As you might imagine, I didn’t sleep well last night and was a wreck this morning in anticipation of dropping Finn off at his new school for the first time – especially after his display of crankiness yesterday. I had visions of him coming unglued and making a scene and of everyone staring, open-mouthed, at him. I had visions of him taking off the moment someone took their eyes off of him, and my getting a call informing me that my son was missing. I had visions of him pooping at school. No, I’m serious! “Don’t poop, don’t poop, don’t poop, please don’t poop at school . . .” I kept telling him telepathically.
None of this came to pass. By all accounts, the day went really well.
When we arrived at school, we found a warm welcome for Finn just outside the classroom -
We hung his backpack up outside with all the other kids’ backpacks, and Finn went into the classroom without a backward glance. The classroom has a lot of stuff to distract and stimulate, so I was also worried that he would wander around the classroom and be uncooperative when prompted to attend to something that was maybe less fun than, say, the wooden barn with farm animals inside.
I know I’m making it sound like I expected him to just be a loose cannon in there, and maybe you’re thinking, “If that’s what you think,
then what in the hell makes you think he belongs in general ed?” So let me just say that all these things I’ve been worrying about are really things I just expect during an initial adjustment period. I know that in time, Finn will acclimate to the routine and do just fine.
In any case, after we left him in his classroom, the speech therapist (he’ll have one at this school for “consults,” but his regular speech therapy will continue to take place at a different school with the SLP who has been working with him for the last two years) and resource teacher showed me the restroom he’ll be using and went over the potty routine with me. They totally understand where he’s at with that, and really put my mind at ease about it.
We walked back over to the classroom and peeked in through the window and Finn was sitting on the floor with all the rest of the kids, listening to the teacher read. I felt a weight lift at that moment. Finally, I was able to breathe a little and I thought, “We did it. We got him here.” It’s absolutely shameful what the district put us through, but here he is – and had we not fought as hard as we did, he would be sitting in a completely different place.
I cried as we left – of course I did. You wouldn’t expect anything less, would you? Even Michael teared up (I’m probably not supposed to reveal that).
Later in the morning, the principal called me and told me she was sorry to have missed us this morning, but she wanted me to know that she watched Finn out on the playground for a while, and it seemed that all the kids were vying for his attention, wanting to show him
everything and to be his friend. The speech therapist emailed me pictures throughout the day, too. They all went over and above the call of duty to ease my mind, and I’m truly grateful.
When I arrived to pick Finn up, he was lining up with the rest of his class to gather backpacks and say goodbye to the teacher. I spent a few minutes with his teacher (and his aide for the day; the district still has not found a permanent aide for him) and was told that he had a great day. He transitioned from activity to activity very well, participated in activities, and was curious and friendly.
Next week I am going to go in and read My Friend Isabelle to the class and talk a little bit about Down syndrome.
Finally, I am feeling optimistic about all this.
I just want to add that this has me thinking about prejudice and inclusion, and how kids are naturally curious, but not naturally prejudice. Prejudice is taught – it’s learned. Kids are open, as evidenced by Finn’s experience today. Everyone was eager to welcome him, and nobody shunned him or rejected him based on his differences. It’s a shame that some of these kids will be taught to fear and feel repelled by and superior to Finn and other people with differences. If we could look at the innocence and openness of young children in how they view the world and other people – if we could harness that, wouldn’t the world be a more beautiful place?