What if…..

Published June 10, 2013 by megchristo

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?!?!

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63 comments on “What if…..

  • Meg, when you post things like this, please leave a Kleenex alert. Not only do we need these thoughts about inclusion in our schools but in our preschools as well. Bless you!

  • My daughter was included only in “I specials after jr. High however her peers overwhelmingly accepted her and I truly appreciated that they heloed her and have heard them say she “I taught” them so much””

  • M- We have had such an awesome experience with Sam’s peers that my heart broke when we left school on June 3rd. Because of the restructuring of our district, ALL of the students Sam went to school with will go to a different building for 4th-6th grade. Sam will be in a new school (because this is the building that has Special Ed classrooms) with new peers- that do not even know him- new teachers, new associate, new principal and new physical environment. I feel the peer bond so much with these kids and Sam that I even looked into the other building where his friends are—-even though they didn’t have the academic structure for my child with D.s. I’ve never had to fight for inclusion for Sam because his friends know him and understand his needs and differences- now I don’t know….

    • Jenine, I don’t know where you live, but I would encourage you to fight to keep Sam with his peers. Special education services should go with the child, not the child to the services. Your state should have a parent training institute to help you advocate for your child. Good luck!

  • My ‘typically developing” daughter has a friend with cerebral palsy. We asked for two years of elementary school that they be in the same class and now request they be on the same team in middle school. It’s a good thing as Martha Stewart would say!

  • That young man is adorable. That is and would be awesome! We are homeschoolers of a special needs daughter, but perhaps I can “modify” your great idea somehow!

  • Least restrictive environment for all!! I wanted my daughter to be in as many regular ed classes as we could, of course with modifications. Teachers really had to be on board though, and make sure that the classmates knew that ‘fair is not always equal’, however it did not always work that way… Bravo!! Love this story!

  • As a veteran (nearly 40 years) classroom teacher with 3 adopted children (now adults), all of whom have special needs, I can say that they have taught me so much. I am definitely a better teacher today because of the awareness that they have brought into my life. I currently teach adults, and often need to have “the talk” with them about learning disabilities, etc. It usually goes very well and the students are thankful that someone took the time to care. If more people had children with special needs in their lives, the world would be a far better place. Thank you for posting this.

  • People with special needs should have a chance to learn just like a normal child. They are people too. They can learn many things. They should not be left out

  • I worked in a school where we had included a very beautiful special needs little boy into our kindergarten room. what transpired there changed my life. Where I thought the boy with the special needs would be helped by watching the kindergarten students I was blown away. The “typical” students took on an entirely different role. They all wanted to be with David. David was who they chose to be with. When we finally realized that everyone wanted to play with David we ended up putting David as a part of the center board where they would take turns to play with him. He was an inspiration to them.. to me. I ended up leaving the typical classroom and became a special education assistant teacher. These children made such an impact on me, but mostly on the other students in the classroom. You know what we got? We got children who were compassionate, open minded, protective, kind, and nurturing. It changed them. If they don’t see differences then they can teach others that the only disabilities that people have are in their minds. Teach them when they are toddlers and that will carry on through their entire lives.

    • What a beautiful story about what a child with special needs can bring to a classroom! You are so right about everything!!!! By inclusion we are creating a more loving, accepting, open minded, positive generation! I love it! Thank you for sharing!

  • Definitely a beautiful tribute to a wonderful soul your son is.. I know each of my special gifts bring a new outlook to others. Blessed be to you and all that have to deal with this!

  • This is a great post – thanks! and amazing what one mom that isn’t even your friend, yet, can do when you think of this idea travelling around. Good for her and good for you. I met a family in a small town once whose daughter had gone through school with the same group of kids and as they got older her friends just assumed she’d be involved in everything they did. The parents were concerned about what would happen when they were adults and their lives went in different directions, but they all just kept coming back and stayed involved. There’s some research that shows its great for *all* kids, not just kids with disabilities. This article is from 1987! http://mn.gov/mnddc/parallels2/pdf/80s/83/83-WIN-SUN.pdf Thanks! I’m going to re-blog this on our site and share it with people up here in B.C. 🙂

  • What a fantastic story – and this in reality is a very tough thing to accomplish. I have been meeting with my school district for the past year discussing inclusive education (not mainstream). Last week I went in to meet with my son’s teacher (my son has the ability of Down Syndrome and is pretty high functioning). The teachers fought me on letting him attend general ed classes and were using fillers! By the end of the meeting, we had him in all but math and reading. The problem is, they are not looking at modifying the curriculum at all. They just kept saying……….Do you REALLY think he can do the same math as the other 8th graders? I have gone over and over with them that the NEED to modify it to meet HIS needs not the other way around! I will keep pushing forward not only for my son but for all kids in our district! It is a win win for all involved and I pray that one day soon one of those teachers will have the light bulb go off and realize that. The underlying problem is that the Director, Superintendent and teachers are all older and this was the norm for them when they went to school. Now they are teaching and have very closed minds on the subject. Again………I will keep pushing forward for inclusive education for all!!!

    • Leslie,

      I love meeting other warrior mothers! With so many of us out there now, sooner or later there will be change for the betterment of ALL!! Keep pushing! You are making a difference! 🙂 I am sure you are helping pave the way for Carsten and I too. For that, thank you!

      Meg

      • Glad to meet you fellow mother warrior:-) Let’s make some changes!! One thing that has helped me tremendously was recently graduating from the Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities – Partners in Policy Making. This course is most likely available in your state too. It taught me the most effective way to use my voice to fight for what is needed for my son to be a successful member of society. And yes, inclusive education is a big part of that! Anyone with a child or family member or a self advocate should check this course out. together we CAN make a difference.

    • My son with Downs is now 28. The handicapped school had nothing for preschool age, so I put him in Headstart and on opposite days another preschool so he could have interaction with “normal” kids. I bugged the handicapped school and they eventually got a preschool. When he was five, they had him in a class at the handicapped school and they insisted on signing with him. He HAD been talking, but he quit. when I would go in for IEP I had no say. It was already written down. I said Teach him how to write the letters to his name. They said they did not have time to work with each one individually and that they could not teach him to read or write. It was an inappropriate goal is what they always told me for years! AT that point I went to the normal school in a small town. They had a down syndrome kid who had gone through the system and yet they acted like they had never had one before. I told them I knew the kid who had just left the school to go to 7th grade and that she had Downs. I fought the system regularly to get him in, then to get him full days. They would only let him come two half days a week or something like that. When he was six I went to the Dept of Education in Columbus and asked if my kid had the right to be in a normal class all day every day and they said yes. I said would u call my school and tell them that? They did and Craig got full days. They said at the school But we will have to have a full time AIDE just for him. What will we do with him all day? And I said it is the law that u HAVE to get him a full time aide. He was in normal classroom but had an aide at all times. The kids grew up with him and were nice to him. At age six with alot of work from me too he was reading his favorite Dr Seuss books. We had Jumpstart programs for the computer that taught reading skillls and it ended up teaching my daughter to read by age 3 because she had been watching Craig playing the game and then she got up there and started doing it. Craig went to high school and a Career Center where he learned to cook, he served people in the cafeteria, cleaned up, did dishes, and learned to do laundry on his own. He can cook on his own spaghetti, pork chops, chicken, etc. He is also good at microwaving stuff. He reads on a third grade level. I made up picture cards myself, where I took pictures of EVERYTHING and put the picture of the car on a half sheet of colored paper and put the word “Car” below the picture. We went through like a hundred flashcards three or more times a day. It really helped. WE asked him to say each word. He eventually would say the word and learned that the word “car” went with the picture of the car and it made him able to read. I had taughthim sight words but also tried to teach him the sounds of each letter. Now he is a high functioning young man who can do just about anything and loves to dance at Dollywood’s shows. Check out my videos of him! (PaulaByler)

  • My daughter has Angelman Syndrome and goes to a special services school so this doesn’t really apply to her. I understand what you are saying though, and think it is an excellent idea for kids that can attend regular schools. Your son is very handsome!

  • as we are just starting school in sept, this really hit home! Its funny i told the principle that he will learn just as much from the other kids , as they will from him! (he wanted to send him to a special class) I feel like printing this out and handing it to him!! thanks so much

    • Never give up. The law says your kid has a right to be in the normal class. All day every day. The school for the handicapped has severely handicapped kids who could not do much of anything, and the teachers had so much work with those kids that they had no time to teach kids to read or write.

  • This little boy has every right to be included in a regular school classroom. He will love and be loved by all who come his way. He will learn much more than we can possibly predict. He will be fully accepted by his classmates. Please all, just give him the opportunity.

    I am the mother of a handicapped lady who is now in her fifties. She has always been a loving, happy, very mobile individual and although she has never enjoyed “speech” nor has she ever attended a school, she has a whole community of friends. Her manner of smiling and caring and “talking” to people whom she meets on the sidewalks of her town (city),they are unable to ignore her but give her back a smile and sometimes even a hug! She is always accompanied by a caring adult. Together they shop, visit the old folks, volunteer at the local hospital taking the cart to the patients, stack shelves, walk the dogs and visit the animals at the Vet’s, water the plants at the High School, enjoy a coffee break, go swimming. She is busy daily. Off-times she will stay at her apartment where our daughter has her own special hobbies which she thoroughly enjoys.

    We have the peace of mind of knowing that our daughter does not pine for us. She knows where we are. She visits occasionally but she is always ready to go back to her own home
    where she is comfortable, has all her things around her, including her pet cat, and one of the ladies of several who take turns staying and helping her with the tasks she is unable to do for herself.

    Rita

    • Did they not have schools for her back then? Did anyone try to teach her to speak? It is nice that she has a place she enjoys but for me I would not want my son to be living away from me.

  • Beautiful! I got a few letters from my sons typical peers this year telling him he was the best part of the day for them as he was pushed into social studies and science. Madero cry. Our kids are accepted. It is agonist ration that needs to get a clue

  • My son’s name is Carsten too! What a perfectly fitting blog for me. I think this would be the only way my son could stay at his neighborhood school next year. All of the parents have told me they want Carsten in their children’s class but I don’t think any of them have made that vocal to the principal, what a difference that would make.

  • I love this so much I can hardly stand it. My daughter has autism and just finished high school (insert big sigh of relief). The one thing that has kept her and I going all these years is the support she has received from a few kind girls and their families. They have always helped her through her school days, stood with her waiting for the special needs bus and included her in sporting events. It truly has been the key to her success. I would love to work with you on this movement in any way I possibly can. So glad a friend sent me your way.

  • We are a little further down the road than you guys. It is a great road! Dev is 16, a rising junior in high school. All through elementary and middle school she was fully included (Ann Arbor, Michigan) It was a great experience for all involved. The class she was in received an assistant teacher through 5th grade, so everyone in the class had extra support. She was still pulled out into small groups for extra in math and reading. When she moved into middle school she had an assistant where needed-included in science and history, resource room for math and reading (assistant not there) and on her own in art/PE/choir type electives. In high school she is in a contained class for some academics–I liken it to APP classes–small class size, great teacher, individualized curriculum … and she is a full cheerleader, on the unified soccer team, and HAPPY… We will be looking at colleges in the fall… take a look at our blog: http://www.raiseExpectations.com
    Thanks and keep up the great work!

    • wow awesome she is a cheerleader and that she has been mainstreamed. My Downs son Craig was mainstreamed and is now 28. He can do anything anyone else can do.

  • I’m a puddle! How wonderful! What a fantastic feeling when someone else (especially one of our kid’s peers!) recognizes the sparkle in our kids! So happy for Carsten and you!

  • My daughter (w/DS) is just finishing up Kindergarten. Her best friend (typical) has been fretting for a couple of months now that they won’t be in the same class for first grade. Like you, I worry about all the kids who won’t take the time to get to know my daughter and REALLY worry about the ones who would pick on her that I never thought about those who would WANT to be friends with her!

    We have the added benefit that her Kindergarten teacher will be teaching 1st grade next year and agrees that letting my daughter have the same teacher for another year will be very beneficial.

    • My son was with normal kids in a normal school for his whole life and the kids grew up with him and accepted and liked him. They high fived him when he did something good in school. Never give up when it gets tough. Work on speech with her yourself (if its a problem). I made flashcards with pictures I took and it taught him to say the word and then he also learned to read. She will have friends, dont worry!

      • Please don’t take this harshly but normal is a button on the washing machine. If we are all going to work together on this we really need to work on using the correct/proper language. General education, people first language, etc. To end the stereotypes about our loved ones.

  • What a great conversation! Cheers to all of you! I am a recently retired high school English teacher in San Diego and I had a wonderful experience with a peer tutoring program to foster inclusion in my classroom. I taught AP English (college equivalency course) and I worked with our Special Education teacher to develop an exceptional environment of tolerance for all the students in my care. My students would request students with special needs and everyone benefited. It’s about teaching young adults and not just subject matter. Many of my former students are now friends on FB and we often share memories of our times together. I admire your vision for what education can be and should be. Just wanted to share my admiration for all of you. You do make a difference so thank you.

  • Such amazing stories!! I love the idea of all of the request for inclusion coming from general education parents!! Maybe a movement is starting here!! One thing I was thinking is… parents shouldn’t have to fight this hard for inclusion…Classroom requests to have your child in class should be second nature. I love the discussion from all of the mother warriors- as one person put it.

    I have developed an entire web class devoted to how to advocate effectively for inclusion. If anyone is interested… http://www.inspireinclusion.com

    I am going to share this on my site… if that is ok.

  • The little darling with special needs (ADD, ODD) whose been my kid’s classmate and BFF since kindergarten (they’ve just finished 3rd grade) charmingly cut her badly enough with a protractor to require 6 stitches this spring – he’s a sweet kid, they’ve had plenty of playdates, apparently he just had a really, really bad day and we insisted no charges be filed. Years and years of friendship and the little dumpling couldn’t quite manage to not assault his BFF, who loved him, who defended him, and who practically lived at our house. Not all of these stories end so well – but I’m delighted that it seems to have for most of you.

    I’ve also had the great joy of 1) banning ex-BFF from my house, 2) insisting my kid not be in his class next year and 3) most awful of all, repeatedly explaining to ex-BFF’s mom exactly why I did #1 and #2, over and over again. Why is it so very difficult to understand that if your cuts somebody else’s kid, in anger, badly enough for STITCHES, the natural consequence is that your kid is persona non grata at victim-kid’s house, indefinitely?

  • We have a son with Ds…he is almost 2. His older sister is 4 and is in pre-school. She has become great friends with a sweet boy in the school who happens to have Ds too. We have started to get to know his parents and have just fallen in love with their sweet son. We specifically requested for him to be in our daughter’s class next year (his parents did the same). Would love for that to happen when my little guy starts school one day. Blessings to you and your family!

  • So cool how I came across this post… I actually read it on my friend’s mother’s Facebook wall. Their sister/daughter has Angelman’s Syndrome, and they are constantly posting awesome articles and news about individuals with special needs. Then today, several days later, I saw an AWESOME black and white portrait of your girls, Elle and Mae, on Amy Doerring’s Facebook wall. My mom’s best friend adopted a daughter from China several years ago, and remembering her journey, I wanted to read about yours. Imagine my surprise to find that Carsten has the same awesome mommy as Elle and Mae!

    What a coincidence. Just wanted to share(: Thank you for being an inspiration!

  • Great blog you have here but I was curious about if you knew
    of any forums that cover the same topics talked
    about in this article? I’d really like to
    be a part of group where I can get feed-back from other knowledgeable
    individuals that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions,
    please let me know. Thanks a lot!

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