I so desperately want to invite Monkey’s last IEP team leader to visit him at the new school. I want her to see what he is capable of. I want her to consider that perhaps they didn’t handle him1 in the best way possible. I want her to see that she still has things to learn.
I know this all sounds bitter but I’m really not, not anymore. Sure I have moments when we are celebrating a new achievement and “In your FACE!” pops into my head but mostly…mostly I want them to do better because there are other kids headed their way who could benefit if they saw what this school does. Which is insane, the two schools are part of the same district. They are .8 miles apart, a 4 minute drive, and yet they are years apart in practices.
What I wish she could see is what Eric described to me yesterday at pick-up. First, on the way out of the school, the principal said goodbye to Monkey and addressed him by name. That has not ever happened in any of our schools. The principals were out in the halls in the mornings and afternoons but they never knew us, they never knew him. For the first time we feel like we are part of the school and not on the fringes. That attitude, recognizing that WE too belong to this community, results in some pretty amazing experiences for a family like ours.
For example, when they stepped out the front door, Eric bumped into a new friend we needed to catch up with. While they stood and chatted a most amazing thing happened…Monkey approached some kids on the playground and engaged them in a game of chase. We see this sort of thing with his classmates but these were not classmates, in fact, when another child approached one of the other boys and asked him what he was doing he said, “Playing chase with this kid.” He didn’t even know Monkey.
This school does such an amazing job of including kids with special needs, and autism in particular, that the rest of the school just accepts them. It’s no big deal to play chase on the playground with a kid who screeches excitedly. He’s just another kid.
Lest you think this is an isolated incident, after they finished playing chase Monkey approached two boys who were playing volleyball over the main gate of the school. He stood and watched them, he loves to watch kids play, but they weren’t satisfied with that. They decided he was going to play too and made sure to throw the ball to him.
Such a little thing maybe, playing chase or ball on a playground, but the acceptance of Monkey with all his little quirks is so casual that it becomes a huge deal to families like ours. And it starts with the principal who decides that we belong and that learning Monkey’s name is important. It starts with teachers who buy into that idea and decide that creating acceptance of all students is just as important as math.
- or us [↩]