When it comes time for a first-born child to go to school for the first time, every parent has more than a few moments of apprehension as they hand their child over to a school they may not be familiar with and to a teacher they do not know. As parents of a special needs child, these moments are that much more pronounced and intense.
Elle has always really struggled with change, and although we knew that she would eventually adapt to the change, what we were not prepared for was how smoothly it would happen. Upon meeting Elle’s EA, Cassie Doucet, she immediately eased our fears in that she was genuinely interested in hearing all about our daughter. Not only has Ms. Doucet ensured that all of Elle’s needs are met, she has consistently gone above and beyond. We, as parents, are so thankful to have her as Elle’s first EA. Not only did we get the sense that our daughter would be in a safe and caring environment, but Ms. Doucet’s passion for education gave us the confidence that kindergarten would also be a place of great learning for our daughter. Ms. Doucet welcomed Elle to the school with open arms, which let her know from the start that her classroom would be a great place where she would learn, laugh, grow and flourish – Elle fell in love with Ms. Doucet within the first few weeks of school.
We know and trust that Ms. Doucet cares for Elle in a manner that she would want her own children to be cared for. Whether it is to check in with us following increased seizure activity, or send home a get well card and comfy PJ’s after hospitalization.
In the fall, Elle had a flurry of seizure activity. Her seizures cause paralysis, making her unable to sit up on her own, let alone walk. One of these days happened to be on the day in which the class had a trip planned to Myrtleville House. Despite the on-going seizure activity and paralysis, Ms. Doucet, advocated for Elle to be able to go on the trip because she had been really looking forward to making cookies. Notwithstanding the challenges that this posed for Ms. Doucet directly, in that she would have to carry Elle (who weighs nearly 50lbs), Ms. Doucet did not even hesitate to convince us that it wasn’t necessary to pick her up, and that she was more than prepared to make this work for Elle. This is just one example of the many times that Ms. Doucet has gone beyond the expectation of an EA.
Not only has Ms. Doucet helped Elle to integrate into her school environment, she has also helped us as parents to understand her role in supporting Elle. It makes it much easier to send Elle to school when she is having an ‘off’ day, knowing that Ms. Doucet is there for her and able to understand her needs. Ms. Doucet once said to us while trying to ease our worries about leaving Elle; “this is my job and you need to go do your job”.
Ms. Doucet has found ways to encourage Elle’s development and is constantly coming up with creative ways to engage her in activities, and to help her find and celebrate the small successes. With Ms. Doucet’s support, since September, we have seen our daughter develop in a way that we only hoped to be possible. We see evidence in the work that she brings home (drawing lines, colouring pictures) and the fact that she now shows interest in, and asks to make crafts at home. We hear about her participation with her peers in the classroom, during gym class and outside on the playground at recess.
Ms. Doucet has also been open to on-going communication with us as parents. She writes to us daily about Elle’s day, what she did, observations related to development, struggles etc. The communication is always strengths-based and child-focused, and allows us as parents to clearly know what she is working on with Elle so that we can continue that work at home. When asked to keep track about different things (ie rumination, seizure activity, lethargy etc), not only does Ms. Doucet report back, but she has developed charts and logs in which she is able to keep track of the information, and we can in turn share that information with the medical professionals.
In January, when we hosted our fundraising event for Rett Syndrome. Not only did Ms. Doucet offer to take our flyers to insert them into the newspapers that her children deliver in their neighborhood, but she and her family also attended the event. We cannot express how much it meant to us as parents, and particularly to Elle, to have Ms. Doucet’s support.
To say that Ms. Doucet goes above and beyond would be an understatement, and as parents we constantly struggle to find a way to say thank you to her for all of the care, love and support that she shows our daughter. We truly believe that Ms. Doucet deserves to be recognized for her outstanding work, as she has filled our daughter with a passion for learning, confidence that she can accomplish anything that she puts her mind to, and we believe, that she has started our little girl on a great path that will lead her to great places.