This past February, I spoke at a meeting of our town council on behalf of the desperate need to maintain our Special Education budget. Our town was in a fiscal crisis and there were many people at the meeting representing worthy programs and services. Many of them made articulate pleas before the council to protect their piece of the pie in the face of looming cuts.
In my remarks about Special Education, I outlined Brooke’s story. I told the council that had our town’s integrated preschool not existed or had it not had the extensive services that it does, there would have been a significant likelihood that she would have ultimately been placed out of district in a substantially separate learning environment. “Truly,” I said, “had one piece of the puzzle of her support system not been in place, the results would have been disastrously different. Without one ABA therapist, one speech or occupational therapist, she would not be on the path toward inclusion.”
“Ultimately,” I told the councilmen (and women), “that would have cost the town far more, not just in terms of the exorbitant cost of out of district placement, but also in the immeasurable loss of what she brings to her classroom every day.”
I spoke with a mother’s immodest pride. I did not hide the fact that I truly believed that other children – the general education kids – would be losing something of tremendous value if Brooke were not able to participate in their education just as she would lose a great deal without them.
The way that I conceptualized that added value at the time was largely (if not completely) intangible. It was all touchy feely stuff like tolerance and understanding and appreciation of human diversity.
I would never have imagined when I spoke that night that just nine months later I would have concrete evidence that my baby girl is an honest to God asset to her class – that she is actually helping her typical peers learn.
But here it is, my friends. Without further adieu, I bring you show and tell #2. The following is an excerpt from The Weekly Kindergarten News that Brooke’s classroom teacher puts together.
Brooke’s Occupational therapist recently introduced her to this wonderful program called Mat Man. He is a delightful tool used to help young children learn to draw. The OT uses him to develop body awareness and to work on drawing and counting skills. Much to Brooke’s delight, Mat Man comes with his very own song (to the tune of “the bear went over the mountain”). The OT sent home a laminated paper version of Mat Man and between working on him at school and at home, Brooke has become a Mat Man creator extraordinaire.
During art time last week, Brooke’s classroom teacher was reminding the class to draw their people with bodies. The typical evolution of a child’s rendering of a person apparently begins with a face. From there, kids typically add arms and legs that stick right out of the head. Finally, around age five, they begin to add bodies.
Brooke’s aide watched the teacher instruct the kids and she was stuck by an idea – Mat Man! She explained the concept to the teacher and the next thing you know, Brooke is teaching the Mat Man song to the class!
Brooke used her special education tools to help her typical classmates. She no doubt had a sense of accomplishment and some awareness that she was bringing a new skill to her friends that they needed help with.
My daughter is a part of the fabric of her classroom. And modesty be damned, there’s no question in my mind that she makes it richer for her presence.
Brooke – November, 08