Boo is in an integrated preschool. A school where for every child that has a disability there is one typical child. The disabilities range from autism to ADHD to Down Syndrome to Cerebral Palsy to Boo. At a quick glance at the class you might not be able to tell which child is typical and which child is brilliant.
Which is the whole point of the program.
Okay maybe it isn't the whole point. However the point could be made that by exposing our children to typical will allow them to grow social skills that come naturally to their peers. The peers learn empathy, patience and that not everyone is the same.
All good, right?
Except the other day when it wasn't.
My friend was walking into school with her child. Behind her another mother was walking in with their own. She heard from behind her, "who's that"?
The child replied, That is X. He doesn't talk.
Instead of letting it go or saying something....ANYTHING positive the mother was heard shushing her and saying "that's not nice".
Here is the thing. What the girl said wasn't wrong. It wasn't mean. It wasn't "not nice". It was true. Kind of. X can talk. But he has autism so you have to be looking at him and engage him for him to talk back to you.
X's mom left feeling like her son was weird. Like he is misunderstood. This one place in the universe (outside his home) was supposed to be the safe place for us. A place where our child is accepted for who they are.
I adore Boo's program. I love each and every one of her teachers and therapists. But I worry they might be missing an important component. I understand privacy laws and all that crap. However the typical children should be made aware (in words they understand) why X doesn't talk to them. Why Boo doesn't play appropriately with them. Why oh why in words a young child understand all children are not the same.
That all children, typical and brilliant are all special in their own way.
I am sure they do teach it. But the other day the lesson was lost and a mom went home feeling her son was weird. I think there needs to be more done. More parent teaching. Yes, I know we cannot get parents to come to a PTA meeting who can we get them to an inclusion training?
There is an answer somewhere. It starts with the letting the children teach the parents. It doesn't stop at an integrated preschool but an integrated school environment. One where every day there is a brief moment of education of those with challenges. Awareness helps but until you ask you do not know, so you guess. It's perfectly normal. Being aware is knowing autism exists. Being knowledgeable is knowing what autism is. We need to let inclusion bring more than awareness but knowledge.
If we can not let a 5 year-old ask the question, how can the 18 year-old know?