Wade is in a general ed classroom with about 20 other kiddos. He LOVES it, and better yet, the kids love him. At the beginning of the school year, Wade was sent home early for a fever so he missed the next day as well. The next day in his backpack was a card from one of the sweet little girls in his class. Notice how she captured his wheelchair! Such a little artist! The day after that, he got yet another card from another little girl. I think we're going to have to keep an eye on him. He seems to be quite the lady's man!
Wade was also invited to his very first birthday party that didn't involve me knowing the parents. That was a HUGE deal for me. It was a sign to me that he is building true and authentic friendships. That's the great thing about kids. They're able to see past disabilities a lot easier than adults. It makes my heart happy when I pick Wade up after school and he's surrounded by other kids. They include him because they want to, not because they have to.
We also decided to try another season of t-ball this fall. Wade ended up on a different team than the one he was on in the spring. This season was actually t-ball and not blast ball; meaning you play for 3 outs or 5 runs and there are umpires! So, a real game! We all had a great season and again, the kids were fantastic with Wade. The adults cheered him on just like they did every other kid on the team. The kids even helped Wade with fielding and hitting sometimes. It was definitely a team effort to make the experience successful for all.
Wade developed a pretty good friendship with one of his teammates. Easton told his mom he wanted Wade to spend the night with him. I thought having Easton at our house was probably a little more practical. As a result, Wade had his first sleepover. I think Curtis was more excited than Wade! After practice, they went out for pizza, came home and built a fort, and then fell asleep watching a movie. The next morning, they got up and went to breakfast and headed to Cabella's to do some "man stuff". They bought some nerf guns and had fun with those and attempted to have a wheelchair race. Wade ended up head planting into the grassy curb, but it didn't phase him at all. When Easton's mom asked him what his favorite part was, he said there was too many things to name! So, I'd call the first sleepover a success. I see many more in our future.
As for actual kindergarten, well, it's been a learning experience for everyone. Wade's team of teachers and support staff are absolutely wonderful. They are open and eager to try different approaches so that Wade can be included like all the other kids. At the beginning of the school year, Wade's teacher told me she took him down the slide as another teacher stated, "Are you sure you want to do that? What if he gets hurt?" The teacher's response was, "I can guarantee you mom would rather him get hurt than sit here in his chair doing nothing!" How great is that??? A teacher that knows and understands that I want Wade to experience life, not just be on the sidelines. One day she texted me and told me she decided to pull out some instruments because he gets such a kick out of people knocking on the door. Turns out Wade was able to use the instruments to do "soft" and "loud" and then he used the instruments to demonstrate syllables in words. Of course Wade uses his head to "play" the instruments, but I'll take it! I love a teacher who thinks outside the box. I think she needs to move up to first grade with him next year:-)
I don't want to lead everyone into believing that this school year has been easy, because it hasn't. This inclusion thing is tough, especially with a kiddo who is as physically involved as Wade. However, through much open and honest communication with the district, I believe we are all beginning to land on the same page. My advice to those who are on this same journey is to stand your ground and do what's right for your child. There is a way to get your point across without ruining relationships in the process. This is a difficult and emotional road. There are times I want to give in and give up. But I keep trudging on for Wade and for those coming behind him as well. When I see Wade's face light up when we talk about school, I know the hard work is worth it.
Inclusion communicates something more than "integration". It means people participating in families, schools, (and classrooms), in work places, and in community life. "Inclusion" implies that people are welcomed, that each person reaches out to include another person. Inclusion is different from "letting in" or "adding on." Inclusion conveys the idea that we appreciate each other, that we see each other's gifts, that we value being together. Inclusion speaks to the importance of relationships.
~ TASH newsletter June 1990