Six-year-old Enna Lohin was born with spinal muscular atrophy, a degenerative condition that causes muscular wasting and mobility impairment.
"Her muscles just keep eating the protein away and her muscles just keep wasting away, so that affects all muscles – her tongue, her respiratory, her sitting up," said Enna’s mother, Lisa Lohin.
The condition has left her daughter dependent on a breathing vent and feeding tube, making it hard for her to travel the two blocks to McKee Elementary School.
Lohin said her daughter is a smart little girl, so it’s important she have access to the same educational opportunities as other children.
For the past three years, Enna has relied on a computer set up next to her bed to Skype into her classes and interact with her fellow students.
The arrangement is the result of a "huge collaboration" between the school district, Alberta Health Services and others, says McKee principal Andy MacGregor.
"It’s a wonderful experience. I feel we’re providing her an opportunity which she otherwise wouldn’t have. She's developing friendships with her peer group, she's learning – and that's all every parent would want is their child to be healthy and happy, and to learn," he said.
And MacGregor said that benefit goes both ways, as students in the classroom are given a chance "to meet people and have friends that they normally wouldn’t have," nurturing their empathy and curiosity.
While Enna’s teacher, Debra Santos, said it took some time for the other students in the class to get used to the arrangement, Enna’s participation has inspired her to get more creative in her teaching style.
"We’re definitely trying to include her as much as we can," she said.
"Sometimes the kids forget that she is a part of the group. They just need to sometimes be reminded that, ‘yeah, you can show Enna your work, you can read to Enna, you can still include her in the activity that you're doing, she’s still a part of the group.’"
And Enna’s mother said those efforts have made all the difference to her daughter.
"It was a new doorway open for Enna in life," she said.
"It’s a great success for her and for myself, and a milestone that we never imagined she’d have."
So far, Enna has only made it into the school once this year, but both her mother and principal hope she will be able to make the trip several more times before the school year wraps up.Suggest a correction