Image Credit: Arantxa Cedillo
Cheri Evans, one of five people in the Community Living team in York South, says Julian's greatest gift may be his ability to help each and every child feel included.
"Give Julian fifteen minutes and he'll have a group of kids calling his name in an exciting game of tag. He doesn't really talk, except to say, 'I'm Julian. You're IT!' And from that minute on, the fun begins. He's come a long way, given his double diagnosis of autism and an intellectual disability."
The little boy in the other photograph is Jake, age ten, and Julian's polar opposite, says Cheri - shy and a bit hesitant at first. But by the end of the summer camp program, he was "right in there" and his language skills improved dramatically.
"Programs like these help children stop feeling like the 'special' kid, and let them just be a kid. We all talk about inclusion. To Jake and Julian, inclusion means: "I have a friend at the end of the day."
"I've learned a lot from these kids. Think of all the things they should be angry about: how they've been treated, bullied, segregated. But they forgive. They reach out. They smile. Forget the labels - see the person."