“I want to be informed anytime she goes into the Kindergarten room,” I tell the principal. “I know that you are in a difficult position with the teacher being away as well as the EA but we need to find a better long term plan.”
“This is the plan!” She snaps back. “If you want inclusion…”
There was no need to go on. Even if she had I wouldn’t have heard it. This is not inclusion. This is maintenance.
Ella is in grade one so WHY would they put her in the kindergarten class you ask. Well, in short, it is because the school sees her as a liability, not as learner. No other student from Ella’s grade one class gets put in the kindergarten class despite the fact that Ella is at the same reading level as many of her grade one peers but because she has “Down Syndrome” she is written off as unaffected by being denied the right to learn. They discriminate against her on a regular basis and making change is like trying to move the Rocky Mountain Range.
I have learned so much about what inclusion is not since moving to Edmonton. They like to pat themselves on the back and proclaim that they are inclusive. Edmonton Public School raves that it is a district of choice but really, all that means is that they do a lot of things really poorly. Edmonton Catholic is championing unisex bathrooms for transgendered children and yet they will not accept my daughter into their school because she needs support and they “do not feel they can adequately provide that”. And while they allowed me to enrol her in swimming lessons, the teacher did not engage her at all and if I wanted support for her in the pool I would have to hire someone and pay them out of my own pocket, which is exactly how I pay for her speech therapy as well because while the school said that she was severely delayed in both expressive and receptive language there was nothing they could do about it EVEN THOUGH, I found out that another child (who speaks much clearer than Ella) was receiving regular one-on-one speech therapy at school.
Edmonton, let me tell you what inclusion is not:
- Inclusion is not allowing a child to be in a class but not providing support
- Inclusion is not denying her acceptance to a school because the administration does not feel comfortable having her in the school without full-time support.
- Inclusion is not asking me over and over and over again as to why I am not putting her into a strictly special needs class.
- Inclusion is not giving only three hours of support a day and consequently not allowing her to go to the bathroom for the rest of the day for fear that she will run away.
- Inclusion is not telling me there is no money in the budget for support but since they ever so charitably finally managed to find the funds for a class EA for a class with 25 students and 8 IEP’s they will really have to watch their photocopying.
- Inclusion is not accepting a child’s enrolment to a grade and then putting her in a lower grade’s classroom because you can’t “keep her safe” in her regular classroom.
Dear Edmonton, you are denying my child the right to learn. She is a child, not a liability. Shame on you.
After reading this post I am left with a) tears in my eyes b) frustration (maybe a little anger) and c) wanting to jump on the next flight to hug you and say I will help you fight this together. I am a wife, a mother of two young boys – and while my youngest does not have Down Syndrome, he does have a rare metabolic disease that requires me to “advocate” and fight, fight, fight for the support he requires at school, as well as educating “staff” whom are willing to listen.
I don’t know you, but I admire you. Keep writing, keep fighting and WOW – what an amazing Mom you are!
Xx, Natalie Grant