbed by their applause. To watch him calmly walk off the stage and come and sit quietly with me for the remainder of the assembly.

All I ever hoped for was to see him become a member of the school community. I just wanted him to have a chance to have the same experiences like other kids of his age. To have the opportunity to attempt NAPLAN like his classmates, to attend excursions, to participate in school life. To watch him hit all these goals and then hit them out of the park, it’s more than I could have ever dreamed of.

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I am so very proud of each of my kids. Matilda had a wonderful year after a tough start and came out of it with 12 merit certificates, a gold award and a positive school report emphasising her growth in social interaction this year (which means more to us than anything – it shows she is HAPPY) 🙂

Delilah too grew so much this year. Adapting to preschool and thriving in the company of children closer to her age. Singing and dancing and playing and taking it all in. She is an absolute delight. She really is.

However, I have to confess that I will always hold the achievements of my first born especially close to my heart.

Considering his varied challenges, how could I not? He is simply amazing. And I am ever so grateful that I am blessed enough to share these experiences with him.

Today was indeed a happy, happy day!

 

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