Back to School

Do you remember the butterflies you had on your first day of school? We’ll bet you didn’t sleep a wink the night before.

With new classmates or even a new school, you put on a brave face, but maybe you were a little scared – scared of being accepted, afraid of not fitting in.

But what if you had to find your way around in a power wheelchair for the first time? Or had to introduce yourself to your classmates through a computer so others can understand you?

Andrea Hoffman is an Occupational Therapist at Holland Bloorview and over the years she’s worked with many kids with disabilities who were extra nervous about their first day back.

Andrea helps kids get back to daily living activities by helping them become as self-sufficient as possible. That could mean learning to use new adaptive equipment. Or it could be something you might not even think about - like learning how to brush your teeth or feed yourself again.

Occupational Therapists like Andrea also work closely with schools to make sure kids have the best experience possible. Andrea has made recommendations like having a student leave class early to avoid crowded hallways if they have mobility issues, or having two sets of textbooks so that they don’t have to carry them to and from school.

These everyday accommodations help kids start school with confidence and pride. And it calms their fears about being excluded, stared at, and unable to make friends.

Andrea remembers a boy who used to walk to school every day, but after a sudden illness, he found himself returning to school in a wheelchair, and with a ventilator. You can imagine how scared he was to see his classmates, not knowing if they would treat him differently.

With the support of generous Holland Bloorview donors, Andrea worked with his school to set up visits before the year began so he could get used to moving around the grounds in his wheelchair. She even helped arrange Skype chats with his classmates over the summer so that they wouldn’t be surprised by his new situation.

He was so excited to see his classmates again.

When the first day back arrived, he went into his classroom with confidence, and hasn’t looked back.

Thanks to donors like you, Holland Bloorview continue to work with schools and develop small accommodations that’s reducing the exclusion and isolation that gets in the way of children reaching their goals.

As a result, kids with disabilities are raising their hand with confidence and pride, and are ready to learn and make new friends.