A conversation about inclusion: What is your opinion?
Have you considered having your child with disabilities fully included in a typical classroom (with their supports and services)?
A Tale of Two Parents
This month I met two mothers within minutes of each other that shared different experiences.
As an author and presenter I meet many parents working to raise children with disabilities. Usually the conversation begins with, “Hello, my name is Jennifer Greening. I wrote a book to help families include their children with disabilities in their neighborhood schools.”
The parents that want their children in their typical schools, ask many questions and often share their frustrations. Then there are parents that consider me “one of those mothers” and quickly end our conversation.
Inclusion vs. Center Based
This month I met a mother that cautiously entered the conversation. Her child is in a center-based program and never interacts with typical students. She described herself as being realistic about her child’s limited abilities. She explained that she has never been one of “those mothers” that pushed for their child to have more. However, she was curious to learn more about inclusion and she was asking thoughtful questions.
While we were speaking, another mother she knew approached. They exchanged greetings and then she apologized for interrupting. She said, “I’m sorry to interrupt but read your book last year. A month after reading your book I took my son completely out of the center-based program and put him in our neighborhood school. He is doing great. I hope you don’t mind if I give you a hug.”
I turned my attention back to the mother I was speaking with. She looked at her friend with great surprise. I could see the puzzle pieces being put together. Their children had been attending the same center-based program.
One of the paraprofessionals from the program had been reassigned to go with the child to his neighborhood school. While the mother had a general understanding that the changes happened, no one fully explained that there was one less child in the center-based classroom and that he had returned to his home school.
Both of these mothers seem like incredible mothers. I think it’s important to share information and to continually learn what is possible for our children with special needs. Every year our children’s educational programs continue to develop. Sharing a clear vision of your hopes and dreams for your child allows your child to reach their full potential. I’m not sure why people often say being “realistic” means the child has no potential.
Flowers blossom when they are ready
When my daughter was young we spent a lot of time and money trying to make her less disabled. We had public and private therapies for her to develop her ability to walk and communicate. We were tired, she was tired, and week by week I noticed that she wasn’t making the great gains she needed to make to appear less disabled.
I wanted to hurry and help her “catch up” so she could be included in her typical grade in school. Instead of viewing school as a place of learning and development, I was viewing school as a measurement of my daughter’s abilities.
I learned as I went along to treat my daughter like a beautiful, gentle flower. Instead of forcing her to open, I placed her in a nurturing school setting where she gently unfolded as she was ready. No amount of therapy will cure her disabilities (we hope for miracles for this). However, a nurturing typical school environment provided the opportunities to be a part of a joyful life among typical peers.