As the mother of Matthew, a young man with developmental disabilities, I often had to “handle” strangers who chose to make comments about my son, in front of him.

Matthew wasn’t stupid and he wasn’t deaf. And he understood everything that was said.

The absolute worst example of this kind of witlessness happened when my mother, Matthew and I were in the fruit and vegetable store of a posh Etobicoke mall. Matt was a teenager at the time and small for his age. He was impatient for me to finish my shopping and get the ice cream I’d promised.

Because he didn’t used words to express himself, his communication methods – loud grunts and hand signs, which only a select few understood – were unusual and probably strange to many. But his challenges were obvious and he was a handsome young man. I liked to assume that strangers “got it”.

Not always. Sometimes people, who I assumed from their appearance and their surroundings – in this case, an older, well dressed lady with a child of about seven in an upscale neighbourhood – would be more savvy.

The little girl watched Matthew gesture and call to me, as any child of her age would and did. I smiled at her, took my son’s hand and continued shopping.

The woman, standing nearby, pulled the child away. “Don’t go near him, he’s sick,” she said. Then she led her out of the store.

I signalled to my mother. She knew what I was about to do and took Matthew’s hand. “Don’t upset yourself further dear,” she said. “That woman isn’t worth it.”

I stood and thought a moment. My mother was right. She wasn’t worth it. But the child was. I ran out of the store and soon caught up – they were only a short distance away.

“Excuse me,” I said, stopping in front of the woman. “You have done this little girl a great disservice.”

She stared at me.

“You gave her information that will forever damage her view of people like my son Matthew”

The woman clutched the child’s hand.

I bent down to the little girl and smiled. “Honey, I really, really, really want you to know that the boy you saw just now is not sick. He has an intellectual disability. I know his voice sounds different to you. He was asking for an ice cream cone.”

The child smiled.

“Do you like ice cream?”

She nodded.

“See, honey. Matthew is just like you.”

I stared into the woman’s eyes for longer than I should have, then walked away.


An Interview with Able Radio in the UK

by donnak on July 1, 2015

Able Radio was created to give a voice to people with disabilities. This national station has since expanded into training, forming Able Academy which uses the media environment to develop skills that change its clients’ lives; a video production service Able Media which puts clients in the driving seat, not just commissioning a production, but also taking an active role in every stage, guided by industry professionals. Each has a separate remit, but each also feeds into and supports the others. Able’s commitment to tackling disability issues remains undiminished but has been expanded to encompass other disadvantaged groups. Please take the time to browse all sections on their site; you may be surprised by what you discover!

On May 28, 2015, Emily Gait, a presenter, who identified as being blind, interviewed me about my book Finding Matthew, A Child with Brain Damage, A Young Man with Mental Illness, A Son and Brother with Extraordinary Spirit.

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Special Parents Confidential Podcast

June 14, 2015

John Pellegrini is the parent advocate of  child with a developmental disability and the host of a podcast/blog, Special Parents Confidential. His weekly episodes address pertinent issues facing families of children with special needs. Finding Matthew found its way to John, who read the book and wanted to share Matthew’s life experiences with his audience. Thank you to […]

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Review from Non Fiction Book Reviews

May 18, 2015

Finding Matthew has been reviewed by Prasanna Bidkar of “Non Fiction Book Reviews”: Finding Matthew is also available on Amazon India:  

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People with Developmental Disabilities: Canadian Book Clubs Review

February 24, 2015

Finding Matthew has been reviewed by Gail Knutson of Please check out this honest review.

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Finding Matthew Featured at Special Needs Book Review

February 19, 2015

Finding Matthew is featured this week on Lorna at Special Needs Book Review has put together a wonderful review/summary of the book. Here’s an excerpt: “There are so many books how can one choose which ones to read? Which are excellent parenting books, inspirational books, books that will make a lasting impression on how […]

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The Importance of Employment and Activity for People with Developmental Disabilities

January 8, 2015

In the Greater Toronto section of the Star, January 7, 2015, I read about Cristina Iusso. She is the only five year old I know who has her own thriving business. It’s called Cristina’s Tortina Shop, and she sells cupcakes. Tortina is Italian for little cake. Her mother, Mary Iusso, keeps the business running smoothly […]

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An Interview with Voices 4 Ability

November 5, 2014

Voices 4 Ability is an online radio station that provides a variety of content, both entertaining and resourceful, for people with disabilities and their allies. On September 25, I was interviewed by Jodie Eleanor, MSW, RSW. We had a great time and covered some topics that will be of interest to many who read this […]

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Plight of People with Developmental Disabilities, Part 3

October 17, 2014

  Since the Final Report of the Select Committee on Developmental Services was tabled in July 22 2014, has anything been done? Has Minister Jazek followed through on any of her six promises? Monique Taylor, one of the Committee members, addressed the legislative assembly of Ontario. Here, in part, are her words: “I am proud […]

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Plight of People with a Developmental Disability in Ontario, Part Two

September 3, 2014

Minister Jaczek’s Plan for the $810 Million On August 8, 2014, I commented on the Final Report of the Select Committee on Developmental Services. I addressed Minister Jaczek’s statement of July 22, 2014, specifically the first two initiatives on her list of six that she suggests would be strengthened by the investment of $810 million […]

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