Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"The Class List" ...What If A Child with Special Needs Is In Your Child's Class?....

This post is something that has been rattling around in my head for the last week....

For the last week I have been thinking about "The Class List...."

It is almost time for school to resume...all the back to school commercials are playing round the clock, new clothes and backpacks and folders are being bought...and the ever exciting day that the "class lists" will be posted up on the office windows are soon to arrive. I don't know about you but I LOVED that day...COULDN'T wait for that day. I'd roller skate up to the school to check out the lists and hope that at least one bestie was in the same class as me...then I'd dream of what the new school year would hold.

The class list held a lot of weight as to what kind of year it would be for a kid... Spot the school bully on your list? Well, you knew you'd have to watch your back.... Spot the booger picker? You made a mental note to sit on the far side of the room away from them... Spot the cute kid you'd had a secret crush on on the list? ...You went home to spiff up your wardrobe. Yes indeed, it held a lot of weight, that class list.

But, WHAT IF you were a parent standing there next to your child scanning the lists with them and you notice a name...and know it to be of a child with special needs. What would your initial thoughts be? ..I'm talking your true, honest, quiet thoughts in your head that you might not share out...

Would it be, "Good for them for "Fully Including" their child"?

Would it be, "I think this is good, my child will learn from this experience".

Would it be, "Oh yay, we love __insert child's name___!"

Or would it be......

"This is terrible, kids with special needs belong in special ed classes!"

"Having this child in class is going to rob my child of their education because the teacher is going to have to spend so much attention on them!"

"I'm going to complain, I don't want that kid in class with my kid!"

One if not all three of those last responses belong to an entire group of parents in the next county over from me. A few years ago there was a situation where a little girl with Down syndrome was going to be fully included into one of the kindergarten classes on campus. "Fully Included" means she would school the entire day in a "general education" class from beginning to end just like everyone else assigned to that class...whereas if someone were to be "Mainstreamed" that means that for part of their day they would mainstream into the general ed class setting say for art or science or some subject but the remainder of their day would be with a special ed class. At any rate....this little girl was going to be fully included into the kindergarten classroom... and she showed up on the "class list".

In response, the parents of the children who would also be in that classroom were upset....felt their child's education was going to be harmed and started a petition NOT to have her allowed in their child's class. This is seriously what happened, parent after parent signed their name to that petition... just down the road from me a hop and a skip and just a few years ago. The school got the petition, the school buckled under the pressure....and the parent had to fight for her to stay on that class list. Her parents had to take it to the district level, argue their case, and remind them that their daughter had a legal right to school in that class. Their point was made and the little girl was allowed to remain in that class.

As I type... I can just imagine that confrontation this family had to face with essentially their own "neighbors" in the neighborhood who were rejecting their child.... I would feel so kicked in the gut by my community. I am proud of the little girl's parents for holding their head high and fighting for what was right for their daughter. In the end, the family did not start her in that particular kindergarten...where her parents would need to stand shoulder to shoulder at drop off and pick up each day with all the parents who signed the petition not to allow their child in class... They fought their fight, made their point, and then enrolled their child at a different school where she was embraced. I can't say I blame them under the circumstance.

Grown adults can be cruel, we can be uninformed, we can hold onto harmful biases, we can be arrogant and seclusive and insensitive. ....and sometimes we don't even realize we are being this way.

For those of you thinking... maybe those "petition" parents were right...maybe she would of robbed the other kids of their education". My response would be.... "Where is the evidence of that?"...they never gave the little girl the chance to prove her abilities...she was shot down because of unfounded parental fears before she even got to start her first day of school. In many cases children who are Fully Included are given full time aides beginning in kindergarten, so had she needed extra assistance she would have had her aide. This little girl would not have robbed anyone's child of their education. The thing however that most certainly was robbed was for the opportunity for "their" children to learn about acceptance and compassion and differences in a very real way..lessons that cannot be taught from a text book the way loving and accepting a peer would.

What about the response... "Kids with special needs belong in special ed classes?" My response would be, "Not necessarily, depends on the child and the child's needs...". To say they should ONLY be in special ed classes would be putting a child in a box and dare I make the comparison would be like me telling you your tall, skinny kid belongs only on the basketball team. What if baseball was actually a better fit for him, far be it from me to deny him that....nor the room to allow him to grow in that sport. There are beautiful special education classes and there are beautiful general education classes with teachers who welcome working with a child with special needs. Each special needs child has different needs and believe me, parents think long and hard about the choices for their child's education..... and those decisions are best placed in the hands of the parents who know their child best and the team of specialists and school administrators who form his/her team....not insensitive petition signing parents, that's for sure.

Why do parents choose to Fully Include? ....Sometimes it is because they feel their child would benefit from the role models their "typically developing peers" would be for them, sometimes it is because they feel their child can learn right along with the other children (and they can), sometimes it is because they feel that the high expectations that would be held for that child would motivate them to reach beyond their limitations, sometimes it is because their typically developing peers would be hugely beneficial for them in regards to speech modeling or perhaps even social modeling.

So, we take that step for our child and hope that we are not met with parents who respond as the group I had mentioned above. And as we stand there shoulder to shoulder at pick up and drop off and we see parents smile lovingly at our child... or they comment about how glad they are that our child is in class with their child... or comment on how well they did something.... or reassure you when a naughty incident happens that all kids have naughty moments.... I cannot even begin to tell you how much those words mean, truly....... they. mean. so. much!

So IF a child with special needs does indeed end up on your child's class list and you have reservations about it.... please watch and see, you just may be surprised, your pre-conceived ideas just might change.... and the words of encouragement you might even find yourself sharing with the child's parent... will make you both feel great. And... if all those things just mentioned do occur, well then I hope your child ends up on MY child's "class list"!

** Disclaimer: Sometimes, we as parents feel that mainstreaming might be better for our child, or it might be better for our child to school solely in a special ed class..... all those options are beautiful options if and when it is the right fit for our child, and we'll know when it is. I don't want anyone to get the impression that I am saying we as special needs parents are failing if we choose not to "Fully Include", that is not what I am saying or how I feel at all.


Monday, August 8, 2011

I LUHH OO TOO = I Love You Too

One of the things that comes with Down syndrome is delayed speech... to be honest I cannot prattle off the medical reasoning for this, though I know I should, I've just always known to expect this and so we have had Reid in speech therapy since he was about 20 months old. As any of us traveling this road know the milestones our kids with Down syndrome achieve feel that much sweeter for us because we know it takes our kids a wee bit longer, so when Reid started to call me "Bob" at about 18 months....well, it was about the sweetest word I had ever heard! I loved finally being something..and "Bob" worked just fine!

Nowadays I am Mom... sometimes Momma, and quite often MOMMM!!! when he is in demand
of something! Yes, we have moved away from Bob, as bitter sweet as that is. But lately Reid has begun saying something else that takes the cake..... he has begun to respond to the words "I love you" with the sweetest sounding "I uhh oo too". Hello... melt me right there! Not only is he saying 4 words but the last one...the word too, means he gets that it is reciprocal, you know what I mean? That is huge to me... speech wise and cognitively!

Reid.... is a funny little guy, he just is, he has a personality that cracks you up whether it is with his quirky spontaneous dance moves, his silly facial expressions, or his quick get away after stealing one of Luke's prize possessions and never looking back as he books away. He is just plain funny I tell ya, so I can only imagine once he gets his words about him the funny things that he will say. I think I got a glimpse of it the other day.... I heard him putting the milk jug away in the fridge when I was in the other room and to himself mind you... and the milk jug apparently, he said, "Bye....see oo soon!" the milk jug! He stinkin told the milk jug he would see him/her soon! ...aghhhh, I love this kid!

Other common phrases that we hear around here on a daily basis from him are:

"Help you...." = Help me (with whatever task he is working on... or attempting and needs help with)

"I. Want. Ice. Keam" = I want ice cream... and all the while he is patting his chest and says each word slow and methodically, hence the periods in between each word.

"Ha...ha...I idea!!"= A-ha, I have an idea... while holding his little finger in the air and then he proceeds to show you what his idea is.... usually either ice cream in the freezer he wants you to get out for him or take you to the play room to find a new toy

And just last week Reid gathered all 4 of us in the kitchen and huddled us together.... then, proceeded to clasp his little hands together and said, "God. Ank you. Miss Katie. Sharwol. fwrends. Bodie. Mafwew. Amen." Holy toledo..... my heart swelled a hundred times its size! This guy all on his own decided we all needed to pray for his teachers from last year Miss Katie and Miss Sharyl, his friends, and especially his buddies Bodie and Matthew....

....It may indeed take awhile, but words will make their way to my son's mouth... he will say grand things one day! ....I just know it.

<span class=

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Boys' Bedroom Makeover

I'm trying to embrace the fact that my boys are growing up... there are days I sit satisfied knowing that I am eating up and enjoying every square inch and every sweet moment of motherhood, but then there are other times when I can feel myself wish for days gone by when they were just lil-little guys, toddling around here in diapers. Yes, I know.... they are only 10 and 4 1/2 but still I find myself in reminiscent mode from time to time and wanting to hold onto these sweet times with my loves. But, I would not be a good mother if I didn't savor the memories and yet rejoice in the new chapters that each progressing year brings each of my boys... and just plain savor the beauty of watching these two grow up into amazing boys.

In the vain of letting them grow up... it was recently time to re-do the "nursery". It was becoming quite evident that the time had definitely arrived when we would hear Luke give his friends a disclaimer before entering his room whenever they came over... "Don't mind all the baby stuff on the's my brother's!" When in reality it was not exactly just his brothers but they both were living in the nursery I had originally set up for Luke. And truth be told, Luke LOVED that room.... he cried big tears one night when we were about to begin the process of the re-do and verbally walked me around the room of all the things he would stare at when he was trying to go to sleep at night. I love that I have such a rough and tumble sporty kinda guy...who is really just a mush ball of sweetness and tenderness inside!

But, it was time for the transformation to a big boy room and I gave Luke the honor of making all the decisions of the room. This control was really hard for me to let go of... but I wanted to know in the end the new room would truly be a reflection of his personality and not my influence. I have to say I think this little guy of mine has some good taste and put together a pretty cool room for he and his little brother! The only near hiccup was during the "makeover" we went to go see Toy Story 3 (best movie ever!) and as the movie began and they scanned Andy's room who was about to head off to college, Luke grabbed my arm and whispered, "Mom..... look at Andy's room, it is still the same as it was from the first movie when he was little". I could tell Luke was swallowing a frog and knew what he was getting at and asked him if he wanted me to keep his room the way it was (we already had the wallpaper border off of 2 walls at this point). He took a deep breath and hesitantly said, "No, (sigh) let's keep going". And so we did.....

Before Pictures:

I had already taken the border down before I thought to snap this picture. I had originally bought this cabinet thinking we were having a girl before Luke was born and I was planning to go with a Shabby Chic look and thought I would hang little dresses behind the glass doors. But, I loved it so much I found a way to make it work in the boys' room...

After Pictures:

I framed this piece of artwork Luke made back in the 2nd grade of he and his brother... it is the first thing you see as you walk in the room. :)

Toby's contribution to the room was this red shelf up top... we were planning to put white shelving up around 2 of the walls but he thought it would be fun to add a red one in the mix... I like it, I think it is "kicky". ....I must also confess I took control of the paint color for a brief moment. Luke wanted dark brown and I was afraid of it so made him make a lighter choice, but once we put it on a couple walls it was more like a paint can of "oooh ick!" so we went back to the store and got the paint color that was Luke's original choice.... once again I had to remind myself.... I was letting Luke run the show ;) . The pictures don't show the true color, but it is dark, think hershey chocolate bar.

Our good friend Keith put these baseball card collections together for our boys. It started when Luke was born, he dug out his old Nolan Ryan cards he had as a kid, placed them in the black frame, and surprised us with it soon after Luke was born, knowing that we chose his middle name after Nolan Ryan. ....When he heard that we were re-doing the boys' room and I was going to start searching for Greg Maddux cards so Reid had one too..... a fun box soon arrived on our doorstep from Keith... and he surprised us again, this time for our youngest. The fact that he did this for our boys still just touches my heart!

For Luke's 9th birthday we got him this signed picture of Nolan Ryan. Luke asked that we leave a note for Nolan, who would be coming to Angel's Stadium to sign the 30 paintings in this series, to be sure to have him sign his name as "Luke Ryan"... so it reads To Luke Ryan, Best wishes, Nolan Ryan. He also chose #9/30 because he was turning 9.... lucky for us I think that was one of the only ones left, whew! ;)
I think this jar of balls is probably one of my favorite things in his room... I especially like the beat up one in front with the seams busted!

Luke saw this chalkboard paint in a magazine and asked if we could use it on the closet panels. I love how it turned out! He and Reid love writing on it. Look at that little person Reid drew... ;)