So…my four and a half year old doesn’t say a word when I pick her up from preschool. I ask several questions like any mom would typically do.
- How was your day?
- Did you paint today?
- Did you have music today?
- Did Miss Jaime read fun stories?
- Did you like your snack today?
And…I hear nothing. I. literally. hear. nothing. Today, this made me sad. I believe today was sadder than the others because I had just come from a two hour long IEP at which I was told Ailbe wasn’t ready for TK and that they recommended another year of preschool instead. At TK she would be in a bigger classroom (meaning more students, 10 more) and they don’t have “services” in TK. Like everything else in life I’m learning that these “rules” apply to 90% of the people and special accommodations are made for a few. The few, being those people that bark the loudest (litigation, persistence, preferential treatment etc) make change happen easier than the other 90% can. More power to the 10% but those of us in the other group feel left behind. We are made to feel like our children have the best possible placement and that they are learning in their least restrictive environment. When often, we don’t agree. We think they are appeasing us with their niceties and smiles.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the least restrictive environment was a regular classroom for all? If we raised our children to know that not all of their peers are the same but all equal? What would be so wrong with having every child in the same classroom? If your reasoning is that special needs children will “slow” down the others then, to that I say, let me remind you that some of the most enlightened thinkers and creators of our times had/have special needs by todays standards (Steven Hawking, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, Temple Grandin, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Isaac Newton). Also, I’d like to invite you into a neuro-typical Kindergarten room where you will see that there are a vast amount of distractions and they are generally, for the most part, coming from those NT children. I completely agree that some kids with needs can be highly destructive in a learning environment but the same can be said for a neuro-typical child. Let’s not forget that there are many special needs children in a NT classroom that either haven’t been diagnosed yet or parents are frightened to be honest about their child’s needs for fear that this leaves them open to being moved from the placement they chose for their child and his/her needs.
Can you put yourselves in our shoes? Put yourselves in the shoes of the mothers you’ve done so with all the other groups discriminated against in society throughout history. Empathize with US. Help our children become mainstreamed regardless of their special need because unless you expect to not see those with special needs at the store, theme parks, the doctor’s office, train station etc then do not expect for “them” to be hidden in the school environment. Why does your child deserve more than mine? Shouldn’t we be teaching our children compassion?
Just today for instance, I heard a fellow teacher complain that a special needs teacher at her school had five students and an aide for each student (so a ratio even greater than 1:1) but that she had 29 students and zero aides. Naturally, I completely understood what this teacher was saying 29:1 is ridiculous and she shouldn’t be responsible for that many students at once. However, when she compared her needing more support for her own students to the special needs teachers population she was inherently dissing the special needs classroom. I’m sure many think this is a jump in my thoughts, but I don’t. What I heard, and all mother’s in my situation do too, is why does that teacher need five aides while I have none and I have the children who are neuro-typical. I have the kids with a future.
When my child comes up to your child and gently takes his or her hand while saying “come” in hopes that he/she will play with her and your child responds with “HEY!” or “stop pulling me,” encourage them to have a different response. When she comes right up to you for a hug or to play alongside you and your friends encourage your children to be inclusive. Use this as a learning opportunity for all. Help your child learn sensitivity, compassion and that not all children are the same but they all deserve friendship.
I’m asking you to make a difference. I’m challenging you. Now get started.