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Courage In All of Us

My daughter’s early struggles

My daughter, Ashanti, was diagnosed at age three years and eight months old. The diagnosis came after she was very behind in walking and talking. Her cognitive skills were not at age appropriate level either. After the diagnosis we immediately begin to enroll her in special needs daycares, home tutor and therapy to help her development. We as parents believe in inclusion for those with different abilities to help our daughter make friends and keep her in touch with girls her age. She start her kindergarten year in a regular public school with only an IEP inside a regular classroom. We saw our daughter get frustrated very quickly. She wasn’t frustrated with her peers she was frustrated with herself. She was frustrated that she cannot keep up with her classmates when it comes to a new assignment, she was frustrated that she could not write numbers are letters correctly and when she asked for help she felt as if she was being ignored. Ashanti hated her first year in kindergarten, she couldn’t understand the material, she can understand why her peers made fun of her for being behind. She was isolated and hated school. After her third grade year we pulled her our of public school and put her in a Special Needs school two counties away from us. She was scared at first because she didn’t know anyone there but, we felt it was the best option to save education. We felt it was better for her because she received more of individualize assistance, she’ll receive coursework that is more on her skill level and She will be more successful in making long term friendships. She begin to do so much better with her coursework. She moved from receiving almost all bad marks to being on AB Honor roll and Student of The Month. She love education and school and she believes she is now smart.

An idea from personal experience

Last year Ashanti has asked me can she go back to public school again. The question threw me off, but it was a decision that she made on her own and was very adamant on going back to public school. She felt as if she wants to give it another try now that she has more skills and better coping skills for how to deal with bully. She doesn’t understand anything she never gets frustrated anymore we have school work. We agreed with her decision, of course we worried. But, we have faith in her. She also started to draw. It started off and just doodling but, her skills have become remarkable in just a few months. She seems to always draw a certain character. One day I asked her “Who is this girl?”. Ashanti, without looking at me, said “She represents me”. This is the first time ‘Courage Willis’ came into our lives.

Courage Willis: The Wild Hair Girl Wonder

My daughter design Courage from facts about her own life. Courage has a twin sister, Ashanti has a twin sister. Courage has Autism, Ashanti has Autism. Courage has wild hair, Ashanti has wild hair. She saw herself in Courage. Courage Willis is a child with autism. She is almost completely non verbal but, she finds away to express herself. She is a social butterfly and love to make friends. She is caring and passionate. A bit headstrong but, a definite leader. Courage is her hero. She would draw stories surrounding Courage and her ‘splice of Life’ adventures. Courage is Ashanti’s best friend. And she would love to continue drawing the character. Ashanti is having ideas of turning Courage into a children’s illustration book for kids like her to enjoy.

Looking towards the future.

Ashanti today saids she want to be a Special Education teacher and Illustrator. She wants to give kids in school hope and to tell them that things will get better. She want to be the living proof for them that dreams really come true. Ashanti has a lot of Courage in her. Really! I could not be anymore proud in her. To use her artist skills to find hope for herself and to spread along to others. My daughter is one courageous girl. And I love her.

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Vay Bailey

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