Friday, September 16, 2011

School update

This just in from Sallyanne, who is acting as Ben's special needs assistant:  Ben was invited to the football game next Friday and is very excited about it!

The football game? The school he's going to is known for its athletics.

Alden, one of the school monitors, has taken a liking to him and invited him. Alden also spoke to the captain of the football team who is going to introduce himself to Ben next week and also invite him to watch the game.

We are starting to recognize students and interact with them in the halls.

Ben was talking about the Halloween dance today and remembered that when we went to visit the buddy office yesterday, they were playing video games.

I'm hoping to start a discussion with Ben to see what club he'd like to join.

He is clearly challenged here in a good way and likes school. He is recognizing staff and the school. I no longer have to tell him which way to turn or which classroom -- he knows.

The photo above was taken the day before school started. We went to Cherry Beach. I was a wreck, as I had been all summer, worrying about whether I made the right decision to change Ben's school.

I was told that there was no way this placement could work for Ben. That he would not get the supports he needs and would not be able to interact with the typical students. Such a dire picture of Ben was presented at our first visit to the school that I had to interject with: "He is a human being."

I tried to allay my anxieties by telling myself that even if the school was marginally better than the segregated school, it would be an improvement. I actually have a list posted in my office of all of the reasons why I have to move forward with the school change. Things like "I need to let Ben take risks to grow. We need to give Ben the opportunity to interact in a mainstream setting. Ben may learn more in this setting. We won't know if we don't try."

There were so many times during the summer when I felt -- I can't do this. Perhaps I should just go back to the segregated school. At least he's safe there.

It reminds me of a mom who told me she practically had a nervous breakdown trying to get her daughter's IEP changed. She wasn't asking for much. One of the requests was that her daughter send her an e-mail from school every day, to build on her computer skills.

A colleague asked me the other day -- how did you get Ben into this regular school when they they didn't want him? I remembered that during one of my meetings when I was being told that this was not a possibility for Ben, the board person added: "But if you ask for it, there's nothing I can do."

So I contacted our trustees and superintendent and I asked.

If only I knew that three years ago when Ben was leaving the Metro School for the Deaf -- the best year of school he ever had. Louise



Educating a child with a disability is difficult not because they are dull minded or unable to grasp abstract concepts, but because they learn at a slower pace, and sometimes, a different manner than the average student. Moreover, school boards have yet to implement the right supports for the majority of those with disabilities to succeed academically, such as, learning strategists or an extended school year. These requests are not unreasonable once one stops to consider that no child with a disability has the ability to pursue summer school, as support staff are off for the summer and classes progress at an even quicker pace.

Futhermore, I failed miserably at university, only to discover the proper techniques ten years after the fact. And, although I wish that I could go back, there is a greater battle which must be waged: continued medical care for adults with disabilites.

I pray that parents everywhere will understand my choice.


Hi Louise,

It's me again... Sometimes, I get caught up on how difficult things can be that I forget to count my blessing. So, I just wanted to take a moment to say, "I'm really happy for you and D'Arcy, but especially for Ben."

I also think that if Ben speak at will, he would tell us, "Everyone is perfect and beautiful just the way they are. Everyone Belongs."

May Ben continue to show the way and surprise us all.

Matt Kamaratakis