I have been really sad for the past few days. I read a lot of these posts about "proving intelligence" and placement in schools and socialization and communication and... Sometimes I don't know whether to scream or cry. I go back and forth between anger and frustration and sadness. My emotions are NOT directed at anyone here on the group. We all have our own experiences which guide us and shape us. I am not judging anyone's decisions, as I know we all do what we think is in the best interest of our children. But to put it mildly, I'm pissed off at the system. Angry that we have to fight for our children to be included in something that is their God given right--to be part of society. Angry that at age 3, my son knows what segregation is. Angry that something that should be as easy as going to school isn't because some people don't think he's "good enough" because he has a disability.
So, instead of responding to all of the posts separately, I just thought I'd throw out a few articles/books that have convicted me over the past few years. Because as much as I hate to say it, I was one of those people who could be easily convinced that these "special" kids needed to be protected in a small little environment. After teaching in a self-contained special ed classroom, my views slowly started changing. After having my son, they started changing even more. And once more, now that he's in school, my views are changing still. It's a never ending process of growing and learning.
The first article is titled "Why Inclusion Begins in Kindergarten...Or Doesn't". It is written by Charlene Comstock-Galaghan. She changed my life a little over two years ago when she came to TX to lead a discussion on the documentary "Including Samuel". (A must see, by the way!) She's my inclusion guru, and I love her! You can get it by clicking on this link and choosing the article under "Education".
The next one is called "Outing the Prejudice: Making the Least Dangerous Assumption". You can find it here. Our kids have differences, not deficiencies, and shouldn't we assume that all things are possible instead of assuming that they couldn't possibly do something because a doctor or teacher or friend told us they couldn't? If we pushed all these assumptions to the side and got over OUR fears--not our kids' fears--what could we accomplish? I didn't want to put Wade in school this year because I know all too well what goes on behind closed doors in special ed. But I had to get over MY fears in order for him to blossom and show everyone what he is made of. I can't keep him at home until I "get him ready" for school or until he "gets over" some of his "issues" with noise or commotion or until he learns how to communicate "better". I have to give him every opportunity to succeed or not succeed without standing in his way. It's dignity of risk. There's dignity in him trying something and maybe not succeeding. At least he was given the opportunity to make the choice on his own. There's a good article "Weighing theBenefits, There IS Dignity in Risk" here under "Awareness".
A dear friend who also has a child with a disability gave me a book to read, Out of My Mind by Susan Draper. It is a fictional book written for middle school aged children, so it is a very easy read. Although it is easy to read, it is still very powerful. It is about a girl with CP who is in a wheelchair and is non-verbal. It is written from her perspective. After reading the book, I truly do not look at Wade the same way. For me, communication is the most important thing. If Wade couldn't communicate with me, my world would crumble. Not to mention how trapped and frustrated he would be if I couldn't access his sweet soul. I knew that before reading this book, but the book challenged me to dig deeper and find out more.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. And for the record, no where in IDEA Law does it say that we have to prove our children's intellect in order for them to be given the opportunity to have access to the same education as everyone else. (I realize that wasn't the intent of the post, but there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding of the law because of what school districts "get away with" telling parents.) They have the right to be in the same classroom as everyone else because they were born!
Thankfully, some of my anger has subsided this week. I don't think it's healthy to stay in a state of anger, but I do believe that anger can be beneficial when directed in a positive way. I hope you can gain some insight from the above articles and that they speak to you and convict you of some things as much as they did me. If anyone is interested in seeing "Including Samuel", I have a copy you can borrow. Or better yet, purchase your copy here. It's well worth the 25 bucks!