In 2017, concerned parents Chad and Lana Taylor spoke with the principal of Marymound about their son Ashtyn who was struggling with behavioural and learning issues in the public school system due to his autism.
They were instructed to follow the process in place within the school division and subsequently their son was placed at Marymound School for grade 7. Ashtyn’s start at Marymound was a struggle, but he soon reset in his new school environment.
He started to get comfortable with Steve, the Marymound teacher that drove him to and from school daily, and who still supports him to this day. Ashtyn now considers him “my third Grandpa.”
In addition to Steve’s support, what would ultimately be Ashtyn’s saving grace was his passion for hockey.
Regular conversations with Ashtyn’s Dad led to Marymound learning that Chad worked at Canlan Ice Sports Winnipeg and that he could get Marymound School some free ice time at the rink.
“We immediately started canvassing to get some needed equipment, skates, sticks and pucks says current Marymound Principal Rhett Turner. “Further conversations with Chad gained us access to the ice for an hour in the morning every two weeks, enabling us to develop our ‘Learn to Skate’ program.”
Ashtyn was in his comfort zone on the rink as he showed up in his full goaltender gear and used the time to connect with other kids and bond with staff. He became somewhat of a leader on the ice. This parlayed back into the classroom setting as he showed confidence and started to develop relationships with other students. So much so, nearing the end of grade 8, discussions were held about Ashtyn returning to the public school system.
“It’s hard to believe that we were hesitant at first to place Ashtyn in Marymound School. It’s now the best decision we ever made as the staff were so patient and took the time to understand our son’s needs,” says Taylor. “Ashtyn used to be so closed off hiding behind his hoody but now he’s learning to control his emotions and express himself to help form healthy relationships.”
Marymound contacted St. Norbert School in 2019 for Ashtyn to begin high school in grade 9. They also mentioned that hockey was essential for his success and trying out for the high school hockey team would be of great benefit to him. Ashtyn made the team which was no easy feat, as there were players on the team years older than him. He talked proudly to his teammates about Marymound and the hockey and skating programs and how the teachers came out to join him and the other students to skate.
“Prior to Marymound, there was no common ground established for Ashtyn to form relationships. He has since changed his whole mood and personality, and we had no issues with him at all in his last year with us,” says Principal Turner. “St. Norbert School followed our recommendations and subsequently did a great job of setting him up for success by offering some beneficial supports. His older teammates would even rally around him off the ice if they sensed he was in an awkward social situation and help him out.”
And as a testament of their dedication to their students, Marymound School staff stay connected to Ashtyn by watching him play on the Fort Richmond hockey team, much to his delight.