I’ll be honest, I skipped the big gym-speech, where parents are packed in like sardines, it’s hot, they talk about the same things every year, introduce the staff, and you can’t hear anything anyway because of all the people who came late, and are having full-voice conversations in the lobby. See, we were a bit late ourselves because we had decided to walk to avoid the parking lot madness. Rather than be a part of the lobby-talker problem, we ventured down to the ASD room to wait for The Boy’s teacher. Technically, The Boy was not supposed to be there, but his teacher had told me to bring him, as she wasn’t speaking, and it would mean a second night of babysitting for him if I didn’t.
I was tired and cranky, and probably not in the right frame of mind. I ventured to his 5th grade teacher’s room at the appropriate time, and listened to her speak at lightening speed to make sure she got everything in by the time the session had ended. I listened for awhile, anyway, and then I tuned out for a bit, wondering how much of her speech applied to The Boy. I knew he wouldn’t really do all of the things she was talking about, because he just isn’t in her room all day. I tried to pick out the information on the subjects I thought he would be in class for, but then I remembered last year, and gave up.
Last year, The Boy had a stellar year, marred only by the fact that he slipped through the cracks at two separate events. The first was a classroom Poetry Night. One of the classes he has traditionally participated within the general ed. classroom is reading. The fourth graders were asked to read, and do several different types of book reports throughout the year in various genres. For the poetry genre, The Boy selected a Shel Silverstein poem — you may remember it — “Jimmy Jet and his TV Set”. He had to re-type it, draw a picture, and practice reading it. We sent it in on the due date, and soon the flyer came home announcing Poetry Night. The kids were going to read their poems, and should wear sunglasses, black shirts, and berets if they had them, like the Beat poets. We showed up, crowded into the classroom at little arrangements of desks made to look like bistro tables. Except that when we showed up, his teacher took one look at us and said, “Oh,” softly to herself, but not soft enough for me to miss it. The Boy read his poem first, proudly, and very well. Then he came to sit on my lap, and we watched as the rest of his classmates put on a smartboard presentation, read their poems, and sang a song with signs and choreography. The Boy had been left out, tacked on at the beginning like some afterthought. He was obviously oblivious, and more than a little bored as the evening wore on, but I was obviously not so lucky.
And then, there was a school-wide art show. The Boy knew exactly which “piece” he had chosen to exhibit, a picture of a frog that he had decorated, showing different textures in different sections. We wandered the school for about an hour and a half and did not find it. It was not posted. When we asked the art teacher, she said if we couldn’t find it, she would help The Boy look for it the next day during school because the exhibit would be up for a few days. I finally convinced him that we could go home, only after combing every display a last time. The next morning, when we arrived (first, as always) to Kids Club, the exhibits were gone. He had slipped through the cracks again.
I am a teacher. I understand how difficult these events are to undertake. I know how I feel when I leave a student’s name off of a program, and although I double and triple check, sometimes mistakes happen. I get it.
I’m hoping that this year, with all of the adults on his team, looking out for him, and helping him along, I’m hoping that we can coordinate and communicate a bit better to make sure he doesn’t get left out. I made sure to mention these things at his IEP at the end of last school year, and I intend to relay these hopes to his new gen. ed. teacher who was not yet on the team at the time of his IEP.
Oblivious or not, he has a right to participate, and I have a right to expect that he will be included to the fullest extent he is able.