Reflecting on Inclusion
As the school year ends I look at Caily with so much pride, she has achieved so much. Inside I tremble with fear.
I have always known that the younger years were going to be easier. Caily is very cute but cute only gets you through to a certain age. When your kid with special needs is younger it’s easier to protect them. Caily has been in an inclusion program since she was 2 years old. Towards the end of the year we got the first taste of some of the challenges. Caily has done so well academically and she kept up with the class. Socially as the year progressed we saw changes for the 1st time. The other kids language and play skills leaped ahead of Caily, these kids for the first time are also aware of differences and Caily too became self aware that she was different. The school handled the situation very well but as mommy my heart broke when Caily realized she was different.
Self awareness is an excellent developmental mile stone to achieve and important for successful inclusion. It is also a double edged sort for a child like Caily, as they navigate a world that’s not always friendly. A proactive and hands on team can create a truly inclusive environment yet I have been warned by pioneers ahead of me that 1st to 8th grade is the hardest time socially. I only have to reflect on the complicated social structures that my 10 year old daughter dealt with this last year to know why it will be hard for Caily.
We have friends whose daughter with Down syndrome did inclusion through high school. This wonderful young lady has a job and is getting married this month. Her mom is my guide and mentor. Through this family we know that inclusion works, it is worth it and that social challenges improve once her peers develop to a stage that they can see beyond themselves. I have them and all the successful inclusion grads as my beacons of light. I am however still scared as I know that I cannot shelter Caily in the same way anymore.
I know the journey is worth it and as my thank you note to her teachers read,
You guys were an amazing team and together you all helped Caily achieve so much. While she has her challenges she exceeds all expectations and she is changing the world in her own way by showing what is possible with DS.
Thank you each one for helping her reach for the stars.”
Originally published: June 21, 2014
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