I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research on how Larkin will transition into Kindergarten. She has another year after this in Early Childhood and it could be that if she benefits from one more year there she will stay put.
What I am struggling with is that the pendulum has gone from self contained classrooms for those with special needs, all the way to the other side of inclusion that has taken away my right to keep Larkin in a self contained classroom if that is what is best for her. I grow weary of reading blogs and listening to other parents that don’t want any type of seclusion for children with special needs. I am happy that there are children that function at a level that allows them to enter a general education classroom but mine doesn’t. I am happy that there are children who function socially at a level that allows them to interact with peers and learn but mine doesn’t. However as it stands in Unit 4 – Larkin will not have a functional IEP when she transitions. So I am trying to change that …. cause I need one more thing to do.
As I left school last week I was reading Larkin’s physical therapy notes. I realized as I read and walked …. we have been working on the same goals for 3 years. 3 years. Three years. 2+1 years. 1+2 years. Tres years. The difference is that we are now seeing her make these goals. We are seeing a difference in our girl and it has taken a great deal of patience, love, tears, anger, frustration, and at times – wanting to throw in the towel, to work through over time but guess what – she is making her goals. Just takes her a little longer. Slow and steady wins the race as my friend RaeAnn says.
Larkin will learn best with fewer children in the room, more one-to-one contact, and life skills training. Intensive therapy for her school day along with play. Learning to feed herself, potty training, perhaps learning 3-4 signs, and one of my biggest dreams is that she will hold a crayon and draw with it – one day.
For those who need an explanation here are the differences in terms:
Mainstreaming is a child w/ IEP going into a regular ed. class with the expectation that they will handle the coursework like any other student with some modifications if necessary. Inclusion is a child w/ IEP who is going into the regular ed. class with the expectation that being in there is beneficial socially. They are being “included” in the activities of their same age peers, but they are not expected to be performing like them academically. Therefore, you may have a child in an inclusion situation where they may cover similar topics, but the work is set at their level.
Larkin does not need to be paired with an aide that will walk her around the building with 3 other students as they go through their IEP schedule. For example Larkin would be paired with an aide who would also have 2 more children to work with. Those 2 other children can be of any age or functional level. If child A has gym then Larkin and child B would go to gym and sit and watch while child A has gym time. Larkin has gym time then child A,B would follow her to gym and sit and watch and so on and so forth. Does that sound to anyone like a functional quality day of school? Doesn’t to me and it simply won’t happen on my watch.
I just read a blog that said “Special (segregated) programs are not necessary, nor desirable. They are, in fact, extremely harmful. These programs separate students from the mainstream and perpetuate the negative stereotypical belief that people with disabilities do not belong in the mainstream. These special college programs–like other special programs–represent an artificial environment that insults, demeans, and marginalizes.”
Can you hear me screaming as I read this? And this is from a blog from a mother with a child with special needs. Isn’t that nice that she pigeonholed my child because of her opinion based upon her own child’s functional level.
For MY child she needs segregated programs during parts of her day. For MY child she needs an environment that said blogger feels is “artificial” because it is what WORKS for MY child. And I happen to know there are many children that would benefit from certain parts of their day being programmed this way.
Larkin will have interaction with typical role models and her peer group. Art, music, gym are all areas where children can come together and accept, play, grow. But she doesn’t need to be strapped into a chair and forced to work on skills that will not benefit her because “someone” “somewhere” decided that all kids need inclusion for their entire day.
I met with the Unit 4 special education director last week and I was pleased to learn that Unit 4 has finally hired an inclusion coordinator. Albeit a part time position and one for the entire district – at least we are making progress. Ideally every school would have an inclusion coordinator but we seem to keep spending money on attorneys in the district for a consent decree for one class of individuals – which has caused a failure for another group because of budget issues.
I can’t fight it all today but I plan to fight for Larkin’s right to an education that works for her and her needs. Urbana district 116 runs a beautiful program called ASSIST which does meet the criteria for Larkin. I keep asking WHY doesn’t Unit 4 have the same? So I plan to work with the special education director to address the issue and make a change.
I can quote chapter and verse Wright’s Law and Larkin’s rights per the state and federal level. What I want is what is best for Larkin and those like her with significant issues. It was for this very reason that I started work on Larkin’s Place. What is her place? She doesn’t fit into any specific disability role and I will fight against those who try to force her into their version of it. She is a little girl, a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a niece but above all else she is Larkin and her needs should be met right in the middle of the pendulum.
3 years is a breeze when you learn to work at the pace of your child vs the pigeon hole – slow and steady baby – and when our children are the focus – all of humanity benefits.