When you are a parent of a child who has a disability you have experiences that other parents do not. For example, this summer Bridget’s social program was not what I expected. There was a limited social program. I reached out to a local camp, who would take her but only if we provided an aide. With Abby I just sent her to camp.
With my new work schedule we were in a quandary of how to get coverage for Bridget. I have to be to work by 7:30, David works 24 hour shifts and Bridget goes to school at 9 am. A typical parent just send their child to extended care at the school.
This was my e-mail to the director:
I am hoping to enroll my daughter, Bridget, into the morning program but have a few questions.
First, my daughter is in 1st grade. She has an intellectual disability and while she is enrolled in Mrs. X class she is dual-enrolled in JCSD room. During the day she is a 2:1 ratio of an ESP. Bridget is VERY well behaved and a joy. She just needs to be kept safe (she wanders–wears a LoJack device) and engaged in what the other children are doing. Does the SEL accept children with disabilities? I understand her ESP will not be there, but do you have adequate staff to walk her to the classroom at the start of day? She would be unable to navigate to the classroom alone.
In a million years, I would never preempt Abby’s inclusion in a program. I would just enroll her and expect that not only would she be included but she would be welcomed. With Bridget I put qualifiers (hark lapsed Catholic guilt).
Why do I put a qualifier on Bridget? When someone asks how old she is, why do I say she is 7 but….. Why do I ask if the YMCA will let her play soccer with her age-peers (epic fail, by the way)? Why do I always start with why Bridget isn’t typical rather than letting them figure it out for themselves? The more I thought about it, I realized I am too quick to point out how Bridget is different than her peers.
I need to rewrite the narrative. I need to let people meet Bridget and come to their own conclusions. But I struggle with keeping her safe. I need to expect Bridget will be accepted and then be prepared to fight when she is not. I think I am going about this process backwards, but her world has changed since we first entered this unexpected journey.
I am not sure what to do, or what the right answer is, when it comes to introducing Bridget to new people and experiences.