That title sounds kind of desperate. I won’t be ashamed, though. I’m a little desperate. I’m new age enough to tell you that my feelings are valid and wonderful, and I have a right to express them. And I will. I feel desperation. Anger. Frustration. I want my son to be included. Everywhere and often.
I want him to be included in the park. I want the group of boys he’s trying to play with to understand that he doesn’t understand, and that all he wants to do is play with them. I want their mothers to take a minute to assess the situation before telling them not to play with him if he’s bothering them. I want my son to not have to turn to me and say: “I want friends. Where can I find friends?”
I want him to be included in schools. A new law was passed in Israel opening the door to inclusion. There are a lot of kids who will benefit from the law, but probably not my son. This is because in Israel there is a pervasive idea that Special Ed Kids need Special Ed Schools. Special Ed Kids belong in Special Ed Schools. We were advised, at a meeting with a representative of the new law, not to put our son into this program that’s not a program. They have not built a program. They are winging it. Maybe in five years there will be a program to benefit kids with overall developmental disabilities, but not yet. Not now. So my son, who is doing well and rises to challenges and is greatly motivated to learn, goes…where?
They tell me my son is happy and succeeding. He has friends. He is a leader. Why mess around with that? In a school for higher functioning kids, or a regular school (gasp!) he might feel bad. He might not run as fast. He might not catch the ball in gym class. He might not be able to keep up with the class. Who am I to argue? They are the special education experts. I am just the mother. The one who sees him at home, laughing, telling stories, singing the songs he makes up on the spot, making a mess, beating me at Uno and annoying his siblings. Who’s the expert on my son?
At the end of the day we all, the Special Education experts (them), the expert mother (me) and the experts on life (people), carry around with us an unconscious bias. Where and how we were raised permeates the way we view life and situations and how we make our decisions. In Israel the pervading thought is that children with special needs should be in their own school. In the U.S, where I hail from, inclusion is the norm. My son has not suffered in the solely Special Ed framework. Quite the opposite. We have been very blessed with phenomenal educators, therapists and individuals who have worked tirelessly with my son to get him to where he is today. His teacher this year and last year is particularly talented, engaging and amazing. I just feel that it might be time for him to move on. However, there are lingering questions: Where should my son go to school? Which schools will take him? Additionally, we are all experts on him in some way, as educators and parents, but we all bring our bias to the table. So who can say which of us is right?
There is only one thought that I am left with: In the park two generations of people were not kind to my son. They didn’t have to include him. They didn’t even have to be nice, I guess. I just can’t help but think that if we opened all the school doors and mixed the different learning populations together, or at least exposed them to each other in a real and meaningful way, that my son would not have to ask me “where can I find friends?.”