“My son Caelan was introduced to Para Nordic Sit-skiing when he was around 9 years old. At the time, I was looking for a natural and fun way for Caelan to carry out his physical therapy throughout the winter months. I quickly realized that skiing could offer him so much more than just therapy and physical activity. When he first started skiing, I would ski alongside him. I basically had to push him everywhere, but as weeks passed by, he kept getting stronger and could go further with less assistance. At first, I encouraged him by making it fun. We played games, and we laughed. It was more about being present in the outdoors. His favorite game was to pretend he was driving a dog sled team. People must have thought it was odd hearing me yell out “Gee-turn right! Haw-turn left! Mush – Let’s go! Whoa Stop!” Anything dog related motivated him, so I would use that whenever possible. Eventually, I wasn’t able to keep up with him and had to find others that could fill that role. Over the years, Caelan has had many coaches and assistants supporting him with his skiing. Each one of them has played a huge role in his life. As for me, I attended several coaching workshops and camps over the years so that I could gain more experience and knowledge to help him achieve his goals. Caelan has accomplished a lot throughout his skiing career, and it has played a huge role in the man he is today. He’s has been on the Ontario Para-Nordic Ski Team for the past 6 years. We’ve traveled across Canada for Caelan to compete in races and taken part in training camps. He has also had the opportunity to represent Ontario in the 2015 and 2019 Canada Winter Games. Caelan’s training was a huge commitment for both of us, but watching his dedication and seeing him grow and improve his skills was really something amazing to experience.
Caelan inspires and amazes me every single day. He has to work very hard to do basic things that we may take for granted, and for the most part he does so without complaint. He is determined and faces every challenge head on and with a huge smile on his face. I’ve watched him fall over and over, and every single time, he gets back up and tries again. Caelan rarely complains and always pushes through, despite the daily pain he experiences. In spite of his challenges, he is empathetic and loving towards others. The thing that inspires me the most about my son is his positive attitude towards life, and the amazing young man he is growing up to be.
I’ve learned a lot from Caelan. He’s taught me true strength and determination, and that your circumstances do not decide your ability. I’ve also learned that even though life is hard, failure is not an option – if you want something, go for it. Our journey together has brought me a deeper level of empathy, patience, love, joy and gratitude. He’s shown me that there is true beauty, even in the most difficult of situations, and the importance of living life in the moment. Caelan has taught me that we can all be warriors in our own way, and I am a lot stronger than I ever imagined.
Parenting is hard but parenting a child with exceptional needs takes things to a whole new level. For any parent that is embarking on this journey, I would like to say to them: “take a breath, allow yourself to feel your emotions.” It’s important to move through the stages of grief, or else you will remain stuck, and find yourself in a position where you won’t be able to advocate for your child and family needs. If you stay angry, you will miss out on some really amazing experiences – the small things are often huge in our world. Don’t be scared to reach out for help. Talk to parents who are in similar situations for support and guidance. One of the valuable lessons that I learned along the way is that a lot of the issues I encountered were not Caelan’s issues, they were system deficiencies. Find out what types of therapy, programs and assistance is available to your family and access them as much as possible. Be the squeaky wheel, and do not accept “no” at face value. Remember that “no”, “can’t”, and “won’t” are just words. Expect the best from all your children, even those with special needs. Help them be the best they can be, whatever that looks like. Strive to make them as independent as possible and realize that sometimes you must watch them struggle with a task to help them reach their goals. Most of all I would say, you are not alone. You cannot do this alone; accept help from your friends and family. Take time and practice self-care, you are no good to anyone if you are burnt out.”