Most of the time, being a mother to Ella, who is six and has down syndrome, is just like being a mother to my son or younger daughter. That being said, every child is different. Every child progresses at their own pace and in their own time. Some children are better at music while others are more physically inclined.
When we lived in Vancouver, we enrolled Ella in soccer. She LOVED it but I knew that it wouldn’t be long before the gap between her peers and her would become too big for the soccer field and, even at five years old, there were instances of bullying from the other girls. I’m not saying that all physical activity is like this but for a child with a gross motor delay it makes it especially hard to find appropriate activities or groups. Ella is also in ballet and she continues to dance at a studio with peers her own age, where she is loved and accepted just like any other ballerina.
When we moved to Edmonton, however, I wasn’t sure if Ella would get into the dance studio I had in mind, as it filled up very quickly and she was placed on a waitlist. That being said, I wanted to make sure that she had at least one commitment outside of school at which she could make friends and grow her social skills. I also wanted an activity where the cognitive and gross motor spread would not be so glaring.
One of Ella’s classmates in Vancouver had been in Girl Guides so I asked her mom about it. The mother said that she loved it and it was a very positive experience for her daughter. I myself had never been in Girl Guides but loved the fact that the Mission of Girl Guides is “to enable girls to be confident, resourceful and courageous, and to make a difference in the world.” What more could one want for their daughter?
As with anything, I was nervous about how and if they would accept Ella. I emailed the Guider to ask about Ella’s involvement. She didn’t seem worried about it at all and it didn’t take Ella very long at all to see what a special place Girl Guides is. The Guiders are committed to making each girl feel welcomed and important while having a great time and lots of fun. The other girls were also accepting of Ella – some more than others, as more often than not it is a learning process for all involved. That being said, there is nothing that Ella cannot be involved in – she is 100% a part of the unit – no exceptions.
It’s hard to believe that the year is almost over. This week, we will attend Ella’s advancement ceremony where she will bid farewell to Sparks and be welcomed next year as a Brownie. I am so thankful for Girl Guides of Canada for being inclusive and helping Ella grow not only her confidence but also her sense of belonging. The decision to re-enroll her for next year wasn’t a difficult one because as a parent of a child with special needs, you don’t take these things for granted and we are looking forward to many more years of Guiding to come.
Guest post by Krista Ewert, whose daughter Ella is in the 4th Edmonton Sparks Unit. Krista is a graphic designer, blogger (www.kristaewert.com) and Girl Guide mom in Edmonton.
Online registration is currently open for all returning girl members. Don’t miss your window to secure your spot in Guiding for next year. Registration opens to new members on Monday, May 30 in Ontario and on Wednesday, June 1 in all other provinces.
Check out Guiding’s inclusivity resources.