As a mother of a child with special needs, I spend a lot of time doing and worrying about things that most mothers don’t. As “normal” as we try to make our lives and experiences, our days and weeks are filled with extra doctor appointments, meetings with the schools, writing in communication notebooks for the teachers, tutoring sessions, occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, music therapy, miracle league, t ball, and other such events and combinations there of. One of the most difficult, nerve wracking events is the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting with the school. No matter how wonderful the school, administrators, teachers, and staff ( and ours are all top notch!) this day is stressful and hard. Parents show up in their toughest advocacy suits of armor ready to go to war for what is best for their child. We all push, beg, plead, and demand that our children be integrated into the “typical” classroom. We have our long list of reasons why, and ideas of how we can accomplish this.
As I was leaving our IEP meeting in May, I kept thinking to myself…..what if? What if parents of Carsten’s typical peers requested or even demanded that Carsten be in their child’s class? I have heard parents say things to the opposite effect while attending activities for my oldest son, Gabe, which infuriated me. I would say things back like, “I don’t feel that way. I feel like Child X brings a different set of skills to the classroom, and I am glad she is here.” I haven’t, however, requested that Child X be put in Gabe’s class the next year. Why haven’t I? I guess I never stopped to think of the effect that doing so would have. How that would make Child X feel wanted, her parent’s feel like she is wanted, and be reassuring to the administration and teachers that we see her value in being in the classroom with her peers. I think that would have such a huge affect on inclusion, acceptance and understanding if “typical” peers’ parents did just that. My next hurdle was how to accomplish this. How do I get my generation to open their eyes to how great acceptance and inclusion is? I didn’t know the answer, and I didn’t know where to start.
As if sent by an angel, I received a private message via Facebook tonight from Carsten’s classmate’s parent. While this parent and I have exchanged pleasantries in the past, we aren’t “friends” (however I hope to become friends:)). In fact I don’t even think she is aware of my advocacy work or my work at GiGi’s Playhouse. She just knows that her son likes my son, and he considers Carsten a good friend. Carsten feels the same about her son. Now for the AMAZING part….she sent a note to the principal requesting that her son be put in MY son’s class!!!!!! Please someone come pick me up off of the floor, and wipe the tears from my eyes. This mom and her son see what a positive aspect Carsten brings to the classroom, and wants her son to be WITH CARSTEN. She didn’t just talk about it, or mention how sweet Carsten is. She wrote a note to the principal requesting CARSTEN! Can you feel my heart swell in admiration for this woman who knew what to do even when I didn’t…..without me even asking?!?!?!? I think the angels are singing!
What would happen if the rest of us followed her example? What if we wrote a letter or scheduled a meeting to request our child be put in a classroom with a child with special needs? Can you imagine the movement that would occur across this country? Can you imagine what a step forward this would be for all of us?!? I am full blown crying now! Instead of the parents of children with special needs asking for inclusion….everyone else was asking for us. What a relief this would be for the parent’s too! We could use one less battle to fight….one less closed mind to try to open to the beauty our children bring to the world, our communities, and our schools.
Let’s do it people!!! Write your school principal and request it! When you do, please leave a comment below! I know I will be sending a letter tonight requesting that Gabe be put in a classroom with Child X! Let’s see what kind of change we can make from a good old fashioned social movement. It will only take 5 minutes of your time, but could change our world for the better…forever! Who is with me?!?!