When I was a kid, I remember occasionally seeing the special ed class (that's what I think we called it - I don't even remember - something absolutely not PC, I'm sure) walking around the school or going into their own classroom. It was not only a classroom of just "those" kids, but it was a classroom that was isolated from the rest of the school in location as well. I didn't know the kids individually, I saw them occasionally and was friendly toward them, that was pretty much it. I don't know what sorts of disabilities or abilities the kids had. It's just how it was. I probably lumped them all into a single category and that was that. Forgive me!
Fast-forward all these years later, and me with my own child with special needs, and I can't imagine a world without inclusion classes and I can barely wrap my head around the idea that there are places where kids are still isolated or where inclusion is fought or...any number of things. I can't imagine that someone would see my kid with CP and think she was EXACTLY THE SAME as a kid with autism or a kid with spina bifida or a kid with Prader-Willi or a kid with Down syndrome...that if you have special needs, that's it, that's your BIG HONKING LABEL and you'll all be together doing everything the same. Ugh. No way. Every kid is an individual and every kid's disability is addressed specifically.
It means a lot to me that my daughter is seen by her peers as just one of the gang. One of their friends. Her classmates and other kids in the school in general know her name and say hello - and it's not in a condescending or patronizing way. They just see their pal and they greet her. She has the ability to flourish in this setting. She wrote her name alongside the other kids (and really, she wrote it with four recognizable letters - it looked as good as some of the other kids' work!). She reads with them, she sings with them. Sometimes she's pulled out for various reasons or therapies or special programs, but she's a participant in THIS CLASSROOM. (Hell, I was pulled out of class for speech therapy - I had a pretty severe ch/sh/j type lisp for years - and for therapy of the 70s hippy dippy helping-me-with-issues kind. So there.)
She's only four. She's still in preschool. We have so much to learn. I have so much to learn. I know inclusion doesn't work for every kid, every family, every school system. What I know as well is that RIGHT NOW it is working for us and I am so thankful for that as we take it one day at a time and hope that next year will be as good as this year, that in four years we'll be as happy about it as we are now, and so on.
Right now some of my kid's friends have IEPs and some don't. Some can talk and some can't. Some are loud and some are quiet. Her friends think her walker is cool, her "shoes" (her SMOs) are neat (one kid asked why she had roller skates - they DO look like skates when they're peeking out of her bag...). I know...I know this will not last forever. I know we may be in for it one day. I just hope that by laying the foundation NOW in PRESCHOOL with INCLUSION that maybe by the time everyone reaches that age of nastiness and confusion and all that awfulness...maybe my kid will have a chance on some semblance of a level playing field. At least we've got a head start, right?
It frustrates me when people who know nothing about inclusion say things about it. That happened to me very recently (ahem...very....very recently) and it bothered me. Because I don't ever want anyone to think that my child is or should be shut away, pushed aside, or separated. So don't imply that my kid has been shuffled into a pretend/in-name-only inclusion class or that she's not in the type of place that she is. I'm being vague rantypants here because I am still stinging at something someone said rather recently (not to me directly - the person didn't likely think that anyone would actually have information to dispute their so-called facts). Just...don't do that. Or I will snarl at you.
So...here's to continued excellence with inclusion for my kid for as long as it can work for her and for us. I hope that's for her entire school career and beyond. She's a smart cookie so, for now, I believe that's how it will be.
(I'm trying out the CP Connection - if you've clicked over to here, hi. I hope that I did this right!)