inclusion – and a walk to dunks


{image is a visual depiction of inclusion, symbolized by a circle of paper dolls in a variety of colors, shapes, sizes and abilities. Borrowed from EduGlobal.}

It’s the first day of The Rest Of The Summer – the three weeks in between the end of Brooke’s summer program and the beginning of school. Our lives are in flux. I’m still out of work and frankly struggling mightily with my own lack of predictability and structure, no less Brooke’s.

I suggest a walk. I know, however, that if I say, “Let’s go for a walk,” the answer will be, “No, thank you; I’ll just stay here,” so I say, “Hey, want to go get Dunks for breakfast?”

My little ruse works. We are out the door by nine. That’s something.

As soon as we hit the main road, we see a girl from Brooke’s school walking toward us with her mom. The girl, J, breaks into a huge smile upon seeing Brooke and greets her warmly. “Brooke,” she says, “I heard you moved into our building!” Brooke says, “You did?”

J asks if she’s gone for a swim in the pool yet. Brooke says, “I think so,” and then breaks into a song that she learned from her friend, H. “Bah bah black sheep do you want to die? No sir, so sir, keep me alive.”

I blanch, knowing that without the context that’s far too lengthy to explain, the song sounds, well … really, really wrong. “Brooke, honey,” I say, “they don’t know what that song means.”

Giggling, she looks at J and says, “Do you want to sing it with me?” To my surprise and delight, J says, “Sure,” and sings along to a second run-through of the song.

“I’ll have to call my friend,” I say to the mom, “and tell her to thank her son for teaching us that delightful little ditty.” She smiles.

Brooke and I say our goodbyes and walk toward Dunks. “What a nice girl,” I say to her. “It was kind of awesome that she did your scripts with you, wasn’t it? Not every kid does that.”

“Yeah,” she says, brightly.

We keep walking.


The moment we step into Dunks, I see her at the counter. Brooke does too, but she’s obviously not sure how to make her approach. After circling her a few times, she points a finger at the end of an outstretched arm and says, “Look who it is!”

I tell her that I see who it is, and suggest that she comes around to say hello. Instead, she pokes her head in front of her favorite school receptionist, and simultaneously (and LOUDLY) they both say, “THAAAAAAAT’S IT, SO HAVE A GREAT DAY!”

On impulse, I hug her. I would never hug her at school, but here, at the counter at the local Dunks, I can’t help myself. She hugs me back and whispers in my ear, “I just love our girl.”

Brooke starts in again, and Mrs. H is right there with her. People are looking at them as they say it again: “THAAAAAAAT’S IT, SO HAVE A GREAT DAY!” The guy in line behind me looks annoyed. Since we’re not holding anything up, I decide I don’t really care. My kid is in heaven.

Every single day during the school year, Brooke goes down to the main office to find Mrs. H so that they can do their thing together. It’s what they do. It’s how they connect. It’s one more adult, one more space, one more point of interaction and safety and predictability – one more person who gets – and loves -‘our girl.’

For good measure, they do it one more time. “THAAAAAAAT’S IT, SO HAVE A GREAT DAY!” before Mrs. H heads off. Brooke is all smiles.

I have argued for Inclusion for a long time. The word means a lot of different things. Brooke is technically not in an ‘inclusive’ setting in school. Her program is, by definition, a substantially separate classroom. For her, that IS the least restrictive environment in which it is possible to effectively access the curricula – both social / emotional and academic. But she is not separated from her peers.

The program is part of the school in which it’s housed. Its presence is not just geographical, but ideological. She is in a small homeroom with kids from outside her program – the same kids for all three years at the school, so they have a real opportunity to get to know one another. She has support in Chorus and Art and P.E. and Health so that she can participate in all of them with the general population. Right there in her IEP under Additional Comments is the sentence that I added and that I have insisted carry over every year. The one that says it all:

Above and beyond the extended day support provided in the service grid, Brooke will have 1:1 support for all extra curricular activities in which she opts to participate, including but not limited to all clubs, concerts, shows and musicals.

While she is in a program that gives her what she needs, she is part of the life of the school. And it shows. Not just from September to June, but in the middle of August, on a walk to Dunks.




5 thoughts on “inclusion – and a walk to dunks

  1. I love how you wrote it, and what it means is wonderful for our baby and her school.

    I love you so very much and your girls are so lucky to have you, and by the way, so am I.



  2. I love that part you have in the IEP. I’m currently advocate acting for those opportunities for my daughter.

    She wanted to be involved in a play and the school declined her support. You’ve encouraged me to try harder when we meet soon. Thank you

  3. Ok! You have me in happy tears! I’ve seen this system work for Brooke. It’s been amazing to witness the growth of our girl.

    Love you,

  4. We’re in California. I wonder if we can put that in Baguette’s IEP. Because that’s awesome.

    Right now we are fighting to get the afterschool care program provided at her school to accept her. They are dragging their feet, even though we are providing a 1:1 through the county Regional Center. I’m trying to figure out what our recourse is, and what other options there are if we’re not able to get her in.

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