When my son was younger he went to Silvercreek School, a preschool that is at this time being considered by the Toronto District School Board for closing, so that they can sell the property. The school board does not own or operate the preschool, they rent the space to Silver Creek, but this school is one of only 2 that cater to children of special needs and their families in the west end of Toronto.
I am trying to let the public and those who will be considering the future of this wonderful school know, that this is not just a preschool, it’s a very necessary service for children and families that are desperate for help. This is a draft of the letter I am sending out to ask that the sale of this property not happen.
My son, Devlin is now 17 years old, he’ll be turning 18 in November of this year. His time spent at Silver Creek was so long ago, but it was such an important part of his life and my own.
Firstly, before I explain why Silver Creek was so important to my son and myself, let me tell you a bit about my son, and our experiences prior to his attending Silver Creek.
My son was born with Cerebral Palsy, he is what the medical professionals call totally dependent. He uses a wheel chair and uses a book to communicate.
Before coming to Silver Creek the doctors and therapists concentrated on the things he can’t do. Devlin can’t talk, he’s non-verbal, he can’t sit unassisted, he struggled to hold his head up. He couldn’t open his hands, as the muscle tone would make his fingers clench into fists at all times. He can’t control his involuntary movements. He can’t dress himself, he can’t eat unassisted, he needed therapy to help him learn to eat (chew), he can’t play by himself, and the list goes on and on.
I understand that the doctors were trying to get a basic idea of his abilities, but what their questions and assessments caused was such a negative vortex that it would pull anybody into a depression spiral.
My son has every reason to be frustrated, to be miserable, and yet he is one of the happiest people who I have ever met. His attitude isn’t can’t, it is can do! His smile is brilliant, his sense of humor is amazing and he is so quick to smile, and his laughter is contagious.
I truly believe that this positive attitude is a direct result of his time at Silver Creek.
When Devlin first started at Silver Creek, I was over whelmed. I felt isolated and alone. Surrounded by family, friends and neighbours with typical developmental children. I was rushing to doctor appointments and filling out what felt like millions of pages of paperwork, something that everyone in my life was sympathetic about, but they couldn’t understand what I was going through, and so they really couldn’t act as the support structure that I so desperately needed. The future seemed bleak, I thought of all the things my son would never do, never walk, never talk, he’d never be able to do anything for himself.
Then Devlin started at Silver Creek, and the staff there didn’t dwell on what he couldn’t do but rather on what he could. Devlin can hold his head up, even if only for a few seconds at first, then longer and then even longer. I was told that Devlin engages with the staff and other students, he can ride an adapted bike, he can communicate with body language and facial expressions. Devlin can use a motorized switch adapted wheel chair to ride down the hall of the school and pause to spy on the students in each room that he passed. Devlin has a great sense of humor. The staff called him Devy Do, a nickname which has stuck with him even after all this time, because he does have a can do attitude. The staff at Silver Creek concentrated on the positives, what he could do, which made me think in that frame of mind as well.
What did Silver Creek do for my son? They did what most preschools do,they read books, sang songs, taught numbers, colours, and the alphabet. The kids coloured and played. But Silver Creek did so much more than a typical preschool would do. They adapted equipment so that his involuntary movement of suddenly opening his fingers didn’t mean that he couldn’t hold a marker. They helped him learn to hold his head up, something that parents of typical developmental children take for granted, but the day he lifted his head up and looked us in the eye without assistance was one of the best days of our lives.
They gave Devlin such a wonderful first few years of education that to this day he has a positive attitude towards school. He wants to be there, he does not want to stay home. He’d go to school 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year if he could.
Silver Creek did so much more for me and my family than just educate my son and adapt equipment for him. They ran parent workshops, that helped us to understand how to approach play, how to work therapy into fun, every day activities. For me, those workshops were the first time that I met other parents with special needs children. Some of those workshops broke down into parents just bonding over similar situations in their lives. It may be difficult to understand, but suddenly realizing that these difficulties in your life are not just happening to you, but there are others out there going through the same thing, that realization is very huge. Feelings of failing as a parent disappeared. The staff was there for my family, they taught me so much about how to help my son through his life. They gave me a sense of confidence that allowed me to question doctors when their care plan didn’t really mesh with my son’s needs. They gave me such a positive outlook, I know that going forward with my son’s treatment, I was able to instill such a sense of the positive in his life, thanks to the staff at Silver Creek, I’m sure that’s why he is such a positive force today.
When it came time for my son to enter into public school, Silver Creek ran workshops for parents to help us navigate the process. They helped to find my son a school that was amazing. It was Silver Creek staff that suggested that Sunnyview School would be a good place for Devlin, and they were right. They were able to make that assessment based on their years working with my son. Where would he have ended up if the staff at Silver Creek hasn’t been able to make that recommendation for him?
I was so surprised to learn that while Silver Creek is operating at full capacity and has a wait list for students that need everything that Silver Creek offers, and that it is still only one of two schools that offer these services for children with special needs in our area, and yet it’s future is in jeopardy.
We live in a world that is trying to become more inclusive, trying to remove the roadblocks that make it difficult for people living with disabilities and keep them isolated and trapped. Yet now we are taking steps backwards by putting the future of these schools in question. We don’t need to close these schools, that would be a tragedy. What we need to be doing is trying to find a way to expand the services that these schools offer for children and families that are so in need, to allow more children to attend these programs that are obviously in need or else the school would not be running at full capacity and be making families wait to get their children in. For even one child to miss out on all that Silver Creek is able to do for them is heartbreaking, but to think that not even one child will be able to experience Silver Creek is deplorable.
There is a meeting to discuss the future of the property at 65 Hartsdale Drive, and while I’m not certain if I can be there, you can bet that I’m going to send out as many letters as I’m able to do to help bring to light that this school that is so desperately needed is in jeopardy.