“When inclusive education is fully embraced, we abandon the idea that children have to become ‘normal’ in order to contribute to the world…We begin to look beyond typical ways of becoming valued members of the community, and in doing so, begin to realize the achievable goal of providing all children with an authentic sense of belonging.” --Norm Kunc
It seems like ages since my last blog post. Life has been such a whirlwind lately. My heart has been filled with angst about this school year for Kendall. I know I’m not alone amongst the other moms of Kindergarteners beginning school this fall. It’s difficult to put your child in the care of others. Of course we have a trusted group of nurses, teachers, and related services….but the uncertainty of the unknown makes my head spin.
Like all other moms, I have to find a peace that I’ve raised my child to the best of my ability, and at some point she has to fly on her own. I have to trust in the good in people. I have to trust that when someone looks you in the eyes and says something….that’s what they mean and they’ll follow through.There has been so much preparation put into starting this school year out right for my sweet girl. Her incredible Vision Teacher (TVI) and Orientation and Mobility Specialist (O&M) did a presentation for the Kindergarten teachers on accommodations and modifications over the week before school started. They made a sweet power point presentation and slide show that did a wonderful job introducing her to the team. It showed all of the ways that we include Kendall naturally in our home life, and how loved she is.
Within the first week of school, Kendall was invited to a birthday party. A princess tea party. I cried when I received the invitation. This was a friend of Kendall’s from school. Someone she knows all on her own. Sure, the letter we sent home with suggested answers for students with questions about Kendall’s wheelchair, insulin pump, and communication device may have spurred the invitation. But the bottom line is she was invited, included, and enjoyed every minute of it (until the cheering and happy birthday song!!)In Sunday school, we can’t walk through the hall without another five year old stopping to say hi to Kendall. The kids from her school are introducing her to other kids and their parents. When I went to pick her up a few Sundays ago, a little girl asked if Kendall could come over to play.
I can’t help but feel hopeful that we are breaking some of the barriers here. Kendall is happy, excited to go to school each day, and participating in class. When I picked her up early for an appointment, she was coloring and working independently just as the other kids were. Side by side with her peers, she has made it through two, TWO!! assemblies complete with cheering and microphones without a melt-down.Her teacher is the perfect match! A little sarcasm mixed with strong teaching strategies and serious structure makes it work. I have no doubt that Kendall gets her humor! Kendall respects her teacher, and it is very natural. It’s not like it was in the past. Nobody is babying her. Nobody is making the other kids feel like Kendall needs “help.” She’s a student in that class….not just a visitor dropping in.
I have to say I am cautiously optimistic. I know this may not work forever. I know this may have to change in the future. I know this model isn’t for everyone… But it is for us. And it’s working!