I came across this picture and quotation on a Facebook friend's post the other day and it's really been sitting with me ever since because Colin has changed us in so many profound ways. I always considered myself to be a good person before he came into my life, but because of him, I see disability differently than I ever did before. Although there are plenty of challenges, we view Colin and the things he CAN do and the possibilities there are for him. We believe in him and his potential and don't think he should be limited by what he can't do. We don't feel that his differences place him in a different "category" of a person and most especially, we don't think that just because he learns at a slower pace than his peers, he should be placed in a classroom that is segregated from them. I have a really hard time with the idea that because Colin's educational abilities are different than his peers, he has to become a "visitor" to the places all of his peers just get to be. And so, we became Colin's biggest cheerleaders as we work to find a solution that is best for him.
Colin and his education has become the forefront of my thoughts, anxieties and worries (and clearly my blog posts) because finding what's best for him is faced with so much opposition. At times, I've been made to feel like Chris and I are just trying to "win" against the district because of this process we are going through. We did file a petition for mediation with NJ's department of education because we don't feel it's as black and white as the new IEP is made to look that we were handed. The IEP's that are written for kids like Colin are just that; individualized education plans that are designed to help learners like him with the unique needs they have in the classroom.
In addition, we don't feel that the supports that are listed in the law were utilized to really help Colin in the classroom. So we are advocating for what's best and are hoping that we can find a solution to all of this. I can assure you that this process we are going through doesn't feel like anything we "win" with the financial and emotional challenges we deal with in addition to what this year has been like for Colin himself.
I read a post about segregation the other day and it really highlighted my feelings that I am unable to adequately put into words even with all of these blog posts I've written. You can access the post by clicking here and if you've been following our journey, I really urge you to read it. The post is called "The Separation box" by Robert Rummel-Hudson and the particular paragraphs that resonated with me the most are these ones here....
The thing of which we are reminded sometimes in our kids’ IEP meetings is that for some teachers and members of the community, special education appears to be an alien world, one for which they have no training and ultimately no responsibility. Those of us in the disability community know better. All students fall somewhere on a spectrum, and special education represents just one area of that spectrum. Special education doesn’t serve as a box in which we put the Others Who Don’t Belong. It’s a way to give kids who need it some extra and specialized help. Some need a lot, others not so much. But none of these students are inhuman. None are without value or potential.
When we insist on separating special education students, both literally and philosophically, we make judgments on that value and that potential. When we talk about the few holding back the many, we imply that there’s a disposable percentage. What does that number look like, the throwaways? One percent? Twenty? At what point do we begin throwing out the kids who are hard to reach for other reasons? Do we have boxes for gifted and talented kids, too? Or the ones with attention disorders?
There is a better individualized option for Colin and for us, it just means we have to work a little bit harder to find what that is. It doesn't imply he can't be in the same classroom, it implies he needs extra help being there.