GHANA: Inclusive education

GHANA: Inclusive education

Ghana Inclusive Education

I am often asked why I decided to enrol my mainstream children in an inclusive school. I did a great deal of research when looking for the best school for my family, and I was encouraged by the testimonials of parents who had chosen this path for their mainstream children. I decided that an inclusive education was the best choice for my children.

Inclusion in education is an approach that seeks to embrace students of all abilities, including those with special educational needs. In inclusive schools, students with special needs learn side-by-side with their non-disabled peers. This educational approach avoids the use of separate schools or classrooms to separate students with disabilities from those without.

The inclusive school I chose for my children is the first of its kind in Ghana. Multikids Inclusive Academy is an inclusive international school educating children of all educational needs and abilities in a co-existing learning environment. In this school, children with special needs are not separated from the children without – they are integrated in the same class.

The school provides the best of both worlds to children with special of all abilities. They maintain small class sizes, making it possible for every child to get the assistance and attention they need. The school envisions a society where all people can live side by side respectfully and appreciate that we each have a unique contribution to make to the world. The academy seeks to build confidence and competency in all learners, and to promote excellence through an enabling environment. In this school, every child truly matters.

I am so happy that a school like this one exists in Accra, Ghana. My children will benefit from learning side-by-side with students of all abilities, and will learn that all children can reach their potential with the right support and encouragement.

Do you have inclusive schools where you live? Would you consider an inclusive education for your child?

This is an original post written by Adowa Gyimah of Ghana for World Moms Blog.

Photo courtesy of Multikids Inclusive Academy, Ghana.

ONTARIO, CANADA: Forty and Freaking Out

ONTARIO, CANADA: Forty and Freaking Out

children at the beach

Our family has gone through some serious upheaval over the past two years. We’re talking big city to small town relocation, major job changes, the birth of our youngest, and the final resignation of my job as I officially became a stay at home mom (SAHM) for an indefinite period to deal with our children’s special needs. Whew! I can feel my stress level rising just thinking about it.

Our family embraces change with the best of them, and we tend to take many things in stride. Dealing with two children with complex needs is just something we do. Homeschooling to support serious academic needs? Done. Countless medical appointments and therapist visits? You got it. An active and healthy life style? It’s even better, now that we’re relocated to a small town surrounded by forest and farmland.

The kids are happy, my husband’s happy, and I’m happy.  So what’s the freak out about?

*gulp*  I’m turning forty. Like really soon. (more…)


Angela is a Special Education teacher who blogs about her super-powered special needs family. She has a 3 year old with Prader-Willi Syndrome and a 5 year old with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and Sensory Processing Disorder. The odds of these random genetic events occurring at the same time are astronomical. "When you add our typically developing one year old baby boy to the mix, you have a very busy household!", she explains. Angela admits to having too many appointments, too many school problems, and being generally too busy as she tries to live life to the fullest. Please visit her family at Half Past Normal for more of their adventures! If you want to connect to chat, you can find her on Twitter @specialneedmom2 If you are interested in Special Education policies and procedures in Ontario – or just some excellent strategies and accommodations – please check out Angela's other site at Special Ed on the Bell Curve.

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NETHERLANDS: Sleepless Nights

NETHERLANDS: Sleepless Nights

19181068968_9af26a35e8_zI felt it rushing over me like waves of ice cold water.
Overwhelming me.
Heldback tears stung in my eyes.
With my knees pressed tight against my abdomen, I gripped my head with my hands.
Silent sobs began to surface from deep within.
Trying to swallow them down made the lump in my throat grow thicker.

3 am.

The silent room was in great contrast with the loud screaming of thoughts in my head.
Distant sounds of a lonesome car on the road from the open window; the silent murmur and sighs of sleeping children; the breathing of my husband sleeping next to me, blissfully unaware of my distress.
Inside my head rapid thoughts were tripping over one another, hastily pushing each other aside.

“Starting this new job was a bad idea.”

“I can’t do this.”

“This is too much.”

“I am going to fail.”


I could almost feel it like a tangible presence in the room.

It was in the clenching of my jaw, the tightening of my muscles and in the trembling of my body.

The powerful sense of emotions that I felt was almost frightening.
I felt anger, sadness and an urge to run away from it all.

And then it dawned on me.

This is what fear of failure feels like.
Now I know what that kid in my class feels.
This is the reason he fights me, why he gets so angry, what makes him respond in such a primal way.
I understand how he feels now, and I can use this to help him.

As that realisation began to sink in, I forgot about my own distress and fear and started working out a plan.

4 am.

Peaceful thoughts started flooding my mind, causing the other thoughts to quiet down and stand in line.

“I can do this.”

“I just have to hang in there.”

“It will get easier.”

I placed my head on the pillow facing my sleeping husband.
A careful smile formed round the corners of my mouth.
And in the minutes that followed, the sounds of my calm breathing joined the sounds of my sleeping family.

Have you ever felt like giving up on something? How do you motivate yourself when you feel like quitting?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Mirjam from Apples And Roses, of The Netherlands. Photo credit: Camila Manriquez. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.


Mirjam was born in warm, sunny Surinam, but raised in the cold, rainy Netherlands. She´s the mom of three rambunctious beauties and has been married for over two decades to the love of her life. Every day she´s challenged by combining the best and worst of two cultures at home. She used to be an elementary school teacher but is now a stay at home Mom. In her free time she loves to pick up her photo camera. Mirjam has had a life long battle with depression and is not afraid to talk about it. She enjoys being a blogger, an amateur photographer, and loves being creative in many ways. But most of all she loves live and laughter, even though sometimes she is the joke herself. You can find Mirjam (sporadically) at her blog Apples and Roses where she blogs about her battle with depression and finding beauty in the simplest of things. You can also find Mirjam on Twitter and Instagram.

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GREECE: Jak And The Treehouse

GREECE: Jak And The Treehouse

IMG_20150118_161001Recently, I was talking to my two teenage sons about the characters from books they loved most when they were in primary school. I was confused when they told me one of their favorites was One Legged Little Jak who lived in OUR tree house just behind the stable…

What book was that? Someone had written a book about a special needs child living on our property?

The void in my mind must have been reflected on my blank face because Peter patiently reminded me that I used to tell them a bedtime story every night for months when they were about 6 and 7 years old.

The hero of our nightly tale was One Legged Jak, the ghost of a little Turkish boy who had passed away on our land hundreds of years earlier during a famine.

Some of you may find this rather macabre and inappropriate for small children to hear as a bedtime story. But as memories of Jak and his adventures started flashing like fireworks in my head, I remembered what a wonderful teaching/learning tool Jak and his adventures had been when my boys were little. During their adventures with Jak, my kids dealt with bullies, thieves and mad goats, battled with over demanding parents and survived gale force winds and floods! As it all came back to me, I recalled that Jak had been a specific creation with a threefold purpose.

The first goal was for my boys to overcome their childhood fear of night time ghosts and ghouls by providing them with their own personal spirit-buddy. They loved Jak from the very first chapter! Within 2 weeks of “meeting” Jak they could sleep without the light on as they believed nothing spooky or scary would mess with their spirit friend! They felt as if Jak would look out for them and protect them from anything bad. I’d explain to my boys that just because something was different from them, that certainly didn’t mean it was negative. Quite the contrary! Just look at Jak!

The second goal was to show that accidents and physical deformity can happen at any time and to anyone.

I didn’t want my kids growing up with a biased attitude towards people with special needs but to be as kind and considerate as they were with their own family members.

My children’s Greek gran and grandpa both have serious disabilities. Grandpa had lost one of his eyes and partial sight from the other in a childhood accident. Grandma was born with malformed legs and can walk only with the aid of crutches. Jak had only one leg and used crutches, too. When my boys were on their “adventures” with Jak, part of our story time included an interactive discussion when they had to find creative ways to use Jak’s wooden leg to their advantage. Some suggestions included using his crutches to cross a flooded stream and unscrewing his wooden leg to fight off an attack from a deranged goat! Well, my point was that you should always try to make something positive out of something bad. Even now, Matthew (my 13 year old) often borrows his grandmas crutches to help herd the flock of sheep on our family farm!

The third goal was to encourage my boys to “hang out” with a buddy from a different culture who spoke and behaved differently from them. I chose a Turkish background for several reasons. Firstly, only 1 generation ago our village was known as Turkish Bratva. In recent decades it’s been given the Greek name of Harokopi. Secondly, there is still a lot of tension between the Greeks and Turkish in this part of Greece, especially among the older generations. I definitely did not want my children to believe the racist ideas of some so-called educated Greeks.

Just before I started the saga of Jak and his adventures, one of my German friends told me one of the most shocking things I’d heard about a Greek educator. Her daughter’s 1st grade teacher would tell her pupils that Turkish people were bad and ate children at the drop of a hat!  She was horrified when her daughter started having night terrors, convinced that one of their Turkish friends would sneak into the house at night and gobble her up! When the parents discovered that the teacher had told the whole class this terrible thing, they invited her to their home for a friendly confrontation. They didn’t want to go to school and involve the headmistress straight away as this teacher in all other areas seemed to be doing a commendable job. There was also the possibility that their daughter had gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick and confused a fairy tale with part of a history lesson.

My friend told me later that the teacher was a descendant of Greeks who had lived in Asia Minor but had been violently expelled from Smyrna by Turks several generations earlier. Her great grandparents and their surviving relatives had barely escaped the bloodbath alive. As a result, the stories of her grandparents had been told to each generation and she had been brought up hating Turkish people.

There was a big possibility that my children would also have this teacher or have contact at some point in their lives with someone from a similar background. There was no question that Jak HAD to be a loveable Turkish rogue who would protect Peter and Matthew from all evil!!!

So that’s how and why Jak was born. How could I have filed him away and misplaced him the last few years when he was a nightly visitor for so long? In retrospect, I think that as my husband was in a special needs school around that time and often took our boys with him on visits, I believed that real interaction with unique personalities was even more beneficial than with the imaginary Jak. That doesn’t mean that Jak will be forgotten, though.

Do you tell your children stories to help them cope with childhood fears?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Ann Marie Wraight of Greece. Photo credit to the author.

Ann Marie Wraight

Having lived in 4 different countries, Ann Marie finds it difficult to give a short answer about where she's from. She regards herself: Brit by birth, Aussie by nature, with a sprinkling of Greek and German based on her insatiable appetite for tasty food and chilled beer! This World Mom has been married to her Greek soulmate for 16 years and they are the proud but constantly challenged parents of two overactive teenage boys. (She secretly wonders sometimes if she was given the wrong babies when she left the maternity clinic.) She can't explain the fascination and ability that her 13 and 14 year-olds show in math and physics or that both boys are ranked 1st and 2nd nationally in judo. Ann Marie can only conclude that those years of breastfeeding, eating home cooked meals and home tutoring really DO make a difference in academic and physical performance! The family is keeping its fingers crossed that---with the awful economic crash in Greece---continued excellence in math and/or judo will lead to university scholarships... In addition to writing, enjoying a good glass of wine and movies, Ann Marie also works as a teacher and tends their small, free-range farm in the Greek countryside.

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Belgium: Bleak Reflections

Belgium: Bleak Reflections

BleakEven before I became a mother, I had a particular wish for my future children. Looking back at several not so fond memories of my childhood, I vowed I would do everything for them to have a better one. They shouldn’t have to grow up too fast. They would not have to feel unwanted, misunderstood or worthless. I would guard their innocence and happiness like a hawk.

The major driving force behind the different attempts of therapy I tried throughout the years, was the well-being of my (future) kids. I wouldn’t allow mistakes in motherhood.

In fact, I didn’t want them to become like me at all. Just like the mother who really tries hard not to show her child how much she is freaked out by spiders, in order not to raise a little arachnophobic like herself. My list of not-to-pass-ons was just longer: low self esteem, perfectionism, fear of failure, social clumsiness, easy overstimulation and of course CFD: ‘continuously fretting disorder’.

The first five years of motherhood, I had the impression I could accomplish all this. I actually felt like the perfect mother: patient, involved, crafty, warm. I even managed to stick to my not-to-pass-on-list.  It would cost me quite some effort, but I would not interfere when my son was building a crooked tower, so he could not catch my perfectionism. Trying not to pass on perfectionism while desperately trying to be a perfect mother.  It may sound absurd now, but back then, it totally made sense.

Three years ago, my perfect balance in motherhood shifted drastically.  When our son turned five, we couldn’t ignore anymore that he was going to develop at a speed different from his peers. At the same time, our adopted daughter arrived, aged two and a half.

They both forced me to face my demons better than any therapy has ever done throughout the years.

My son and I, we discovered developing an intelligence and sensitivity far beyond our physical age, is a struggle we share. Where his friends will watch a grazing cow on a field trip and complain about the stench, he will likely try to understand why this mammal has four stomachs, how to measure the circumference of the pasture and how long it would take for the cow to eat all that grass. And how much dung it would have produced by then, of course. His sense of humour is still a seven year old’s.

My daughter and I, we’ve been battling childhood trauma and attachment disorder together. We cried together in the shower numerous times, holding each other fiercely. The battle has been rough. It still is. Sometimes I just can’t comfort her like I should, because I need comforting myself.  But she amazes me with a resilience I just can’t manage. She might be  jumping on the trampoline and singing imaginary happy-songs, while I crash on the couch to mentally recover from holding her mourning and kicking little body for over half an hour.

It has been extremely painful to see my least fond childhood memories revive in my kids.

Comforting a son that feels like an alien, desperately trying to cover up his super powers because he just wants to blend in. Reassuring a daughter that follows me around the house like a puppy because she just can’t believe she won’t be abandoned again.

Painful. Heart wrenching. And feeding the CFD by the tons.

However,  I’m seeing now that our struggles do not necessarily have to be the same. Because, you know, they have me. Of course I can’t protect them from being hurt. No mother can do that for her children. It’s one of the curses of being  a mother.

But as it turns out, as a ‘damaged’ mother, I might be the perfect guide for my heavy-hearted children.

I’m teaching my son first handed how to make use of his extraterrestrial powers, without a need to blend in. I’m even coaching him in failing and making mistakes without believe it’s the end of the world. I surely acknowledge how important that lesson is. He’ll get it much earlier than I did.

I’m confidently ignoring outsiders’ advice on how to deal with my daughter’s anxieties, since I recognize how she feels. When she’s grieving, I guard her like an eagle that will not allow anyone to question or mock her tears of grief. I’m determined to give her what I never got. I will make her feel loved and understood. Unconditionally.

Me, I’ve only discovered how to find happiness after a painful and lonely journey.

I intend to show my children all the short cuts.

They will have a splendid childhood.

How do you see your own childhood reflected in your children? Is it mostly warm or can it be painful as well?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by K10K from The Penguin and The Panther.

The picture in this post is credited to the author.


If you ask her about her daytime job, Katinka will tell you all about the challenge of studying the fate of radioactive substances in the deep subsurface. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising four kids together with five other parents, each with their own quirks, wishes and (dis)abilities. As parenting and especially co-parenting involves a lot of letting go, she finds herself singing the theme song to Frozen over and over again, even when the kids are not even there...

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UNITED KINGDOM: Learning to Do Better

UNITED KINGDOM: Learning to Do Better

do it betterBetty and I are walking to school in the rain. It is a miserable morning – grey, cold and squally. We are tilting our umbrellas sideways to shield ourselves from the gusts of needles thrown at us as we progress along the avenue. I am forcing bright chatter and thinking of the warm cup of tea I will have when I get home.

Betty’s umbrella is white and pink and round like a daisy. It has pretty little petals and yellow stripes, and a bumble-bee attached to the top. The bumble-bee is looking very sorry for himself this morning, buffeted hither and to. I can’t see Betty’s face but I can tell by the drag of her toes that she is feeling sorry for herself too.

I lean down and enquire: “How are you doing, darling?”

A woebegone voice answers. “Ok.”

Then she asks: “Mummy, did this umbrella used to belong to my big sister?”

I tell her yes, it did.

“And Mummy, did she used to walk to school with it too?”

Again, I aver, she did.

A pause. Then, cautiously: “Mummy, did my sister ever used to not want to go to school?”

I can see where this is going now and I give her hand a sympathetic little squeeze. I say yes, there were days when her big sister didn’t really feel like it either.

At this Betty stops and tips back the rim of her umbrella to look up at me. Her eyes are welling with tears. She asks: “And did she used to worry about making mistakes too?”

Betty started school last September at the age of four. She is now four and a half and a month into her second term. She flew through the first twelve weeks with ease – enthusiastic, inquisitive, and keen to try new things. This term, she has cried often on leaving me in the mornings. Afternoons start with jubilation at being home, then slide slowly from relaxation to upset as night approaches.

As soon as I call her for her bath it is her cue to start an hour-long conversation about whether or not she will have to go to school again in the morning.

Now I look at her, looking up at me, her face a mixture of rain and tears, and I think: She’s far too little for all this. I bend down to her and put my umbrella down and hug her. I tell her: “Everyone makes mistakes. It doesn’t matter about making mistakes. The thing is just to try your best. Have a little go.”

But as I’m saying it, I’m thinking that really, I just want to put her in my pocket and take her home. She is not yet five. She shouldn’t be afraid of new things in case she finds herself unable to do them to a standard that will make her happy.

Last term, she learned phonics – how to make the sounds of the alphabet. This term, she has realised that those phonics are letters and that by putting them together and sounding them out she can both read and write. And it terrifies her.

It is Learning with a capital ‘L’. Every day now she wonders what Learning she will have to conquer next.

The British education system is under huge scrutiny at the moment. The coalition government’s Conservative education minister Michael Gove has decided that it needs an overhaul. There is too much emphasis on coursework, so he has decreed the system should revert to a grand slam of end-of-year exams. There is not enough emphasis on rote learning, so reciting dates and times-tables are back in.

So far I have reacted to Gove’s decisions with horror mainly because of the impact they will likely have on my elder daughter, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, and will struggle even more under a system that removes the chance for her to shine via project work. Gove’s reforms are a disaster for Grace.

Now, looking at Betty, who I had expected to skip through the system, I find myself wondering how she will cope. Recently Gove said he was thinking of introducing formal assessments for four and five-year-olds when they enter school in England, in order to be able to monitor their progress.

I care that my children should progress well through the education system, and flourish in their chosen careers. But as I kissed Betty goodbye in her classroom that morning, and watched her teacher take her gently by the hand to distract her from her upset, I thought: there must be a better way to do this.

So – how do you do it, where you live? And do you think it works?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer in England, Sophie Walker.

The picture used in this post is credited to Roger McCallum. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

Sophie Walker (UK)

Writer, mother, runner: Sophie works for an international news agency and has written about economics, politics, trade, war, diplomacy and finance from datelines as diverse as Paris, Washington, Hong Kong, Kabul, Baghdad and Islamabad. She now lives in London with her husband, two daughters and two step-sons. Sophie's elder daughter Grace was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome several years ago. Grace is a bright, artistic girl who nonetheless struggles to fit into a world she often finds hard to understand. Sophie and Grace have come across great kindness but more often been shocked by how little people know and understand about autism and by how difficult it is to get Grace the help she needs. Sophie writes about Grace’s daily challenges, and those of the grueling training regimes she sets herself to run long-distance events in order to raise awareness and funds for Britain’s National Autistic Society so that Grace and children like her can blossom. Her book "Grace Under Pressure: Going The Distance as an Asperger's Mum" was published by Little, Brown (Piatkus) in 2012. Her blog is called Grace Under Pressure.

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