Friday, March 30, 2007

Detour - "Ashley Clark's Year to Remember" UPEI Cardre

This post has nothing to do with running but there is an Alex connection. I think this blog is a good place to allow for these little "detours" from the running path and so in future, if we post any such unrelated things, they'll be marked as such.

Actually there is a bit of a running connection here - I've commented to a few of his fellow runners lately that lately Alex has turned into a "weekend warrior" with his only weekday running being his morning 400 yard run down to the road to get the newspaper from the mailbox and back again as he likes to start his day by reading The Guardian. I've even threatened to let the subscription go when it expires so he'll have to run to the corner store every morning, a 4Km round trip, to get the paper. That would surely inspire him to train regularly like he used to.

Anyway.... the first night at Run UPEI, the first thing he did, upon walking in the door, was to grab a copy of the UPEI newspaper, The Cadre. I read it as he ran, we brought it home where he read it later. The latest issue has an article that caught my eye and, as always happens when I see or hear her name, made me smile - "Ashley Clark's Year to Remember".

Ashley Clark is having a year to remember but she is very much a part of "Alex Bain's Year to Remember". Ashley is the girl who, in Grade 1, taught (inspired?) Alex to talk. Ashley is the girl who befriended him (along with many others), played with him, hung out with him, helped him..... They were Mary & Joseph in the Christmas concert and had a close relationship in the classroom & school yard too. In February of Grade 1, Alex began to talk for her. (I have some really cool VHS video tucked away taken a day or 2 later that shows how it all came about, someday I hope to get it copied to DVD.) Once he began to talk for Ashley, to repeat anything she said, he talked for all of us, repeating anything any of us said and reading aloud everything that, until then, he'd been reading to himself.

Anyone who knows Alex today knows he has difficulty with articulation and knows he can be hard to understand sometimes. But, Ashley and Alex's classmates up until that February day, knew Alex as the kid who couldn't talk. I didn't think Alex was ever going to talk quite frankly. Although we worked on speech and he'd been in speech therapy since he was 2, his inability to speak wasn't a big concern for me, my focus was more on communication than speech. A report from his Speech Language Pathologist at the time states "With the consistent and enthusiastic support of Alex's teacher assistant and parents, Alex entered Grade 1 at Gulf Shore in September 1993, with the ability to use all of the following means of communication -- sign language, gestures, Canon Communicator, picture communication symbols, infrequent vocalizations and an immerging ability to print words".

Ashley moved away at the end of Grade 1 and did not return to PEI until they were in High School. I didn't see her again until the night of the athletic banquet in Grade 12 when she gave the blessing (and Alex won the Boys X-Country Award of Distinction ).

Thank you again Ashley. I have no doubt that you not only taught but learned from Alex. What you may not know is how many professionals learned a very important lesson from a very little girl about teaching and educating autistic children. As you continue on your travels around the world, we wish you all the very best.

I'll end with this piece from Alex I found recently. It's an English assignment he did in High School, in relation to Tony O'Brien's article "My search for the friend I left behind" about O'Brien's return to Afghanistan after having been imprisoned there in 1989.

The most important thing I have learn from my friends was to talk. When I was little I did not know how to talk but my friends helped me learn. I used to listen to my friends talk and watched them. Ashley Clark was the girl who I talk for in Feb 1994, grade 1. I read and typed at age 3. I only talked three words. I still learning to talk from my friends. I'm happy I learn to talk and my friends helped me.

Running For Autism
Not Against It
acceptance not cure


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this. One thing that makes me nervous is too much emphasis on the idea that ONLY PROFESSIONALS can DEAL with autistic kids, parents are not too bright on their own and siblings only suffer from having autistics in the family...

Of course, that doesn't mean that no professionals should help autistic kids or other disabled kids. PT, OT and Speech therapy are very specific and some things aren't going to be obvious for parents to do with their kids. I stil think there's plenty that Aunt May or cousin Tom, or Ashley the first grader can teach a child.

Humans learn from each other and the best teachers are the ones you don't have to pay because they are teaching because they want to or love the person they are teaching. I love the Ashley Story.

Julia said...

Jypsy, would you be able to help me out and contact me at I'm writing a paper for a special education class, and it would be wonderful to be able to ask you some questions.