As we’re sitting in Kindergarten Information Night and the teacher is talking the group through what to expect over the year for our children, special needs children comes up in the conversation.
A parent, near the back of the room asks “special needs kids in the classroom? what do you think about that?” The teacher looked surprised at the question (instantly winning points with me) and answers something along the lines of “it’s fine” and “a past child with Cerebral Palsy did quite well” BUT my defenses were already up.
First of all…. children with disabilities are not “special needs kids” – they are kids that require extra support and attention; all our kids are special and their needs are unique to them. I prefer “Child/Parent Led Education” or “Inclusive Education”. I understand that the term special needs is widely used and accepted but when it comes to education, I feel like it immediately isolates children into categories.
What does get my defenses up is the tone of which the question was asked “about that?”
ABOUT WHAT? About a child with equal entitlement to an education? To a child capable of achieving goals and meeting challenges in their own way (no different than any other typical kid)? About an inclusive community and educational system? Inclusion benefits everyone, especially at the Kindergarten age. It provides the opportunity to learn about acceptance, and kindness, and understanding differences.
I wanted to shout it out and inform each parent there what the benefits of an inclusive classroom can provide but…… my husband put his arm out. Stopped me from finding out exactly which mom asked the question in that tone and suggested that maybe she didn’t mean it the way it came out. She did mean it that way but I understood what he was saying. I don’t have to pick every battle. I didn’t need to fight this battle, especially considering we were there for Poppy, not Ben.
The thing is… parents of children with disabilities have to fight for everything. It becomes instinct and second nature and speeches no longer need to be prepared because you have your advocacy points memorized. I feel like a huge part of my job as Ben’s parent is to educate and be the voice that he doesn’t have; I say this all the time but not everyone is going to want to hear what I have to say and I have to consider place and time.
So while I kept my mouth shut this time (but admittedly, had to excuse myself from the room to take deep breath), rest assured that come September, I will find a way for Poppy and I to show her classmates how important inclusion is and what it means for her to have a big brother with “special needs”.