Monthly Archives August 2009

In-service Program – Inclusion: Out of the Box – In Shirley, AR

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Chet McDoniel gives an in-service program in Shirley, ARLast week, I was invited to give an inservice program in Shirley, AR to the Shirley ISD teachers and administrators about how they could have a truly happy, successful year. My dad was with me for this one, and we spoke on what school was like for me growing up and how much it meant for me to be included in the classroom…instead of being secluded due to my handicap.

In 1985, when I began Kindergarten in Bossier City, LA, the way of handling a child with a handicap was to send them to a “504 Location.” That meant that all the children with special needs (whether they be mental or physical) were sent via bus to a special location instead of being allowed to go to the school that served their respective neighborhoods. For me, this would have meant riding a bus across town instead of getting to go to school with my friends at the elementary school less than a quarter mile away.

Through many contacts and helpful, forward-thinking people, my parents were able to get me “mainstreamed” at the local elementary school. In fact, I was one of the first kids with special needs to be “mainstreamed” in Louisiana. Obviously, this decision had a huge impact on my self-confidence as I was able to play and learn right alongside those without disabilities.

Chet McDoniel signs a book with his feet at an in-service program in Shirley, ARIn Shirley, AR, we presented the story of my life, and showed why inclusion of those with special needs is so important. We played a game where the teachers were challenged to include a group member who was experiencing a mental challenge and couldn’t participate like the rest of the group. For this in-service program, I wanted to help teach how these educators can open their eyes to making sure every child and parent feels accepted. We had a fantastic morning, and are still hearing from teachers in Shirley, AR, about how wonderful the in-service program was, and how much they are now looking forward to this new school year.

FUSE Foundation Retreat – A Whole Lotta Stories

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Fuse Foundation Retreat - Chet McDoniel speaks on happinessThis past weekend, Joni and I drove up to Wichita, KS, as I had been invited to speak at the FUSE Foundation’s Retreat. The FUSE Foundation was established in 2008 to provide opportunities for social networking, recreation and education for young adults with neuromuscular disease. The “campers” had spent Friday and Saturday having a wonderful time getting to know each other, playing fun games, and I even found out about some midnight karaoke.

I was asked to come in for their final morning together on Sunday and tell them about my story. I realized as I was speaking that many of these young adults had been through more difficult times than I had, and that I could very well learn some lessons from them rather than the other way around. I told my story as I usually do, told them about the love of Jesus that goes so much deeper than the way we look, and then I opened the floor up to questions as I often do. Well, I was not prepared for what came next!

The group there had the funniest questions and stories to tell me that I had ever heard. Whether it be from friends trying to sneak one girl, who is in a wheelchair, past a security camera by simply having her wear a ski mask, (“Yeah, that’ll hide my wheelchair,” she said) or making up why we are handicapped when someone asks us a rude question (One guy there said he had gotten someone else to believe he had fallen off of the Empire State Building), these stories were hilarious. They had me laughing so hard, I almost couldn’t breathe.

I so enjoyed being with the FUSE Foundation group as I learned so much about being happy in the face of struggles. These young adults are the light of the world, and I thank them for their smiles last Sunday morning as I spoke. You all are awesome!!!

Fuse Foundation Retreat Group Picture with Chet McDoniel