Picture this…. I am approached by a parent last year. She comes to me to find out what the risks are for having Alyssa in the same classroom as her child. I share with her, the research I have read indicates classrooms with children who have special needs, do not go backwards and often do better than other classes. The research doesn’t indicate failure, instead, success. See, when children help one another, they become stronger together. Your child may learn how to be around someone who is different, while giving my child a chance to be influenced positively in her learning by the power of example. You have to know, this mom has changed my life forever, in a good way. Her honesty and fear helped me see what others may also be feeling.
The truth behind the hidden camera, it is likely, there are families who would prefer children with special needs not be in the same classes as their own wonderful kids. The fear is real and significant. I understand. The fear defines our desire for our children to be and do their best, within their educational experience. This is the same thing I desire, for my Alyssa. I hope and pray, on a consistent basis, for Alyssa to be able to achieve enough learning and create enough relationships, so when we, her parents, are no longer available, she will be able to function in a society, without being thrown into an institution or group home, without being placed on disability for an income, without dependence. I live and breathe my fear.
After preschool, children with special needs are sometimes placed in self contained classrooms, away from typical kids. It is very difficult for me to talk to you about this. It breaks my heart and brings me to tears to think of Alyssa being thought of as “less” than any other child, and not worthy of being around her classmates in a stimulating, learning environment. Back to the research momentarily, the research shows, children who are in self contained classrooms, do not typically make the strides shown, by including them with their typical peers, in a regular classroom. Maybe you wonder why? When you have two children who have limited communication skills and you put them together, they are not able to advance each others weakness. However, when you place a child with limited communication with typical children, the child is impacted by many super communicators. It’s awesome. It opens up the door for unlimited learning opportunities.
Years ago, in preschool, there was this sweet little girl who came to me and said, “Alyssa can come over to my house for a play date”. I replied, “You should probably ask your mom”. She said, “Its okay, my mom is fine with it”. To this day, I am impacted by this conversation in ways I cannot explain. This I know, Alyssa would not have had this opportunity, if she were in a self contained classroom. That be said, I love this little girl. I am so deeply touched by her expression and her willingness to be a friend with my daughter. Later, this little girl came back to me and said, “It’s okay if Alyssa doesn’t talk”. Thank you! A four year old has permanently affected my heart. If only we could all be so kind and not care about differences. Children are incredible. For me, they bring laughter to my life and fill my heart with hope and joy.
Alyssa is making beautiful progress this year and she is impacted greatly by all of her peers. I believe in Alyssa. She is so much more than what we might see on the surface. For us parents, we both have fears, hopes and desires for our children and I bet they are very similar. There is always a chance I will be scrutinized, by others. I am always at risk, of the possibility, someone out there, may prefer for Alyssa, to not be around their children. Once again, my heart breaks, but my passion for Alyssa and her opportunity to have the same experiences as other kids and the chance to become something later in her life, guides me to doing what is right for her. I shift my fear into trust. I trust I am making the right choice.
Thank you for reading and have a great week!!! Angie