From the moment he woke up each morning, Gabriel Koerner resisted going to school. By the time he was cajoled out of bed and went to use the toilet, Gabriel would be sobbing. At the sight of his school bus arriving to pick him up, he’d try to run away.

After years of seeing her son struggle at elementary school, Lianna Koerner decided to pull him out of the third grade and try homeschooling. It turned out to be the best decision for Gabriel, who has Down syndrome. He is now a happy, confident 11-year-old. (In a phone interview, he enthusiastically named several friends he has made within his Ottawa homeschooling community, with whom he has “sleepovers and stuff.”) But it didn’t come easily.

Koerner and her husband had envisioned their son growing up and attending school with his same-age peers. Besides, many parents before them had fought hard for the right to have their children with disabilities attend mainstream schools.

“We just wanted him to grow up in his community and be accepted for who he was because we accept him for who he [is],” she says. “School was supposed to be his social community, and it was the exact opposite.”

Though they may be carried out with the best intentions, attempts at inclusion often don’t work out in reality. For young people with disabilities, the experience of attending supposedly inclusive schools and programs can be anything but.

The right to education for children with disabilities is protected by international treaties, such as the 2006 United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. And over the past few decades, many parents have petitioned their school boards and, in some cases, have taken their local school boards to court to have their children placed in mainstream classrooms. Yet in spite of the struggle to free kids from the stigma of “special ed,” the often harsh reality of the schoolyard has left some parents and young people wondering if mainstream classes are really where they fit in.

Gabriel Koerner, 11, works on math worksheets at home in Ottawa on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. (Justin Tang for The Globe and Mail)

Although they may share the same physical space with their typically developing peers, many young people with disabilities find themselves socially excluded, relegated to the sidelines or the back of the classroom and present as observers rather than full participants.

While some young people express a greater sense of belonging in segregated settings among others who also have disabilities, parents and advocates are calling for a re-examination of how we think about inclusion. Does our idea of inclusion require those with disabilities to try to be as “normal” as possible? Or are differences truly accepted and not just tolerated, but embraced?

“One important but … discomfiting kind of finding from my work was the number of young people who said that they felt in social interactions, particularly with strangers, they were often treated as if they weren’t even human,” says Toronto occupational therapist Dr. Gail Teachman, a postdoctoral fellow at McGill University who focuses on childhood disability.

Gabriel, for example, was always closely shadowed by an educational assistant while his schoolmates played in the schoolyard and participated in class freely. His parents received frequent reports about his negative behaviours. He was moody, he had lost much of the confidence he once possessed as a preschooler and he was constantly acting out.

One day, while he was in Grade 1, Koerner recalls dropping in during lunch break, and seeing Gabriel sitting at a near-empty 48-inch-wide table beside a supervising teacher. All around him, other tables were packed with children sitting together.

The sight of her child eating alone was both frustrating and devastating, Koerner says. “He was obviously left out.”

Teachman devoted her recent PhD research to understanding how young people with disabilities experience inclusion and exclusion; her work was awarded the Governor-General’s Gold Medal earlier this year. She sought the input of a group whose perspectives are very rarely represented in research. She interviewed 13 high-school students who are limited in their verbal communication, but rely on augmentative or alternative communication, such as electronic devices or parents who can interpret their non-verbal cues.

Gabriel Koerner, an 11 year old with Down syndrome, uses numicon blocks as he works on homework at home in Ottawa on Wednesday. Attending inclusive classes at a nearby school caused Gabriel distress, prompting his parents to switch to homeschooling. (Justin Tang/The Globe and Mail)

Teachman found that even in supposedly inclusive settings, young people with disabilities often come up against all kinds of hurdles, ranging from the inability to use computers designed for their typical peers to the struggle to be recognized as people and to be valued.

In her doctoral thesis, Teachman documents the comments from one participant, identified as Jamila, 17, who uses a speech-generating device: “Most people assume that just because my muscles and lungs and stomach do not work the way theirs do, that my brain and heart and soul are disabled too.”

As a natural response to such discrimination, Teachman says, “Several young people said, ‘I don’t even really want to interact with those “normal” kids because it’s a negative experience for me.’”

Teachman emphasizes she’s not advocating for the return of segregation, nor does she propose any easy fixes. Rather, she cautions that inclusion is often more complicated than we assume. Some forms of inclusion actually perpetuate exclusion when we fail to put enough thought into our goals and to consider the perspectives of those we’re aiming to include. And the onus, she adds, shouldn’t have to rest on the families and children with disabilities.

“It’s at the social level that we want to promote change because families and children with disabilities shouldn’t have to work this hard,” she says.

Dr. Jacqueline Specht, director of the Canadian Research Centre on Inclusive Education and a professor at the University of Western Ontario’s faculty of education, however, says young people in inclusive classrooms tend to have more friends, are better off academically and feel better about themselves than in segregated classrooms.

It’s when inclusion is “not implemented properly, then of course the kids are going to have trouble,” she says.

Specht says respect for diversity needs to be introduced when children are young, with children working together and teachers encouraging friendships and promoting the idea that differences are acceptable. Adults should also be mindful that they’re not creating situations where kids are isolated, she adds. For instance, educational assistants can sometimes stand in the way of peer interaction, she says, especially among young teens who don’t tend to want to be hanging around an adult.

Lianna Koerner says that her son, Gabriel, began demonstrating negative behaviours at school and that she was both frustrated and devastated seeing him sit alone at lunch. (Justin Tang/The Globe and Mail)

“If the person in your class has an educational assistant that’s sort of Velcroed at the hip … then it’s harder to have those friendships occur because there’s always an adult there,” she says.

Specht points out that even though provincial governments, such as Ontario, say they aim for inclusion, school boards still have segregated classrooms and segregated schools.

“I think that sends a double message, right? It says to the teachers, it says to the parents, it says to the kids themselves that there’s somewhere else that you could go,” she says.

What’s needed, she says, is a change of mindset “that all people belong and all people are valued.”

One of the tricky things about creating policies for inclusion and applying them is there’s no one approach that will work for everyone, says Marcy White of Toronto, whose son Jacob Trossman, 14, was born with a neurodegenerative disease called Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease.

White – who’s written a book about her son, The Boy Who Can: The Jacob Trossman Story – lobbied hard to have Jacob attend an inclusive class at a mainstream public school. In spite of the resistance White encountered from school board officials, Jacob has thrived among his typically developing peers, she says.

“I find he has more in common with kids his own age, who are typically developing who can run and walk and speak, even though he can’t, than he has with other kids of all different ages who are all in wheelchairs and who all have some form of disability,” White says.

But she recognizes other children may not respond in the same way under the same circumstances. “It comes down to not having a cookie-cutter approach and tailoring the situation to the child,” she says.

There are, nonetheless, at least a couple of universal ingredients to achieving inclusion that parents, advocates and young people agree upon, and those are having an open mind and making a sincere effort to get to know individuals with disabilities.

Gabriel Koerner, 11, uses numicon blocks as he works on a math worksheet at home in Ottawa on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. (Justin Tang for The Globe and Mail)

In Vancouver, Sue Robins recently visited the special-education class her son Aaron Waddingham, 13, will be attending for Grade 8 in September, and was surprised to find it much more inclusive than the community education model in which he’s been enrolled in from preschool to Grade 7.

“It was like a welcoming environment, like everybody belonged there,” Robins says of her initial impression of the special-ed class.

By contrast, she says, in the mainstream school setting, Aaron, who has Down syndrome, was often in the back of the classroom or a separate resource room with his educational assistant and one other student with special needs.

Asked about how he feels about starting his new special-education high school, Aaron says he feels “a little bit nervous.” His mother, on the other hand, was relieved to see the staff there seemed to try to understand the students and their behaviours.

“What I worry about is, of course, it is segregated from the rest of the school population, and the world is not like that,” she says. “When Aaron graduates, he will become part of all of us.”

+++++++++++++++++++

Aaron Waddingham, 13, may have been socially excluded in the classroom, but on the basketball court, he was able to shine.

Waddingham’s time on the Grade 6/7 boys’ basketball team was arguably the most inclusive experience he’s had, his mother Sue Robins says. Here’s why.

A sense of belonging

Aaron was a fully participating member of the team, not relegated to the bench as the team manager or as a “water boy.”

He didn’t miss a practice, or a game, and scored several baskets throughout the season.

Natural interactions

Without being prompted, teammates and opponents made slight accommodations, such as allowing him to pass from out of bounds and waiting a couple seconds for him to make a shot, rather than snatching the ball from him.

While Aaron’s coach may have nurtured a sense of inclusion, these accommodations happened organically and were not forced.

Valuing difference

Aaron won the team’s most-valuable player award at the end of the season, because, as his coach says, he was the most valuable player.

He taught the others important lessons about teamwork – that everyone is different, that teammates have to help each other out.

And in the end, the team performed well in their standings.

“Aaron didn’t hold them back, which I think is the biggest fear with including kids [with differences] in sports activities,” Robins explains.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail



Continuing to play despite a concussion doubles recovery time for teen athletes and leads to worse short-term mental function than in those immediately removed from action, a study found.

It’s billed as the first to compare recovery outcomes for athletes removed from a game or practice compared with those who aren’t. The study was small, involving 69 teens treated at a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center concussion clinic, but the results bolster evidence supporting the growing number of return-to-play laws and policies nationwide

The study was published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

The study involved athletes aged 15 on average from several sports, including football, soccer, ice hockey and basketball who had concussions during a game or practice. Half continued to play and took 44 days on average to recover from symptoms, versus 22 days in those who were immediately sidelined.

Sidelined players reported symptoms immediately, including dizziness, headaches, mental fogginess and fatigue, and were diagnosed with concussions by trainers or team physicians. The others, who continued playing for 19 minutes on average, delayed reporting symptoms and were diagnosed later.

Those who continued to play had worse scores on mental function tests performed eight days after the concussion and 30 days after the concussion. Medical records showed mental function had been similar in all players before their concussions.

Return-to-play policies are widespread, especially in youth athletics, and they typically recommend sidelining players after a suspected concussion until symptoms resolve. One of the main reasons is to prevent a rare condition called second-impact syndrome — potentially fatal brain swelling or bleeding that can occur when a player still recovering from a concussion gets hit again in the head.

The study results show that a prolonged recovery is another important risk from returning to play too soon — one that “no one had really calculated” until now, said Dr. Allen Sills, a Vanderbilt University neurosurgeon. He was not involved in the research.

About 300,000 sports-related concussions occur each year nationwide among all ages. In high school athletics, they occur at a rate of almost 3 per 10,000 games or practices.

Evidence suggests up to 50 per cent of concussions in teen sports aren’t reported. Athletes are sometimes not aware they’ve experienced a concussion, or they suspect a head injury but continue playing because “they don’t want to let their teammates down,” said University of Arkansas concussion researcher R.J. Elbin, the study’s lead author.

The results “give us more ammunition” to persuade young athletes to heed the return-to-play advice, Elbin said.


Courtesy: The Globe And Mail



Older adults with poorly controlled diabetes may struggle with what’s known as episodic memory, the ability to recall specific events experienced recently or long ago, a study suggests.

Researchers examined results from a series of four memory tests done from 2006 to 2012 for 950 older adults with diabetes and 3,469 elderly people without the disease.

The participants who had diabetes and elevated blood sugar performed worse on the first round of memory tests at the start of the study and also experienced a bigger decline in memory function by the end of the study.

“We believe that the combination of diabetes and high blood sugar increases the chances of a number of health problems,” said lead study author Colleen Pappas, an Aging researcher at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

“Our study brings attention to the possibility that worsening memory may be one of them,” Pappas added by email.

While the study doesn’t explore why this might happen, it’s possible that elevated blood sugar damages brain cells that transmit messages in the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in memory, Pappas said.

At the start of the study, when participants were about 73 years old on average, they all got blood tests that measure average blood sugar levels. This so-called hemoglobin A1c test measures the percentage of hemoglobin – the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen – that is coated with sugar, with readings of 6.5 per cent or above signaling diabetes.

The people without diabetes had average A1c levels of 5.6, considered a normal or healthy range. But the diabetics had average A1c levels of 6.7, putting them at increased risk of complications from the disease.

Researchers also did memory tests using immediate and delayed word recall to assess changes in brain function over time.

Higher A1c levels were associated with lower scores on that first memory test and a steeper decline in scores over time, researchers report in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Higher A1c levels in the people with diabetes, however, explained most of that association.

One limitation of the study is that researchers only checked A1c once, at the start of the study, the authors note. That makes it hard to say how shifts in blood sugar over time might have influenced any changes in memory.

Researchers also lacked data on medications people took to control blood sugar, which makes it difficult to assess whether memory lapses might be averted in patients who took medications designed to manage diabetes, the authors also point out.

Even so, the findings suggest that keeping blood sugar levels in a healthy range may help maintain memory performance over time, said Dr. Joe Verghese, director of the Montefiore-Einstein Center for the Aging Brain in New York.

“Patients with diabetes can experience several brain changes that develop over time such as shrinkage of areas involved in memory and thinking as well as damage to blood vessels supplying the brain,” Verghese, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. “Higher blood sugar levels may be detrimental for brain health even in older adults who do not meet formal criteria for diabetes but are in the gray zone.”

People with diabetes also need to be aware that even if their blood sugar is well controlled, they’re still at increased risk for memory problems and impairments in cognitive function, said Mark Espeland, a researcher at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The best defense is avoiding diabetes in the first place, Espeland, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.

“Taking steps to reduce one’s risk for diabetes is important to maintaining a healthy brain,” Espeland said. “These steps include an active lifestyle and avoiding obesity.”


Courtesy: The Globe And Mail



Amsterdam

Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market)

Flowers liven up the brown buildings and North Sea skies of Amsterdam. Experience this juxtaposition via a leisurely canal-side stroll through the floating flower market. From azaleas to tulips and exotic flora, the 150-year old Bloemenmarkt provides an authentic Amsterdammer no-cost experience. Take-home bulbs and kitschy souvenirs aren’t much more. Singel between Koningsplein and Muntplein; 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday -Saturday, 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Sunday; admission free.

Amsterdam Cheese Museum

You have probably noticed that cheese is a staple in the daily Dutch diet. This quaint little shop and educational centre is filled to the rafters with massive cheese wheels (and slightly smaller rounds). Take a one-stop dairy tour through the Netherlands, learning how the cheese is made and tasting its many regional varieties, then ham it up in traditional costume for photo ops. ; Prinsengracht 112; 9 a.m.-7 p.m. daily; free.

Copenhagen

Making connections

In Lego’s homeland, blockheads can make a pilgrimage to the toy’s birthplace in Billund, 260 km west of Copenhagen, and pay to enter Legoland (299Dkr). Or they could visit Copenhagen’s Lego store (; Vimmelskaftet 37; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, and Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday), to freely enjoy the Living Room creative arena, see huge models and learn facts (there are 915,103,765 ways to combine six eight-stud Lego bricks); free.

Open-air Museum

At a sprawling site just outside the city you can explore pre-Industrial Revolution Scandinavia at one of the world’s biggest open-air museums. The 50 original buildings range from windmills to a poorhouse, and are occupied by people dressed as peasants and millers explaining how Denmark evolved from 1650 to 1950. ; Kongevejen 100, 2800 Lyngby; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday May-June and August-October, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. July-August; free.

Geneva

CERN

Blow your mind with a free guided tour of the laboratory where the World Wide Web was born in 1989. Blow it still further with a gander at the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s most massive machine, which accelerates protons down a 27km-long circular tube to create new matter from the resulting collisions. Incredible but true. ; Meyrin; guided tour 11am Monday-Saturday and 1 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; free.

La Barje

This waterside vintage caravan with its bright, candy-striped paintwork radiates energy and outdoor buzz. Drinks and snacks are cheap (profits help young people in difficulty), but it’s the catchy line-up of free gigs, concerts and street theatre that steals the show. Grab a front-row seat on the grassy riverbanks of the Rhône and chill in style. ; Promenade des Lavandières; 11 a.m.-midnight Monday-Friday, 3 p.m.-midnight Saturday and Sunday April-September; free.

Helsinki

Design District

The epicentre of modernist Finland is the downtown Design District, where flagship stores (Pohjoisesplanadi Street; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturing and Sunday; admission free) from globally recognized brands like Iittala, Marimekko and Aarikka line Esplanadi Park. Browsing the 200 design studios, art galleries and clothing and jewellery boutiques can feel like hip (and free) museum-hopping. Bonus: the district runs down to Sinebrychoff Park (; Blvd 40), where there are sometimes free performances.

Suomenlinna Island

Hop on a ferry to the UNESCO site that dates to 1748, when Finland was a Swedish colony. Explore the fortress, sunbathe, or take advantage of free events, exhibits and museums. There are a dozen restaurants and bars and a hostel. ; Port of Helsinki; ferry tickets from Helsinki’s kauppatori to Suomenlinna’s main quay one way/return €2.50/5, 15 minutes, three times hourly, less frequent in winter, 6:20 a.m.-2:20 a.m.

Oslo

Museum-Mooching

Visit Oslo on a Sunday and you’ll discover all Norway’s national cultural collections are free, including those at the National Gallery (3a; Universitetsgata 13; 11 a.m. -5 p.m.), home of Edvard Munch’s The Scream and Madonna, plus paintings by Cézanne and Manet; the Museum of Contemporary Art (3b; Bankplassen 4; noon-5 p.m.), the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design(3c; St Olavsgate 1; noon- 4 p.m.) and the National Museum – Architecture (3d; Bankplassen 3; noon- 5 p.m.). All .

Picnic at the Palace

The free-access Palace Park or Slottsparken (6a; kongehuset.no; 24hr; free) is a popular picnicking and people-watching spot for locals and visitors, who often coincide their sandwich-munching with the Changing of the Guard (1:30 p.m. daily). Another awesome al-fresco eating spot is the Botanical Garden (6b; ; Sars gate 1; 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday mid-March-September, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. rest of year) in Toyenparken (next to the Munch Museum), which contains 7500 species of plants.

Reykjavik

The Imagine Peace Tower

Yoko Ono’s tribute to John Lennon, the Friðarsúlan writes ‘Imagine Peace’ in 24 languages on clouds above Reykjavík for 61 days each year – 9 October (Lennon’s birthday) to 8 December (when he was shot). The geo-thermally powered tower uses 15 searchlights and prisms to beam the hopeful message from a wishing well containing a million written wishes from dreamers around the world, which Ono collected during her Wish Trees project. Viðey Island; October-December; free.

Grótta Lighthouse

One of the city’s most dramatic walks takes free-ranging explorers across a narrow corridor of land to the lighthouse at Grótta. This is an evocative spot, popular with locals, and if you get lucky it’s an amazing place to behold the Aurora Borealis. Be sure to time your run right, though, because the footpath disappears when the tide comes in. Or take the number 11 bus to Lindargotu Rd. Free.

Stockholm

Medeltidsmuseet

Almost hidden beneath the oldest stone bridge in the city, the Medieval Museum feels like a secret fortress. It was destined to become a parking lot, but excavation crews discovered a stretch of 16th-century city wall and a tunnel leading to the Royal Palace – which now form the core of the artfully displayed multimedia exhibits. ; Strömparterren 3; noon-5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday-Sunday, noon-8 p.m. Wednesday; free.

Söder cliffs and Katarina bridge

It’s hard to beat the views that await you once you have tramped up the rickety wooden staircases just south of Slussen to the top of the Söder Hills. Take the walkway leading to the historic Katarina lift, then take Maria Trappgränd, a narrow stairway just east of Slussen leading up towards the 500m-long cottage-lined Monteliusvägen; this is also a good picnic area! Slussen T-bana station; 24 hours; free.

Venice

Basilica di San Marco

Venice’s byzantine basilica is the apotheosis of the city’s self-invention. It took 800 years to build and wrap the bones of St. Mark the Evangelist in a golden carapace of mosaics. This is all yours for free, although you can skip the queue by pre-booking (€2). Free tours run at 11 a.m. Monday to Saturday (April to October). ; Piazza San Marco; 9:45 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Monday -Saturday 2-5 p.m. Sunday summer, 2-4 p.m. Sunday winter; free.

Lido beaches

For centuries the bastion of the city, the Lido found a new lease of life in the 19th century as a bathing resort. For years it attracted the bel mondo and in September celebrities still flock here for the Film Festival. Mere mortals can make do with the Lido’s three free beaches: the Spiaggia Comunale (4a), the San Nicolò beach (4b) and the Alberoni (4c), where Byron raced his horses in 1817. 24 hour; free.

London

The Tate

This four-venue gallery is home to controversial pieces and experimental work, such as the 4D Sensorium, which combines visuals with smells, sounds and tactile elements. Two of the gallery’s four U.K. sites are in London: Tate Britain (7a; Millbank, SW1P; 10am-6pm), displaying British art from 1500 to the present day, and Tate Modern (7b; Bankside, SE1; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday and Saturday), which exhibits art from 1900 onwards. .

More London Free Festival

This annual series of free events hijacks the South Bank of the River Thames for five months of summer action comprising of everything from live music and fringe theatre performances to children’s entertainment and screenings of flicks in the Scoop – a 1000-seat concrete amphitheatre near Tower Bridge. The big screen on site broadcasts major sporting events such as Wimbledon and the Tour de France. Events take place year-round along the South Bank, which is also the atmospheric location for a Christmas market. ; June-October; free.

Paris

Promenade Plantée

The inspiration for New York’s High Line, this elevated park built on a 19th century railway viaduct is an unexpected green space floating above eastern Paris. Starting just east of Opéra Bastille in the hip and non-nonsense 12e, it unfolds to provide a quite otherworldly urban adventure. Following the full 4.5km takes you to the very edge of central Paris. 12e; 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday winter, 9 a.m.-9:30 p.m. summer; free.

Deyrolle

This taxidermy shop dating from 1831 is a veritable museum of natural history. See animals exotic and familiar, great and small, incredibly lifelike and artistically posed (all from zoos, circuses or farms, naturally deceased). And all for sale. If you can’t fit a recumbent tiger into your luggage (or budget), pick up a beautifully illustrated vintage poster or a gorgeous arrangement of exotic bugs. ; 46 rue du Bac, 6e; 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2-7 p.m. Monday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; admission free.

Excerpted with permission from The Best Things in Life are Free © Lonely Planet 2016; $32.99, available at and .

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(The Globe and Mail)

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail


The other day I decided to clear out an antique washstand that sits beside the piano in my sitting room. Over the years, we have used this little cupboard to store a growing collection of old sheet music. But there comes a day when a “growing collection” becomes a hoard, and that line had been crossed. Music was spilling out onto the floor.

Something had to be done. So I pulled everything out and began to sort the music into separate piles. Most of it was piano music, but there was also music for fiddle, ukulele, tenor banjo, harmonica, saxophone, penny whistle, guitar and five-string banjo. Some of the music was so old that it crumpled to dust in my hands as I drew it from the cupboard.

Where had it all come from? As I sorted through the stacks of music, I noted that there were names printed on the tops of many of the pages, and I realized that a large part of this collection had been inherited from departed family members.

The past few years have been hard ones on my family. Shortly after my father died, I also lost my maternal grandmother. Then my wife lost both of her parents and a few years later my mother died after a six-year battle with ovarian cancer.

When we cleared out each of these households, we found it hard to throw anything away, so any music that turned up was stuffed in the old washstand. But the time had come to cull this mess. It was ridiculous to hold onto it. No one in my household even plays the fiddle, so why clutter up the cupboard with unused music?

Deep in the cupboard, I came across an old school duotang with my name printed on the outside. It was stuffed with photocopied song lyrics, with pencilled chord changes noted above the words. Religious folk music, mostly. I noticed that some of the pages had my name neatly printed on the top right hand corner in block letters, but it was not in my handwriting. I wondered who had done this. Then I remembered. My father had given me these pages, a few at a time, over the course of many years.

(Jori Bolton for The Globe and Mail)

My father loved to sing and learned to accompany himself on the guitar. He and a few friends created a small combo to play in his parish church during a time when folk music services were part of the cultural scene.

Remember the Medical Mission Sisters? Joy is like the Rain? No? Well, religious folk music had its day. Trust me on this.

My father and his friends took their show on the road, too, playing at youth festivals and in nursing homes. Whenever I was home from university or from my travels, my father would invite me to join him and his friends and to bring along my banjo. He created these extra sheets so that I could learn any new songs they had added to their repertoire in my absence. I enjoyed it, but I also didn’t take it all that seriously. But looking back, I realize just how important these exchanges had been for my father. Music was one of the few things we shared.

Deafness is a family curse, and as my father grew older and his hearing loss grew more profound, he began to be more of a liability than an asset at these gatherings.

He would strum away, singing loudly, often a full beat ahead or behind the rest of the band. It was a tribute to the high regard in which he was held that no one ever protested. Instead, the rest of us simply adjusted our pace to his. This sometimes led to comical misunderstandings, but we weren’t professional musicians, so our audiences never cared.

I realized, too, as I looked at those photocopies with their carefully printed KENs at the top of each page, just how much he loved seeing me when I was in town.

Now that I am a father, I can understand how he must have felt. Children grow up, become independent and need us less and less. And that is how it should be. That is the natural order of things. But no one prepares you for the wrenching sense of loss you feel as your children grow older and move away into their own lives. Music was the one place where my father and I still connected, so he made an effort to keep that link alive.

The other night I sat down with my own daughter – she on guitar, me on the five-string – and we faked our way through Wagon Wheel. It was pretty awful. Neither of us can hold a tune, but we had fun. Music binds us together.

I guess that was something I learned from my father without meaning to. When we’re young we do our best to disavow our parents, to try and find our own path in life; but then comes a day when we look in the mirror, and it is our parents who stare back.

Ken Haigh lives in Clarksburg, Ont.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail



Anthony Weiner is back in the news, and yet again, it’s for all the wrong reasons.

On Sunday, brand-new reports emerged of him being involved in a fresh sexting scandal – this time, it appears he sent a photo that included his sleeping son to another woman. On Monday, Mr. Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, a close aide to Hillary Clinton, announced she would separate from him.

Explicit texts have already in Congress in 2011 and from a New York City mayoralty run in 2013. So what would lead him to continue engaging in this risky, hurtful and damaging behaviour?

Sex addiction?

Compulsive personality? Immaturity? Or some sort of sexual disorder? It’s impossible to know what motivates Mr. Weiner. But his case highlights a controversial area that is still not well understood, even by the research community: hypersexual disorder, or what’s colloquially known as sex addiction. In 2009, Martin Kafka, an American researcher who treats sex offenders, authored a that argued hypersexual disorder should be recognized as a psychiatric disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is used widely by clinicians to diagnose and treat patients. According to Dr. Kafka, the disorder is characterized by recurrent sexual fantasies, urges and behaviours that interfere with daily life, are a response to a stressful situation and disregard the physical or emotional well-being of self or others, and other problematic behaviour.

Despite this, hypersexual disorder wasn’t included in the latest version of the DSM, which was published in 2013.

Beyond semantics

But Fred Berlin, director of the Sexual Behavior Consultation Unit at Johns Hopkins Medicine, said the label doesn’t matter. What’s important is that clinicians and the wider public gain a greater understanding that, much like drugs, alcohol, gambling or food, sex is a powerful drive that some people have difficulty controlling.

“There are people that have to struggle harder than others to integrate those powerful needs into an otherwise healthy and productive lifestyle,” Dr. Berlin said in an interview. “There are many good people that I’ve seen clinically who are really struggling and trying to lead a responsible lifestyle.”

Too many people still look at this type of a sexual disorder through a moral lens, Dr. Berlin said. Decades ago, alcoholism was seen as a major character flaw and gluttony was considered a sin. Now, as more research has shown that some people truly struggle to keep their urges to drink or eat under control, there is more help and understanding available. The same should happen for those who are struggling with an addiction to sex, he said.

Much like the treatment for other addictions, patients can benefit from group therapy, professional counselling or even prescription medications, Dr. Berlin added.

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Abedin leaves scandal-plagued husband, Weiner
(Reuters)

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A link between breast cancer and HRT was established with the publication in 2001 of the Million Women Study, where 1,084,110 British women aged 50 to 64 provided information about their use of the drugs and were followed up for cancer incidence.

The new data suggests that the risk is doubled, and even tripled for those on the HRT long term.

But does this mean you should bin your pills or patches? Absolutely not. In real terms, the overall risk is still low and you will have been prescribed this treatment for a good reason. Here are three questions that regularly crop up, and my responses:

A new study of 40,000 women found those who took the most commonly prescribed HRT for five years were more than twice as likely to develop cancer as women who took nothing

A new study of 40,000 women found those who took the most commonly prescribed HRT for five years were more than twice as likely to develop cancer as women who took nothing

Q: Women are being told to decide for themselves, but it’s so confusing. Why can’t someone just say whether or not HRT is safe?

A: No medicine is 100 per cent safe. The use and recommendations for drugs often evolve as we learn more, making it hard to give absolute answers. It is not clear why some women taking HRT will develop cancer and some won’t.

What we do know is that there are many risks for breast cancer such as alcohol consumption, family history, BMI, breastfeeding history and number of pregnancies. And all of this contributes to an individual’s chances.

It is also very important to take into account how an individual’s life is affected: menopausal symptoms can be debilitating and destructive to quality of life.

Q: I find myself going doolally every time I try to reduce my dose. Should I just suffer to save myself the risk of cancer?

A: This is an individual choice. A supportive GP should try to encourage women to identify which symptoms are the worst and can prescribe non-hormonal medicines to control, for example, hot flushes, or antidepressants for mood changes. The guidance continues to be that women should be on the lowest dose for the shortest length of time that is necessary.

A woman taking hormone replacement therapy pills (stock) - taking the drugs could increase the risk of breast cancer 

A woman taking hormone replacement therapy pills (stock) - taking the drugs could increase the risk of breast cancer 

Q: I’m on the combined pill that was found to have the highest risk. Can I switch to the oestrogen-only option, which doesn’t carry that risk?

A: We always prescribe a combined pill in women who have not undergone a hysterectomy. It is well established that oestrogen without progesterone is a significant risk factor for endometrial cancer.

Therefore the oestrogen-only option is only given to those women who have had a hysterectomy and therefore have no womb at risk. Changing to oestrogen-only would be swapping one cancer risk for another. 







Courtesy: Daily Mail Online



In this series, fitness pros investigate how exercise trends measure up to the hype.

The TRX was originally used predominately as an individual training tool, but recently there has been an explosion of TRX-themed classes. These days, you can find the yellow and black straps suspended from gym ceilings across the country. If you are a GoodLife member, try the small group TRX classes, or try places such as Kondi in downtown Vancouver or Core Essentials in Halifax. I tried two TRX-themed classes: one with my mom (63) and long-term client Kate (30) at Elle Fitness and Social (580 King St. W.), and another at Blast Fitness (374 Dupont St.) with my best friend, Emily (32).

The promise

The TRX is a strap that loops through an anchor point; it has one handle and foot loop on each end. You use your own body weight and gravity to do variations on traditional exercises – everything from biceps curls to push-ups to lunges. By manipulating body positioning, most TRX exercises can be adapted to match any fitness level. Since you are always to some degree suspended, you have to use your core muscles proportionally more than when supported on a bench or weight machine.

I think Elle’s website says it best: “TRX is all core all the time!”

My mom was particularly taken with the TRX. She loved that the exercises forced her to use her entire body, including her core, and that as she got stronger she could challenge herself by simply moving her feet. As a trainer, I love that since you can hook it anywhere – over a tree or into a door frame – once you own one, you will never have an excuse to skip a workout. It is a portable gym.

What to expect

The TRX is a piece of equipment, not a style of class, which means every class will be slightly different. The exercises themselves are somewhat standard – there are only so many things you can do with a strap – but the energy, number of people, atmosphere and additional “toys” used will differ from class to class. For example, at both Elle and Blast, we did “plank knee tucks” – imagine being in a plank with your feet suspended in foot straps, then bringing your knees into your chest – but in different ways. At Elle, we worked in groups of three to complete a circuit of plank tucks and two body-weight-only exercises. During this circuit, my mom leaned over to Kate and said, “Do you do this class often? This is HARD.” At Blast, the knee tucks were combined with two other TRX core exercises. On our own, we cycled through the three exercises as many times as possible in five minutes.

The verdict

I intentionally tried a class at both Elle and Blast because of how different the studios are. Elle is about peppy music and keeping workouts fun and interesting. Blast has a “hardcore” feel – the first thing you see when you walk in is AstroTurf and people pushing sleds and flipping tires. The classes are small, so you get more individualized attention.

There are positives and negatives to both the “fun” large group class and the more intense, smaller training environments. Where you should work out depends on what you want from a workout. For example, Emily thought, “Blast feels like a gym for athletes. I am not an athlete. I want my workouts to be fun. I want good music.”

When it comes to working out, fun goes a long way. No one needs the disincentive of hating their workout. We all have enough reasons to skip training. My mom said despite the fact that she could “hardly move” after the class at Elle, she would absolutely go back. She found the teacher inspiring and felt as though she had “gone to a party.”

The downside of large group classes is that it is almost inevitable that people will have sloppy form. No matter how hard the teacher works – and Michelle Epstein at Elle was working overtime to help everyone – large classes are just not the best venue for complicated TRX moves.

If you are concerned about form, the best way to use the TRX is in groups of 10 or fewer. In a small class, such as the one at Blast, you get individual attention. Even though Emily didn’t love the class format at Blast – she wanted peppier music and more diverse exercises – she did appreciate that the teacher constantly monitored her form. She also said Blast felt like the “Buckley’s cough syrup version of exercise. People who feel like they need to be punished to work out would love this style of class.”

The point is not whether you should go to Blast or Elle, but that you persevere and find workouts that work for you. If you like “fun,” try a class that constantly changes exercises and plays peppy music. If you like hardcore, find hardcore. If you don’t like groups, invest in a TRX and train in your backyard. It is important to find a workout that you enjoy enough, and that is convenient enough, that you will do it on a regular basis. When it comes to working out, consistency is key.

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Five reasons to never do crunches again
(The Globe and Mail)

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From the moment he woke up each morning, Gabriel Koerner resisted going to school. By the time he was cajoled out of bed and went to use the toilet, Gabriel would be sobbing. At the sight of his school bus arriving to pick him up, he’d try to run away.

After years of seeing her son struggle at elementary school, Lianna Koerner decided to pull him out of the third grade and try homeschooling. It turned out to be the best decision for Gabriel, who has Down syndrome. He is now a happy, confident 11-year-old. (In a phone interview, he enthusiastically named several friends he has made within his Ottawa homeschooling community, with whom he has “sleepovers and stuff.”) But it didn’t come easily.

Koerner and her husband had envisioned their son growing up and attending school with his same-age peers. Besides, many parents before them had fought hard for the right to have their children with disabilities attend mainstream schools.

“We just wanted him to grow up in his community and be accepted for who he was because we accept him for who he [is],” she says. “School was supposed to be his social community, and it was the exact opposite.”

Though they may be carried out with the best intentions, attempts at inclusion often don’t work out in reality. For young people with disabilities, the experience of attending supposedly inclusive schools and programs can be anything but.

The right to education for children with disabilities is protected by international treaties, such as the 2006 United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. And over the past few decades, many parents have petitioned their school boards and, in some cases, have taken their local school boards to court to have their children placed in mainstream classrooms. Yet in spite of the struggle to free kids from the stigma of “special ed,” the often harsh reality of the schoolyard has left some parents and young people wondering if mainstream classes are really where they fit in.

Gabriel Koerner, 11, works on math worksheets at home in Ottawa on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. (Justin Tang for The Globe and Mail)

Although they may share the same physical space with their typically developing peers, many young people with disabilities find themselves socially excluded, relegated to the sidelines or the back of the classroom and present as observers rather than full participants.

While some young people express a greater sense of belonging in segregated settings among others who also have disabilities, parents and advocates are calling for a re-examination of how we think about inclusion. Does our idea of inclusion require those with disabilities to try to be as “normal” as possible? Or are differences truly accepted and not just tolerated, but embraced?

“One important but … discomfiting kind of finding from my work was the number of young people who said that they felt in social interactions, particularly with strangers, they were often treated as if they weren’t even human,” says Toronto occupational therapist Dr. Gail Teachman, a postdoctoral fellow at McGill University who focuses on childhood disability.

Gabriel, for example, was always closely shadowed by an educational assistant while his schoolmates played in the schoolyard and participated in class freely. His parents received frequent reports about his negative behaviours. He was moody, he had lost much of the confidence he once possessed as a preschooler and he was constantly acting out.

One day, while he was in Grade 1, Koerner recalls dropping in during lunch break, and seeing Gabriel sitting at a near-empty 48-inch-wide table beside a supervising teacher. All around him, other tables were packed with children sitting together.

The sight of her child eating alone was both frustrating and devastating, Koerner says. “He was obviously left out.”

Teachman devoted her recent PhD research to understanding how young people with disabilities experience inclusion and exclusion; her work was awarded the Governor-General’s Gold Medal earlier this year. She sought the input of a group whose perspectives are very rarely represented in research. She interviewed 13 high-school students who are limited in their verbal communication, but rely on augmentative or alternative communication, such as electronic devices or parents who can interpret their non-verbal cues.

Gabriel Koerner, an 11 year old with Down syndrome, uses numicon blocks as he works on homework at home in Ottawa on Wednesday. Attending inclusive classes at a nearby school caused Gabriel distress, prompting his parents to switch to homeschooling. (Justin Tang/The Globe and Mail)

Teachman found that even in supposedly inclusive settings, young people with disabilities often come up against all kinds of hurdles, ranging from the inability to use computers designed for their typical peers to the struggle to be recognized as people and to be valued.

In her doctoral thesis, Teachman documents the comments from one participant, identified as Jamila, 17, who uses a speech-generating device: “Most people assume that just because my muscles and lungs and stomach do not work the way theirs do, that my brain and heart and soul are disabled too.”

As a natural response to such discrimination, Teachman says, “Several young people said, ‘I don’t even really want to interact with those “normal” kids because it’s a negative experience for me.’”

Teachman emphasizes she’s not advocating for the return of segregation, nor does she propose any easy fixes. Rather, she cautions that inclusion is often more complicated than we assume. Some forms of inclusion actually perpetuate exclusion when we fail to put enough thought into our goals and to consider the perspectives of those we’re aiming to include. And the onus, she adds, shouldn’t have to rest on the families and children with disabilities.

“It’s at the social level that we want to promote change because families and children with disabilities shouldn’t have to work this hard,” she says.

Dr. Jacqueline Specht, director of the Canadian Research Centre on Inclusive Education and a professor at the University of Western Ontario’s faculty of education, however, says young people in inclusive classrooms tend to have more friends, are better off academically and feel better about themselves than in segregated classrooms.

It’s when inclusion is “not implemented properly, then of course the kids are going to have trouble,” she says.

Specht says respect for diversity needs to be introduced when children are young, with children working together and teachers encouraging friendships and promoting the idea that differences are acceptable. Adults should also be mindful that they’re not creating situations where kids are isolated, she adds. For instance, educational assistants can sometimes stand in the way of peer interaction, she says, especially among young teens who don’t tend to want to be hanging around an adult.

Lianna Koerner says that her son, Gabriel, began demonstrating negative behaviours at school and that she was both frustrated and devastated seeing him sit alone at lunch. (Justin Tang/The Globe and Mail)

“If the person in your class has an educational assistant that’s sort of Velcroed at the hip … then it’s harder to have those friendships occur because there’s always an adult there,” she says.

Specht points out that even though provincial governments, such as Ontario, say they aim for inclusion, school boards still have segregated classrooms and segregated schools.

“I think that sends a double message, right? It says to the teachers, it says to the parents, it says to the kids themselves that there’s somewhere else that you could go,” she says.

What’s needed, she says, is a change of mindset “that all people belong and all people are valued.”

One of the tricky things about creating policies for inclusion and applying them is there’s no one approach that will work for everyone, says Marcy White of Toronto, whose son Jacob Trossman, 14, was born with a neurodegenerative disease called Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease.

White – who’s written a book about her son, The Boy Who Can: The Jacob Trossman Story – lobbied hard to have Jacob attend an inclusive class at a mainstream public school. In spite of the resistance White encountered from school board officials, Jacob has thrived among his typically developing peers, she says.

“I find he has more in common with kids his own age, who are typically developing who can run and walk and speak, even though he can’t, than he has with other kids of all different ages who are all in wheelchairs and who all have some form of disability,” White says.

But she recognizes other children may not respond in the same way under the same circumstances. “It comes down to not having a cookie-cutter approach and tailoring the situation to the child,” she says.

There are, nonetheless, at least a couple of universal ingredients to achieving inclusion that parents, advocates and young people agree upon, and those are having an open mind and making a sincere effort to get to know individuals with disabilities.

Gabriel Koerner, 11, uses numicon blocks as he works on a math worksheet at home in Ottawa on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. (Justin Tang for The Globe and Mail)

In Vancouver, Sue Robins recently visited the special-education class her son Aaron Waddingham, 13, will be attending for Grade 8 in September, and was surprised to find it much more inclusive than the community education model in which he’s been enrolled in from preschool to Grade 7.

“It was like a welcoming environment, like everybody belonged there,” Robins says of her initial impression of the special-ed class.

By contrast, she says, in the mainstream school setting, Aaron, who has Down syndrome, was often in the back of the classroom or a separate resource room with his educational assistant and one other student with special needs.

Asked about how he feels about starting his new special-education high school, Aaron says he feels “a little bit nervous.” His mother, on the other hand, was relieved to see the staff there seemed to try to understand the students and their behaviours.

“What I worry about is, of course, it is segregated from the rest of the school population, and the world is not like that,” she says. “When Aaron graduates, he will become part of all of us.”

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Aaron Waddingham, 13, may have been socially excluded in the classroom, but on the basketball court, he was able to shine.

Waddingham’s time on the Grade 6/7 boys’ basketball team was arguably the most inclusive experience he’s had, his mother Sue Robins says. Here’s why.

A sense of belonging

Aaron was a fully participating member of the team, not relegated to the bench as the team manager or as a “water boy.”

He didn’t miss a practice, or a game, and scored several baskets throughout the season.

Natural interactions

Without being prompted, teammates and opponents made slight accommodations, such as allowing him to pass from out of bounds and waiting a couple seconds for him to make a shot, rather than snatching the ball from him.

While Aaron’s coach may have nurtured a sense of inclusion, these accommodations happened organically and were not forced.

Valuing difference

Aaron won the team’s most-valuable player award at the end of the season, because, as his coach says, he was the most valuable player.

He taught the others important lessons about teamwork – that everyone is different, that teammates have to help each other out.

And in the end, the team performed well in their standings.

“Aaron didn’t hold them back, which I think is the biggest fear with including kids [with differences] in sports activities,” Robins explains.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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