Posted on June 24, 2011 in Inclusion
Well, today’s post is a long one but so worth taking the time to read. I am posting two emails. One came to me in 2006 and one came to me a few weeks ago.
In both letters, Candy thanks me for helping her start her journey. The truth is, if this were about me, stories like this would happen weekly. I talk to a lot of people in a given year but reports like this one are still all too rare. Therefore, the real applause clearly goes to Kacie, her mom, her teachers, and her friends. It is always amazing to me to see a family who just decides to push against the grain and create a different story than the one someone else has already created for them. Here is yet another creative way one family made inclusion happen. I often say that there is no ONE way to “get inclusion” and the more stories we have to learn from, the stronger we will be as we pursue this kind of future for larger numbers of learners. Thanks for letting us learn from your story, Kacie and Candy.
I attended your “Inclusive Schooling” seminar in Erie, PA. You were terrific!
During the intermission I asked you if my daughter (who has been in a life skills classroom for the past six years) could make a successful transition to an inclusive classroom as she entered high school. Your encouragement was very important in my decision to go ahead.
Our Special Education director said things like “She’ll be so bored”, “She can have hot chocolate in the life skills classroom!”, and “Oh Candy, are you sure?”, etc. During our scheduling meeting she read me a couple-page list of the things Kacie would be missing in life skills and said she wanted to be sure I knew what I was doing and that they would not want to be responsible for Kacie missing out on things she would need for her future. Truth be told, I didn’t pay much attention to what she was saying, my mind was made up.
I insisted on a French class. Lord knows I must be crazy, neither my husband or I have ever spoken a word of French, but our older daughter loved her French classes. I argued that I did not expect Kacie to be fluent in French; I would be happy if she learned ten to twelve words in the semester. Our principal, struggling with scheduling, suggested French II since we didn’t have expectations of her being fluent. I agreed, glad to just have finally won the French placement.
I apologize for the length, but I think you’ll like this story.
So, 8 days into school I received a call from our Special Education director telling me that the French teacher is extremely distressed. Here is Kacie (a freshman) in a class with only juniors and seniors, where only French is spoken. “This student is receiving NO socialization.” So I agreed to move Kacie from French II to the only other option they could find for her…Honors Science…with the understanding that she would take French I next semester. Kacie likes Science okay, but she really missed her French class and kept asking me when she could go back.
After talking to the PEAL Center I renewed my resolve and e-mailed the principal asking why Kacie couldn’t be in French I this semester. So they finally agreed to allow her to take a half a block of French I, (though expressing their concerns about the life skills she’ll be missing).
Now, the best part of the story, and I think the part that finally won their cooperation. This is what I wrote the principal right after this decision was made:
“Kacie attended 8 French II classes. She brought home 70 flash cards. We have not studied them since she switched to Science class 9 school days ago. She could read, interpret and pronounce 36 words, she knew what 8 of them meant and attempted pronunciation, and could attempt pronunciation but did not know the translation
for 26 of the words. These last 26 were cards she was given in the last day or two that she had class. At this point, socialization would not be our goal in that class. Kacie is learning French, and loving every minute of it. In spite of her concerns, Mrs. XXXXX must be doing a great job. Kacie has already achieved more than triple my
Thank you for your part in [Kacie’s success].
Five years later, here is the second email I received from Candy:
A few years ago I attended a seminar in which you spoke about inclusion. I had an opportunity to speak with you, and what you said convinced me to insist that my daughter, Kacie, be included in classes with her peers. It was a wonderful decision, and I’ve never regretted it.
I wrote to you several months later and told you about her experience with French class. She went on to spend four years in French classes and really enjoyed them.
Kacie was “graduated” with her class last year, went to the prom with a young man who also has Down syndrome, and had a graduation party. At graduation, I waited patiently all the way to the S’s as the students marched across the stage to receive their diplomas. When it was Kacie’s turn, she paused mid-stage and raised both fists over her head in a victory gesture. The applause was thundering. We were near the front of the auditorium, and it was only later that another parent approached me and asked me if I knew that Kacie had received a standing ovation. I still tear up thinking about it.
I’m writing today to tell you of an experience we had last week. This year Kacie was invited to the prom with a group of girls who are in her Meteorology class. She was so excited about going with her friends. They sent Kacie home with instructions asking us to bring her to a photo session at the house of one of the young ladies, followed by their taking her out to dinner with them, and then on to the prom. I was really touched by their thoughtfulness, but nothing prepared me for the phone call I received a few days later. The mother of the boyfriend of one of the girls called to see if we had a corsage for Kacie yet. Honestly, I’d forgotten all about flowers. She said that her son would like to purchase Kacie’s corsage and asked me what color Kacie’s dress was. I got through the phone call just fine, and then sat and cried.
None of this would have happened if I had allowed Kacie to be sequestered in the life skills classroom. You have my heartfelt thanks for the wonderful work you do.