This post was recently updated because everything herein was not true. A real bummer, folks.
So when I last left off on the ‘inclusion summer school’ saga I was confident I would prevail. I did but not in a way I ever expected.
Long story short for those of you who didn’t read my previous post – ‘The Pioneer Woman’ and aren’t going to – our son is in an inclusive classroom during the school year but no inclusive setting exists for kindergarten to first grade summer school in our district. Apparently,’ inclusion’ is like ‘wearing white after Labor Day’.
I tried various paths to a solution after meeting with the special education teacher at our school:
Summer school doesn’t come under an I.E.P. – individual education plan or what most parents who have been through one think of as the meeting you try not to yell or cry at – but it was discussed at T’s most recent one. No existing inclusive summer school program exists so the conversation then became why he should be in a non-inclusive classroom which is not what inclusion means. Your child is not entitled to an inclusive education if it is convenient. Inclusion is a right.
Imagine if your marriage vows had a rider that stated your
husband partner had to be faithful for just nine months out of the year? The conversation becomes about that ridiculous. Except when you are there in the room with them it is like ‘Heller without the funny’.
To her credit the special education teacher did encourage us to pursue our request with the district office. And to be fair we were not in the room with the decision-makers. Were we looking for an advocate? Sure. It does not mean you will get one.
Next step I emailed, posted and called everyone I could think of that could give me the most salient piece of information to take to District. First order of business find another parent in our State who had accomplished this seemingly Herculean task of having their child attend inclusion summer school.
FYI – do not reinvent the wheel if possible.
I posted on our local Down syndrome parents group Facebook page. What I got were stories worse than ours. Parents who had been told that their school cannot accommodate inclusion; children not just refused inclusion but who were bused fifteen miles from home and the school their siblings attend to be in a developmental classroom; parents trying to find disability lawyers; and, parents in legal battles with their school system. Even though it is illegal ‘separate but unequal’ still persists with regard to education for children with disabilities.
I called our State University which has a Center for Inclusion and Disability Studies program. The adage ‘Those that can, do. Those who can’t, teach’ is apt in this case. I spoke with a professor who was decent and kind and good and I knew more than he did.
FYI – The applied mechanics of advocacy is a learned-in-the- trenches-ordeal not a taught-in-the-classroom skill.
An aside – I have been asked on more than one occasion to take a course offered by an institution on how to advocate. They are grant programs universities and colleges receive to educate parents. What they should do is pay us to come in and get them educated. I would have an honorary doctorate by now.
After emailing and speaking to various other individuals I realized I was losing time. I emailed the director of special services.
Back story – I had very low expectations. This woman’s predecessor had never returned a single one of my emails or phone calls in the past. I eventually went over her head and got what I wanted.
FYI – Don’t waste time trying to make people be what you want. Just focus on getting what you want.
I sent my email. Eleven minutes later I got back a four paragraph email on the merits of inclusion! She also wrote that we should get together and talk! Un-eff’ing-believable! (Note TMZ-like punctuation.)
I am more familiar with avoidance prone professionals. I have went so far as to find out someone’s schedule and waited outside their office door. Sure – I had a pastry with me and I dressed up (nothing says, “Not crazy” like a pencil shirt and sensible heels) but we both know what I did. I stalked them. It’s really the last resort type of thing and only used with decision-makers.
I met with the director of special services last week. She told me the district had just received a pilot project grant for kindergarten to first grade inclusion summer school. Would we want T to attend? I told her “We would very much like T to attend.” (I waited to get back to my car to break down.)
She said it didn’t make sense to support inclusion only nine months out of the year. She said that would be back pedaling. She said that was not inclusion.
FYI – Sometimes advocacy isn’t a fight or a struggle. It is finding the right person.
I wished I had brought her a pastry!