Thanks for all the feedback yesterday. I received calls and texts and emails. I guess I really made folks sad with my Valentines tale of woe. So today I want to share something more positive.
I had lunch with a friend yesterday who is also a parent of a child with special needs. We talked about full inclusion at the schools and how beneficial it is not only to the child who is in special ed, but to the rest of the class. Everyone learns that there are all types of people in the world. As these children enter the work force (which is happening now), they are better equipped to deal with disabled people because it is normal for them. It used to be the disabled were out of sight, but now they are part of the community, part of the classroom. That will go a long way toward erasing some of the disability bias that exists in the world. It's slow, mind you. It takes a generation or more, but we are on our way.
Maggie was not in a full inclusion classroom, she was always in a special day class. Her learning style was too complicated for full inclusion (That was my choice, not something forced on Maggie or me.) I know other kids with comparable disabilities who do fine included in a regular classroom, but we felt Maggie would maximize her potential in a a special day class -- and she did. Maggie used her inclusion time for social purposes. The girl was the most social person ever and she was included with other kids for non academic activities such as field trips to the pumpkin patch in the first picture or wherever she was going all dolled up in the second picture. Every kid knew Maggie in every school she attended, so I guess she did something right.
I specifically chose pictures from Maggie's early school years because I remember two incidents from her elementary school days that demonstrated her place in the school and the other kids absolute acceptance of Maggie. A mom heard the kids greeting Maggie and said, "is this Maggie?" When I confirmed it she told me her daughter kept talking about her friend Maggie and asked if she could invite Maggie over. The child never even mentioned that Maggie was in a wheelchair. The mom was delighted and so was I.
The second incident took place one day when we arrived at school late, probably because of a doctor appointment or something. It was recess time and all the kids were out on the schoolyard. They could see us unloading the van through the chain link fence. Our van had recently been adapted for Maggie. I lowered the lift and moved in to unlock the chair. The dog jumped out and started sniffing around as I positioned the chair onto the lift. Kids had gathered around the fence watching us intently and I heard them gasping and oohing and ahhing. They were just little kids, maybe second or third grade; but I distinctly remember thinking "Really? Even here at school?" That was just for a second, though, because immediately one of them said, "Maggie is so LUCKY! She has a DOG!"
The dog set her apart.
Not the chair.
Not the talker.
Those kids are in their 20's now. They are probably finishing school or out working in the world. They are or will be making the rules soon. That's a good thing.
I hope they all got dogs.