By Irwin Elman, Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
TORONTO, Sept. 25, 2014 /CNW/ - "I used to think that school should be a
mirror of what society could be," said the young woman with
resignation, "but I found it to be a mirror of what society is." This
is what I heard recently from a young woman with a disability, who is
struggling with her health and yet seeking an opportunity to make
things different for children like herself. Hers, is a voice that is
seldom heard in our province.
Ontario has initiatives, strategies, plans, frameworks and policies
created by ministry after ministry to develop and provide services and
supports for children and youth with special needs and their families.
In our school systems alone, a quagmire of policies and processes
exist, enough to make many parents and children feel they are in
quicksand, ostensibly supporting children like the girl I met.
One thing that Ontarians should know, however, is that despite the best
of intentions, there is an astounding gap - a chasm - between the
province's well intentioned plans and the lived experience of children
and youth with special needs.
We can do better and our children and youth can help us. Their voice
and wisdom can fill the chasm. Their voice can facilitate fundamental
My Office recently launched, I Have Something to Say, an initiative aimed at engaging children and youth with special needs
in a discussion about their lives and their future. We know that they
have something to say, which is why we are asking them to tell us, and
the province, what we can do to make a difference for them. They can do
this in any way they feel comfortable - using art, music, social media,
stories, letters or video. There are no limits.
We know that some children will need assistance. We invite anyone who
can help elevate the voice of a child or youth to make a submission to I Have Something to Say. We also encourage parents, caregivers, siblings, professionals and
service providers to share their own stories.
The mandate of my Office is to partner with children and youth to ensure
their voice is heard. We know when children and youth speak, they
become visible to all of us. We have learned that they benefit from
the experience, as do our communities. We know that they can move
mountains. It is well past time Ontario, let's move the mountain with
For more information about I Have Something to Say, please visit the
Provincial Advocate's website at www.provincialadvocate.on.ca or connect with him on social media @OntarioAdvocate and www.facebook.com/ihsts.
Image with caption: "Irwin Elman, Ontario's Advocate for Children and Youth is joined by members of the I Have Something to Say youth advisory team. (CNW Group/Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20140925_C9546_PHOTO_EN_42873.jpg
SOURCE: Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
For further information:
Fiona Taylor, 416-420-7728, Fiona_taylor@live.com