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April 2011



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Archive for April 15th, 2011

School mural


MONTREAL – Grade 11 student Shaun Perrier usually keeps to himself at school. But on Tuesday he stood onstage facing 400 students in the auditorium at Laval Liberty High School because he had a message he wanted to share.

Poised and reading from a speech he wrote, Perrier talked about the challenges he faces and the obstacles he has had to overcome.

“I may not look it, but I’m very different from the rest of you,” Perrier said.

It’s because, he told them, he has Asperger’s syndrome, a developmental disorder.

Perrier, 17, is an honour roll student at the Chomedey school. He came up with the idea of talking to students, many of them classmates, about what it is like growing up with the autism spectrum disorder.

“Social rules are difficult for us to understand, and it’s hard for us to conform to the world around us,” said Perrier, 17. “It is kind of like when you learn algebra for the first time – you don’t understand its purpose or how to do it on your own.

“School can be gruelling for someone like me. Part of Asperger’s means you like things to be routine, structured and working smoothly. School is none of that.”

When he first came to the school, Perrier said he would have preferred if everyone were quiet, sitting down and doing their work instead of having to listen to students bad-mouth the teacher and throw a beach ball across the room.

“True story,” he said.

His mother, Debra Burger, and Leslie Klein, a psychologist who has worked with Perrier, later joined him onstage to answer questions.

Her son wants to raise awareness, Burger said afterward. He wants people to know that there are people with autism and Asperger’s in the community and mainstream schools who are able to succeed if they have a bit of help, she said.

“He wants to be understood, and he wants people to know why he is the way he is.”

Bullying has been part of Perrier’s school experience. When he was in junior high, for example, he had bathroom doors kicked in on him, Burger said.

But she praised staff at Laval Liberty and Laval Junior High School – they share the same building – for acting swiftly when something happened.

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Fri, Apr 15, 2011

Teenager Jessie overcomes disabilities to run business

IT’S impressive enough that a 20-year-old has their own successful business.

But when you consider that Jessie Carter-Kay, from West Bridgford, also has a range of learning disabilities, including autism and dyspraxia, it’s even more remarkable.

“Jessie has demonstrated that having a learning disability is not a barrier to success,” said her father, Peter Kay, who has nominated Jessie for an Outstanding Achievement Award for 4Uth.

“Even though she has a lot of support because of her difficulties, Jessie has achieved a lot for her age.”

Jessie and her mother, Jill, set up the Pulp Friction Smoothie Bar project in 2008.

They travel to community events on a bike with a pedal-powered blender on the back and create smoothies.

They started with one bike, but the business has now expanded to seven bikes and has seen them travel around the country.

Mr Kay said it is also an opportunity to offer other people with learning disabilities vital work experience.

“It has really taken off – people like the idea and like what we do – and it’s now at the stage where Jessie will be director of her own successful community interest company,” he said.

Jessie, who attended Foxwood School in Bramcote, said: “I like that the smoothie bar gives me more independence. I like cleaning and making everything tidy.”

The family is now setting up an allotment in Stapleford, where young people with learning disabilities can gain work experience growing fruit to use on the smoothie bikes.

Jessie has also been involved in a number of community projects and has worked with Broxtowe Borough council and the UK Youth Council, including helping to create a DVD about personal safety for young disabled people. She also spoke at a conference at Nottingham Trent University on education and disability.

As a nominee for the first ever Notts 4Uth Awards, run by the Nottingham Post and Notts County Council, Jessie is now in with a chance of winning £250 of vouchers of her choice.

The awards, which will culminate in a ceremony at County Hall on September 30, celebrate teenagers and young people in the county who have made outstanding achievements.

Jessie said: “I am really happy. It is nice to be nominated and I am very excited.”