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A Real Life Story of Change


One of our County Board staff’s favorite sessions from OCALICON 2019 was the opportunity to hear Ian Graschinsky’s mother, Sheila, tell the history behind the creation of “Ian: A Moving Story.”

Sheila recounted how she noticed the reaction of students in the schoolyard adjacent to where Ian, who has cerebral palsy, and other children with disabilities received therapy.

While Sheila initially tried to shield Ian from their stares, whispers and laughter; she eventually explained to Ian that the children were making fun of him because they didn’t understand him. They didn’t understand his desire to be included and play with them. The didn’t understand his strengths and talents or the persistence it took for him to accomplish even the smallest of tasks.

Mama Bear: You Know Her When You See Her!

Wanting to right this wrong, Sheila knocked on the door of the school and shared her concerns with an administrator who sympathized, but noted they lacked in resources and didn’t think there was much they could do about it.

Pulling from her education, knowledge and experiences, Sheila started a campaign to educate people about disabilities, realizing the need for inclusion and education was bigger than just one schoolyard.

She wrote a book for distribution to school-aged children and founded Fundación Ian to create change.

She then approached a top Latin American digital animation studio about producing a video to take her message worldwide.

Since its release in November 2018, the film has won countless international awards and is being used in schools around the globe.

Can Someone Please Pass the Tissues?

Although she often apologized for her broken English and said she was not used to giving such presentations, the OCALICON 2019 audience heard Sheila’s message loud and clear.

It was impossible not to be moved after hearing from such an inspiring advocate who works tirelessly for all children; those who deserve to be included and those who, with education and understanding, have the power to include.

Not surprisingly, a packet of purse-sized tissues soon appeared, making its way up and down the row of staff members in attendance.

A Family Like Any Other

Mercifully, Sheila also made us laugh by sharing a family moment that happened after Ian gained access to assistive technology which helped him communicate his thoughts and feelings.

For despite physical appearances, Ian is a very intelligent boy with lots to say!

As the family sat around one evening with dad scrolling through his phone and Ian’s younger brother watching TV, seemingly oblivious to everything around him, Sheila was asking about Ian’s day. Ian mentioned he had given some candy to a girl who said she was hungry.

This caught the attention of Ian’s younger brother, who leapt from his spot in front of the television and accusingly asked if it was his candy.

Ian stated that it was, and Ian’s younger brother exclaimed, “that was my candy! Why did you give it to her?” “Because she was hungry,” Ian replied, and of course, an argument ensued!

Sheila laughed as she shared how wonderful it was to hear her children fighting with each other. We understood her enthusiasm for delighting in this “joy” of motherhood so many others take for granted.

As Fundación Ian has grown, it’s mission has expanded beyond inclusion to ensuring access to assistive technology so that children in her home country have a voice in their communities, in their schools, and yes; in their homes arguing with their siblings!

Submitted by: Renee Place, Superintendent