I am passionate about inclusion. For those that read my blog or follow facebook.com/cailysworld you know that Gavin and I have fought very hard to raise awareness on the importance of inclusion and to find a place for our daughter, Caily in a Jewish school.
I was reading an article entitled, “Including our Children because we Can”. The author traveled to schools in many different countries and examined how different cultural and societal perspectives influence educational experiences and norms.
In Italy she watched a class of nursery kids get ready to play outside. The class teacher helped each kid put on their coat. The author suggested to the teacher that in the US the kids are taught from age 2 to put on the own coat using the “flip-flop-over-the-top”. The teacher responded: “If I did that then I will miss out on the opportunity to be at eye level with each kid and give everyone of them a hug each day”
In China she observed how kids put on smocks for artwork by tying them at the back. The teacher explained how by wearing them this way rather that the front the kids relied on the help of their peers and this taught kids essential skills. She also saw a group of kids playing with only one car. She offered to send the school extra cars from her class in US. The teacher opened a closet to reveal a pile of cars but she explained by only putting out a few cars the kids learn to play collaboratively.
In sharing these stories, the author shows how education environments can be so different and meaningful life lessons can be taught by simple and well-thought out constructs in the classroom. The lesson is that classrooms can be manipulated to achieve outcomes. And inclusion can be part of this design.
Now to SAR Academy, the only Jewish day school that bravely stepped up and accepted Caila with open arms and open hearts. Willingness to try is half the battle and we had success. Caily had a wonderful year. Here is part of her anecdotal that the school sent home.
“Getting to really know and understand who Caila is has been a true privilege. She is sweet, upbeat and playful, and she has brightened our days. She is a very special little girl. Caila’s “can do” positive attitude as she approaches each new situation and challenge is one of her greatest assets. She is eager to join in every part of our day, making sure she is always front and center. As the year has progressed we have seen Caila becoming more connected in the classroom, forming lovely relationships with the children and the teachers. She is very much a part of the N4 family. As she greets me each day with her huge grin and that wonderful sparkle in her eyes, she is so endearing and I can’t help smiling myself.”
Last week, I went to Caily’s final team meeting of the year. The team includes her therapists, teachers and the head of the Early Learning Center. Everyone had an opportunity to reflect on this year and there was not a single person in the room who did not shed a tear. I spoke about the apprehension about accepting a Down syndrome child for the first time, the fear of failure, the uncertainty. The beginning was difficult, many beginnings are. It was a huge adjustment for Caily and for the staff.
But slowly, Caily began to flourish and everyone celebrated each little success. With success came confidence and more success and by the end of the year, the unanimous opinion is that Caila had a spectacular year and has surpassed everyone’s most daring expectations.
Thank you to the wonderful SAR family. The gift you have given to our family, to Caily but also to the other children in Caila’s class cannot be expressed in words.
Time to close this chapter of Caily’s world, enjoy the success for a few moments……..and then start the pre-work for kindergarten over the summer………..
Originally published: June 19, 2013