If you’ve been around here for a while, you will know that I’ve been involved in a project at my kids’ school to help parents in the school community better understand Inclusive Education. The impetus behind this project
is described here: https://frootloopsblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/changing-the-conversation-part-1.
I’ve had the privilege of working with an amazing team of educators at my kids’ school to plan and present a series of workshops to parents on the topic of Inclusive Education. The most recent workshop was held last night. The title of the workshop was ” Response to Intervention: Addressing the Needs of All Students at [our school]”.
The bulk of the workshop was a fabulous presentation by a first grade teacher and our school’s Intervention Specialist. It was mostly about how the school uses assessment data to group kids, and plan lessons based on the specific skills each child needs to work on. The presentation began and ended with this graphic:
Using the image as a springboard, one parent raised her hand and said the following, “I really appreciate your presentation, and I’m trying to get some more clarity on this issue. I hope this question won’t seem insensitive, as that’s not my intention.” She paused, and then continued, “ I get that we want to provide enough boxes so that everyone can see over the fence. What I’m wondering is what would happen if we give everyone 3 boxes? Then everyone can see over the fence AND the kids who could see over the fence already could see even further! What would that look like?”
I think this question gets right at the heart of teaching people about inclusion and Inclusive Education.
When I see this graphic (and I’ve seen it many, many times), I see three kids who have the same goal. Let’s watch a baseball game together! The only problem is that, in the picture on the left, the two big guys are busy enjoying the game… while the only thing the little kid can see is fence.
When I see this graphic, it makes me so happy that the kids have figured out how to solve the problem. Cool! We have enough boxes!! All we need to do is transfer a box from the big guy to the little guy. Now we can all see!! Look at that… the Red Sox just scored a home run!!!
However, I think our society perpetuates a scarcity mentality. What’s in those boxes? How do I get one for my kid? I also think our society elevates individualism over community. Who cares about that little guy, as long as my kid can see the game… that’s all that matters. We’re seeing this writ large in national politics at the moment, and we can see it play out in our day to day lives.
Well I’m here to let you in on a little secret. THE BIGGEST THING I WANT FOR MY KID IS FOR HIM NOT TO NEED THE DAMN BOXES!
Just to demystify a little bit… let me tell you a bit about what’s inside my kid’s boxes. Our first boxes were delivered when G was just 9 months old. He wasn’t meeting his physical benchmarks, so he started working with a physical therapist. We added speech therapy and occupational therapy when he was two. Later, we added behavioral therapy and a play skills group. Did I mention we received all these boxes before he was even three years old?
I remember bursting into tears one day when G was five. We were just wrapping up a two-hour session with our behavioral therapist. I was saying good-bye to her in the driveway, and I happened to look across the street. Our neighbor and her five-year-old daughter were just returning home from kindergarten soccer. It was a beautiful spring day, and the little girl’s soccer uniform was practically glistening in the sun. Moments earlier, I had been on top of the world, thinking about the amazing progress G had made that day with his therapist. My high spirits came crashing down when I started thinking about what he was missing out on.
After three years with the behavioral therapist, we finally made the decision that G had made enough progress to “graduate”. While he still needs many other supports, he had acquired the specific set of skills she had to offer. Nothing makes me happier than to get rid of one of those boxes.
Back to the graphic… I think it’s a natural reaction to want the best for your kid. And maybe, when you see that someone else’s kid got two boxes, while your kid has none, it might raise some questions about the boxes. What I’m asking is to please, please…. think for a moment about what might be inside those boxes.
Those boxes represent ramps that make buildings handicap accessible. Those boxes represent assisted listening devices for kids who can’t hear. Those boxes represent hours of phonics instruction for kids who can’t hear the difference in the sound of a “p” versus the sound of a “d”. Those boxes represent aides who can support students in overcoming the obstacles they face due to autism, ADHD, anxiety, or a billion other disabilities. Those boxes represent whatever a kid needs so they can see the ballgame instead of the fence.
So again, I ask you…. let’s keep our focus on our goals as a school community. Heck, let’s keep our focus on our goals as a society. At the end of the day, it’s not about how many boxes you have. It’s about working together to make sure everybody can see the game.