I’m writing this letter for many reasons – I know that we all understand that our kids are individuals but what I think we need to be reminded of is that even if our kids all need the services of special ed, they all need the services which are individual to them.
This is difficult to manage and takes parents/guardians/families of the child to know what is best and to advocate for that child. Teachers may or may not be of assistance – hopefully they are but sometimes that is not the case. We are continually advocating with the school district for services but also other governmental agencies. It’s especially hard when one hears militant parents and advocates telling you what is best for your child when they do not have a clue about who my child even is.
As a parent of a child with very high support needs (although if one saw him you would never be able to know what his support needs are – looks are VERY deceiving) I have wrestled against the popular mainstream agenda since he was born. I have had discussions and arguments with many about self-contained versus inclusion and not one person who has known our son has ever suggested that an inclusion situation would be appropriate for him and for that I am grateful. We have known that he would thrive, learn and grow best in a self-contained classroom setting.
This by no means makes him isolated or cut off from community. He is able to fully participate in events that he chooses and from which he finds enjoyment. Forcing him to contain his enthusiasm about life to “fit” into a regular classroom would have killed his spirit.
I want parents to know that the self-contained classroom can be one of the best things there is if that is the right choice for your child. It certainly is not for many but for some, it is. Just because your child is enrolled in an inclusion classroom setting in no way means that that child is “included”. Many of these kids are put into situations without the needed support and this causes much anguish not only for that child but for other kids in the class and for the teachers.
Many may not be able to understand this position – maybe their kids are still young or maybe they don’t need constant support and 1:1 engagement to stay focused or on task or maybe they are in denial of the disability. Sometimes, I think the denial part is a driving force from some to prove that their child will fit in and be “normal.”
My son cannot be cured and our hopes for him are to live a happy life filled with joy. We are not trying to fit him into a mold that he will never be able to form to but rejoice in the mold that he came with. Working within the framework of what abilities and skills he has and what he can do, we give him as many opportunities to grow, learn and live with as few frustrations as possible.
With that I can truly say that our son is one of the most joyous, happiest of young men that you may ever meet.