I recently spoke to an elementary special education class at our local university as a follow-up to the viewing of the documentary: Including Samuel. I was invited as someone at the beginning of the school journey; and, was joined by two other moms whose children had been in the system for a while. The professor had this poster outside of her office door:
I must say, I smiled wide when I saw what (and whom)she'd added to it. Funny, but when I first saw this poster, it was in the hallway at our local elementary school, and I remember thinking, "that's interesting, we should make a similar poster with Aidan on it."
Then, during our discussion, one of the guest speakers spoke about "normalcy" and not separating our children with special needs out. She is an advocate for as complete inclusion as possible. Her daughter is not pulled out of the class for most therapies - those are done at home. She spoke about how important it is to her that we NOT make our children the "poster child" for disabilities.
Hmmm. Suddenly I had to re-think everything I've been doing since Aidan was born. So far his photo has been on the side of a bus, in the paper, and he's been on television three times (twice about Music Therapy, once for the Telus Flight with Santa). I post his photo all over our flickr family page, and have joined three flickr groups about Down syndrome, and started one myself called Down syndrome in the Family. Not to mention blogging about Aidan and Down syndrome in the 31 for 21 challenge, and posting on Facebook about Spread the Word to End the Word campaign. I even went so far as to have my on-line friend Erin make this poster for me:
Why have I done all this?
For advocacy, ironically.
To show the world how much we love Aidan; and to show the world just how amazing and capable he is.
Now, have I been inadvertently achieving the opposite of what I set out to do? Have I been moving Aidan backwards instead of forwards? Have I kept Aidan in the box on the shelf labeled "disabled?" Have I opened the doors for inclusion to happen naturally and effectively, or have I placed hurdles in Aidan's path?
I have to keep thinking about this. It's good to get different perspectives, and it's good to question ourselves sometimes.
At any rate, these are the thoughts that keep me up at night.
Good-Bye Grade 5
2 weeks ago