Last week, Alyssa’s teacher at school decided to give the children an opportunity to pick their own seating, since we are approaching the end of the school year. The classroom has three large rectangle tables. Usually, Alyssa sits at the end of the middle table, providing a little more room for Alyssa and her Aide. The teacher kept Alyssa in her same seat. Then, the teacher drew names and the children selected their seats. I just want to tell you what Alyssa’s teacher shared with us. Alyssa’s table filled up first!!! In fact, Alyssa’s table was completely full and there were still 7 names to be drawn. The kids were not prompted, the seating wasn’t discussed… the children in Alyssa’s class chose to sit by her.
A mom of one of Alyssa’s classmates shared with me a conversation she had with her daughter. The mom asked her daughter who her best friend was and without hesitation the daughter replied, “Alyssa”.
One day, Alyssa was on the computer at school in the classroom. I am not sure of what program Alyssa was working with, but a crowd of classmates formed around her. Alyssa was beaming with excitement and laughing at the screen. The teacher took a picture and sent it to me. All of the children’s faces were lit up, including Alyssa’s. If a picture’s worth a thousand words, this picture shows how happy all of the children are together.
Several weeks ago, we invited one of Alyssa’s classmates to start coming over for regular play dates. Each week, I ask the friend if she wants to come over again. She smiles and says, “YES”, with enthusiasm.
Years ago, when we first started advocating for Alyssa to be in a regular general education setting, amongst her age appropriate peers – Inclusive Education - it was expressed to me, advocating for Alyssa would be the hardest thing we ever do. I look back on this warning and can tell you, it holds true. I wish I could tell other families, who have children with special needs, advocating for inclusive education was easy, but that would be false. However, I can say, it’s been the right choice.
I am not sure why inclusion is not automatic. I wish it was. I wish all children, including those with disabilities, were offered the same learning environments. I wish there were no self contained classrooms. I wish every professional, adult and parent could see what we have seen over the past couple of years. I know I am not delusional because I am hearing and watching the relationships amongst the children unfold, without being directed, coached, forced, prompted, or impelled. The kids are awesome!
All of these experiences bring me to the end of the school year, knowing Alyssa is exactly where she needs to be. Tears of joy, I tell you, tears of joy!! All of the beautiful interactions, Alyssa is making with her peers, speak loudly! I am very thankful to all the families, children and professionals who have been a part of the success and opportunity for Alyssa. You are making a huge difference! We cannot thank you enough for being a part of this journey, a part of the possibilities and a part of Alyssa’s happiness!
Thank you for reading and have a great week. Angie