You Can't Rely on Dreams: The Education of the Physically Handicapped in Metro Toronto: 1900-1984


97 pages
Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-920020-33-X





Reviewed by P.J. Hammel

P.J. Hammel is a professor of Education at the University of


In the preface, E.R. McKeown, Director of Education for the Toronto Board of Education, describes this book as “a poignant story about the evolution of education for the handicapped” in the city of Toronto. One could well add the word sentimental — in its most positive sense — for this work, although it recounts development over a period of 85 years, is much more a deeply emotional expression of pride in achievement and community. With its many black-and-white photographs and its many anecdotes and quotations, it is more cumulative school yearbook than definitive history.

This is definitely not a professional treatise; it does not develop a theory or a model or even a curricular program. Here are celebrated, in loving tribute, teachers, trustees, helpers and support staff, and, most importantly, the students. All achievements are, first and foremost, measured by their positive influence on students.

Graduates, parents, teachers, and school trustees will cherish this work. In a poem published in 1981, Mark Burley, a student of the school, writes “Dreams can help you through lots of strife / But you can’t rely on dreams for the rest of your life.” This book celebrates a dream come true for all whose lives have been touched by human compassion and caring as exemplified by Sunnyview School — the flagship school for special education in the city of Toronto.


Donohue, Patrick, with research by Mike Lennos, “You Can't Rely on Dreams: The Education of the Physically Handicapped in Metro Toronto: 1900-1984,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,