Prior to having Colin, Kailey, and Cody, Chris and I had discussions about the kinds of things we hoped for and the expectations we had for our kids' futures. Each time we got pregnant, we imagined what their lives would be like and how they would change ours.
When Colin was born, it felt like his future wouldn't entail what we expected but we very quickly learned that wasn't the case. We have raised and supported Colin in all of the ways we know how so that he knows he is capable to be and do whatever it is he wants in his life.
We have become Colin's biggest advocates when it comes to educating him in an inclusive classroom because we truly believe that when exposed to the same curriculum, learning alongside his peers, in the same way they are, he will be just as capable to be successful. It is no secret that because of the differences between Colin and his peers developmentally, he needs more support to get to the same places his peers are headed. We are advocating because we have seen evidence over and over again that shows that when you believe someone is capable, very simply, they ARE.
This year has been a very trying year for us because of the limits that have been placed on educating Colin. Sadly, we are not alone in our struggles and are finding that despite the research that has been supporting inclusive education for decades, in addition to the LAWS that support educating students in the least restrictive environment, many families are faced with school districts that still segregate their students with disabilities and place limits on them.
It has taken me a week since reading the post "They Wash the Football Team's Uniforms" written by a friend at the blog Big Blueberry Eyes to share and post about the content of the post. Her post left me feeling so sad and discouraged that I was unsure how to adequately share my feelings on the issue. I urge you to read it because I don't think I can appropriately convey how I feel about this and she does an excellent job in it.
The gist of the post is that during an IEP meeting in preparation for her daughter's transition to middle school, they learned that the self contained classroom she would be spending most of her day in (more restrictive than her setting up until this point in her education) was formerly the home Ec room in the middle school. Therefore, because of the functional kitchen, they sometimes learn how to cook (not part of the curriculum for the general education students). These students do not receive their own lockers like the rest of the students. And even worse, because of the washer and dryer in the classroom, "sometimes they wash the football team's uniforms. They learn how to measure and do laundry, and the football team gets clean uniforms and it's....great!".
I'll let you absorb that one for a moment.
Just like she did, I would like you to now imagine asking your typical child how they would feel if ONLY their class in the school was responsible for a task such as washing the uniforms of the football team. Imagine that ONLY their class needed to complete a chore that no one else in the school needed to do. And now I want you to imagine how your typical child would feel if ONLY their class did not receive a locker to decorate and store their supplies for the day like the rest of the school did. I am sure they wouldn't feel good about the fact they had to do chores other students did not need to do and did not receive things like a locker that the rest of the school got.
So why is it ok for students with disabilities?
Every day, limits are placed on people with disabilities. We are advocating for Colin because we BELIEVE in him. Just because it may take someone longer to get to the end point, doesn't mean they CAN'T do it. Belief is a powerful thing...