I did meet with Ms. A and Ms. S. after vacation… and it was the start of an amazing conversation. To parents of typically developing kids, the world of Special Education must seem very mysterious and confusing. When the administrators tried to assure parents at the meetings that they had taken many steps to address the behaviors within the classroom, the words fell flat. I think that is largely because most people aren’t familiar with the breadth and depth of interventions that can be implemented when trying to address challenging behavior. As a parent who has been a witness to behavior modification plans of all stripes and colors, I could easily fill in the gaps that the administrators left in their communication. But most parents would not have the experience to do this.
What would it take to fill that knowledge gap? How could we change the conversation so that parents of typically developing kids could have some of the same understanding that those of us with special needs kids have?
Ms. A was excited to bring the idea back to her ESP team. The idea was well-received by her colleagues. They started working on an “Introduction to Inclusion” workshop over the summer.
Meanwhile, back in our neck of the woods, our new principal started work over the summer. Wouldn’t you know, the top item on his agenda was sharing information about Inclusion with the parent community. In fact, he planned to dedicate the first PTO meeting of the year to this topic.
And so it is that the pieces started coming together. We met as a team: the new principal, the ESP team, myself and another parent. We brainstormed how to get the message out to the parent community. How to validate some of the very real concerns that came out of last year’s difficult situation, while at the same time reversing some of the misconceptions that had taken root. It was a very exciting process.
At a certain point, I felt compelled to make a decision about whether I wanted to speak at the presentation, or listen as part of the audience. Part of me knew the answer before I’d even posed the question to myself.
As an activist, you often walk the fine line between personal privacy and advocacy. I always think long and hard before I share personal details about my life or my children’s lives. In this case, I decided that advocacy needed to trump privacy. This presentation needed a human face to it in order for our message to hit home. It filled me with trepidation, to return to the same room that had been filled with angry, frustrated parents and share a personal story, but I felt it was important to do so.