I’d like to share this blog post with you that I wrote but never posted. Since writing this my son has moved to a regular school with a lot of help. Though he is thriving and happy, behind the scenes there has been much fighting and disarray. In September my son was left home for a week because nobody was promising the unpaid staff that at some point they would actually get paid. Today I got a phone call again saying that my son could not come to school, as the staff could not continue to work without getting paid. That whole story may be for another blog post; for now I’d like to share with you our vision of inclusion, and why it seems so hard for us to attain:
When I think of inclusion I think of hordes of different kinds of kids frolicking together, smiling, laughing and playing. Kids of all races colors and creeds, the physically gifted and the physically challenged, the intellectual giant and the intellectually handicapped finding mutual ground or reveling in their differences in an environment that fosters and breeds respect, caring and learning. While that may be a pipe dream, or a cheesy load of crap, depending on your perspective, true inclusion could and should somewhat resemble the fantasy I described. Unfortunately for kids like my son, there is no true inclusion. There are some private programs that do amazing things. Tellingly, spaces in those schools are limited as kids from hours away clamor for the few spots available in each class.
In a rare moment of hope for our national educational system I received a letter from my son’s school that in accordance with the new law we now have the right to choose a regular education school as opposed to a special education school for our son. It came at just the right time, as my high functioning son may be outgrowing his school. And a word about my son (who, by the way, is super cute and awesome). My son has a rare chromosomal abnormality that presents itself with overall developmental delay and comes with some medical complexities. The most noticeable and difficult aspect of my son’s syndrome is the accompanying speech processing disorder. And yet, with a severe speech processing disorder, my son is fully bilingual.
So, the new law. My friend from the States whose son is in school with mine told me not to get too excited. There is no program yet. No one is really taking responsibility for building a program. Nobody really believes in this program. I did not listen. I am an excellent educator (I hope!). I am good at research. I am good at organizing things that are not my house. I don’t need them, I am perfectly capable of building a program for my son myself.
How wrong I was. He won’t even get special ed hours mandated for him. Kids with ADHD and mothers who get practitioners to lie for them saying that their son has some form of PDD get more support than we do. The school will do what it can based on the hours my son receives as part of his “taktziv.” No more IEPs. Who would do them? No hasa’a. The Ministry of Education will place him where they can, but won’t help us get him there. My friend asks “who wants this program to succeed?” Everyone of course. She and I and the 3 other parents out of hundreds who dare try and do something different for our children.
We want to tear our hair out. Those of us who want something different for our children want to scream and cry-and sometimes we do. You can choose whichever school you want, but I can not even take a tour of another school before them coming to see my son in his school setting to decide if they want him. PDD kids and regular kids and everyone who is not us get to go and choose and get support and the representative of the new program says: “You understand that your child will be in a class with 30 kids. By doing inclusion he will not be entitled to any special ed. The classroom teacher will not be given any special training. Maybe you want to wait until next year?”
Our children are at turning points in their development. The educational system is at a turning point in its development. You, those who are in charge of education in this country, can effect real change to help us, our children, your children. I challenge you to help us. I challenge you to educate our children. To be creative. To make daring decisions. To spend some money on us this time. Or will you be content to continue hiding them away in the one school, amazing as it is, but the one school that can possibly handle them, until such time as they are ready to start busing your tables? Our children want to learn; will you teach them?