We had our first conference since Sadie has been fully included. Last year her mainstreaming teacher, who is now her full time teacher, was less than excited or positive about Sadie being in her class. She only allowed her in class during "playtime" and would ask me to pick her up early if the scheduled changed and it interfered with that "playtime". I learned very quickly that her teacher did not understand mainstreaming or inclusion and was not on board. Some of her comments made me think she believed kids with Down Syndrome were unable to learn. Sadie is super verbal and has a huge vocabulary; but she is an observer. I love our ride home because she tells me everything that happened that day. Mrs. H hadn't heard her talk much and told me one time, "She was turning the pages to the book and she said apple!" Wow... seriously???
Anyway, I was worried when she showed up to Sadie's IEP believing that Sadie would be placed in her class this year. I know that ignorance needs to be educated and that by positive examples in our community negative stereotypes of people with down syndrome will be shattered. But, did I want to put my kid in a place where she would be responsible for changing the minds of so many that didn't believe in inclusion?
I remember during one of our Learning Program sessions Dana Halle said, "The most important thing to me when including my child is making sure the teacher wants my kid in her class. The best way to find out is to ask." So, that's what I did. I looked Mrs. H in the eyes and said, "all these plans are great; but, are YOU going to be HAPPY to see Sadie EVERYDAY? All I want to know is that she is wanted in your class." She didn't look offended and responded positively. I had my doubts.
I was worried for nothing. Mrs. H and Ms. A (her aide) are happy everyday to see her. They are genuine and kind and positive. Infact, while leaving the conference the resource teacher said, "I am really excited about this year. Sadie is doing terrific and you made the right choice to have her repeat kindergarten. Everyone is so proud of her. Inclusion works when everyone is on board. A world of difference from last year!" That about sums it up.
During the conference (and throughout the year when picking her up) her teacher gushed about how well Sadie is doing. Infact, there were times when I felt bad because I wasn't as excited as she was about Sadie. I think it is because I know what Sadie can do.... but, I will let Mrs. H think it is the inclusion that is working so well. Anyway, Sadie read us a book and showed us all her sounds and letters. Mostly they were excited for her endurance, focus, and ability to stay on task and do the work. There is some modifying happening (mostly fine motor). I'm cool with that. I want her to learn and be successful. Even if she wasn't doing the same work as her peers- she is happy to be with all the kids!
Sadie rocks and I'm happy with her placement this year. The only thing I don't like... all the crazy "tricks" she has learned on the monkey bars. Glad I don't have to see that everyday :)