Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Ugly Truth

Today is a day I have many words for, but none of them could ever convey the magnitude of pain and anger I felt and am still feeling. My whole body was shaking. Tears were falling down my face as I furiously typed back a response to no one and everyone.

Something inside of me was shattered today. It was the Illusion that my son will fit in, the Illusion that he will be welcomed into a regular classroom, the Illusion that children will pick on him. Turns out its not the children I have to worry about. But when a child does pick on him, I now know where it was instilled in them that it is acceptable to treat him as someone who deserves less than them because he is different. It starts with their self-righteous parents.

Today I learned that a fellow parent feels her child should not have to be in a class with students who have IEPs. For those of you that dont have Special Needs children, a child with an IEP has some type of learning disability, it is their goals for the year. It was stated that its not right that their child, who is already of above average intelligence for the grade they will be entering, should have to be in a class with kids like that. Kids like Kai. Their son is there to learn and get and education and it isnt fair that he will be teaching my son instead of getting his own well deserved public education. This is about Inclusion...Ironically Inclusion seems to bring about feelings of Exclusion, which is more preferred. It was stated that instead of children like my son being put into her sons classroom, her son and all the other above average children should be put in an enrichment program. So they should get more, because they are smarter and have to deal with our S.L.O.W. kids. Perhaps she should get some of her own enrichment.

This above synopsis was from the fingertips of a friend. Someone who staunchly supports Kai and DS and proclaims that knowing him and me has changed their views on people with Down syndrome. Apparently I am doing something wrong, because that is NOT the view I was going for.

I responded to the statement, even though it wasnt written directly to me, it literally had Kai's name all over it. I will just C&P my response. It was written with passion, rage and hurt, a lot of hurt. It came from the shattered heart of a mother who really believed her son would really be accepted by his peers.

Us moms with kids who have Down syndrome are often accused of wearing Rose Colored mine fell off...

My Response:

So they make the 11 smart kids teach the class? Wow, that is kind of unfair. If he reads at mid first grade level then maybe the school should move him to mid first grade because it seems that even if the other 70 weren't below average, he would still fall at the high end of the bell curve since he is beyond the curriculum for that grade level. I was always at the top of my class and I don't recall ever having to teach another student. But I went to school in a time when 'those' kind of kids were secluded from our classes so I guess I don't know the burden of having to have people who were slow or with disabilities sitting next to me, taking away from my education, especially since my education was far more important because I had potential to go to college and have a career and they will probably never be contributing members of society. Maybe you could ask the school to put those 70 students on the Short Bus and send them to a vocational school so they can learn to push grocery carts or bag groceries. And by imposing these different standards on them at an early age they can learn they are inferior and different from others, and they can learn to mask their shame early on, thicken their skin for the real world.

I'm terribly sorry that children like my son encroach on your child's free education because he finally gets a shot at having the same free education. Do the skinny kids get less food at lunch because the obese ones get larger servings?

I'm glad I can find out these kind of things from my 'friends' before we get into the real world. Because if this is how people feel who my son has supposedly made an impact on, then I know in advance to expect nothing from the sea of strangers who don't know him or care to know him. It's also good to know that he has changed how you think/feel about someone like him and opened your eyes to be more accepting as long as it's done from afar and not something you actually have to stand behind because god forbid your child has to sit next to mine and learn so easily and mine will come home and practice that assignment all night and the next and the next until he can finally understand it...

It's funny because since I've had Kai, it's always my 'friends' I catch these glimmers of what people really think. I always assumed it would be the cruelness of strangers I'd have to protect him from, but time and time again my friends and family are the ones. I guess strangers actually have the decency to keep their feelings to themselves. But I know if the people who 'care' about my son say those things, then the others feel the same way.

So thank you. You have saved me from an illusion I would have walked into his school with in November. Inclusion in school is a law, and at the end of the day, that's all it really is...there is no meaning behind it. It's just tolerated because it keeps us parents quiet.

I can also tell you I am shaking as I type all this. I cried through some of it. To you he is nothing more than a burden taking away from your normal child, but he is my child. He is a little boy who laughs and cries. It's too bad you will never see him as that. Maybe I shouldn't have put this all out here, but I'm not going to stand by and be quiet for the sake of not rocking the boat.

I'm done talking and sorely disappointed. I want to puke. I'm signing off for now. I've got to go teach my son how to eat fucking table food or they'll have your kid doing that too.

Today didnt feel Upside Down, it felt Inside Out...with my tattered Mommy flag barely clinging to its pole of raw emotions, left for all to see.

Today I cried. Today I was pissed. Today I saw the Ugly Truth. Today I became an Advocate.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow I will teach him.


  1. I am FIRST a mommy of an IEP kid. Also the mommy of a FAR more advanced kid then a half a grade level above her peers. Try 3 grade levels. I am also an educator AND a special Educator. My iep KID GREW LEAPS AND BOUNDS in all her regular ed classes...and never once did I feel like she put those kids at a disadvantage. But she gave them a chance to learn tolerance, compassion, and love. All things FAR greater than any reading and writing. My profoundly gifted child has been known to befriend the autistic kids and help them read during recess. why? because she has learned love for all mankind. oh- how the ignorance of some anger me. Julie I love you. hang your banner high!

  2. Wow, well said. That is simply horrible for a "friend" to say, and I think you really hit the nail on teh head with your eloquent response. It's so sad that we have to deal with this...

  3. Julie,
    After several years teaching inclusion I have sadly learned the sad truth that there are many people out there who do not understand the true meaning.
    Today a mother spoke her mind and let you see the ugliness that is out there. She doesn't realize that not only is inclusion different but education is different from when she went to school. Teachers are no longer allowed to teach to the middle students. They are required to scaffold and teach to the high achieving students as well as the lower achieving students. EVERYONE learns differently! There is no one size fits all in education. If No Child Left Behind has taught society anything it is that EVERYONE CAN learn and that teachers must teach at a variety of levels to create the best students.
    This mother should be thanking parents like us. Our children are the reason lawmakers took notice and created laws where it is no longer acceptable to teach to the middle. Her son will now be in a classroom with his peers learning at his level instead of in a classroom where the teacher is teaching to the middle students.
    I am extremely sad that you had to experience this prejudice from a 'friend'. However, I am happy it was not from an educator. Part of my job as a special education inclusion teacher is to not only teach ALL of the students but to teach the teachers. Sadly not everyone sees having children with special needs in their classroom as an amazing learning experience for everyone.
    Children are growing up in an age where it is normal for them to see others with different abilities in their classrooms. They are for the most part excepting because they are still moldable. If they do not experience or see this type of hate then they are not filled with it. It will not be long before that little boy goes home and tells his mother about what he learned from Kai.
    Julie, hold your head up high. You are Kai's biggest advocate and today you have stood up for what is right. I know that you are hurt and frustrated right now but you are teaching others as you deal with this very difficult situation. Thank you so much for sharing it on your blog. People need to know thanks to children with special needs our education system is getting better each and ever year.
    Erin Purdy

  4. I am also a parent to three boys with Ds. I am also a special education teacher at a middle school. I can tell you from my experience that the kids that are in the same classes with the special education students that I teach are more than willing to help out and in fact learn even more when they do. They do not learn less because they are in classes with children who srtuggle with the curriculum. From what I have witnessed in the 10 years that I have taught at this middle school is that they are for the most part, accepting and kind. They are also creative. I have seen them come up with ways to get a fellow student to understand something that I never thought of. I have had parents come to me in the beginning of the school year, afraid that their child with special needs will be teased. They are awfully afraid of the middle school years. I am pleased to say that our middle schoolers goof around with them and high five them just like any of their other friends. I am so glad that I work amoung these great kids every day. I have to assume that the comments from your 'friend' are surely not what her child feels....and praying her very sad attitude will not pass on to her child.

  5. You need new "friends"... Her truth is not necessarily the way EVERY parent in Kai's class will feel, and the reality is the is always going to be ugly people in the world. It IS a sinful world after all. Maybe this is your chance to be a better advocate for Kai, to examine and solidify your faith, beliefs, convictions. When River was born I prayed that he would have a life full of challenges that he could overcome, cuz I knew ugly was all around us. I pray that for Kai too. Wave your flag proudly. I don't think you were under an illusion, I just think reality reared it's head, and unfortunately through the voice of "a friend". I hope nothing ever happens to her perfect child.

  6. Im so out of the loops being childless and all, I didnt even know these inclusion things existed - but what an amazing thing! As Gabrielle said, I cannot see how these could not be beneficial to the children who aid and teach. What better way to learn compassion amd acceptance! This woman is just uneducated and fearful. Thank you Julie for enlightening her. You are making a difference in our world.

  7. Julie,
    I tried (unsuccessfully) to hold Nixon, with tears down my eyes after reading this so i could tell him: He is not better than anyone. He is human and so are they. If he is smarter than he can help them. Because there is always something that can be learned from someone else. My heart bleeds that you had to read that from where you did and who you did.
    Kai is not a burden and in my opinion it seems strange that there are only 11 kids out of such a large class who don't need help. It seems the whole educational system is failing the entire classroom, not just the 11 kids who don't need help. Children are not burdens and should never be seen as such by anyone!

    Julie, I love you and I really want to teach Nixon to be the kind of kid who WANTS to help others not complain about those who struggle. Because you never know what the future holds and the good you do today comes back and so does the less than good.

  8. Wow. Wow. In your angered and disappointed state, you said things very kindly. I just want to puke knowing that is your "friend's" thought. It makes me absolutely sick and I am shaking. I knew that we, as parents, would have to face these things, but like you, I thought it would be the other kids with the cruel taunts. You are correct. . . the kids learn from their ignorant parents. Hang in their Julie! You are Kai's biggest advocate and it is your job to teach him to treat everyone kindly. Maybe by your example and through Kai, others will do the same.

  9. You've got to be carefully taught...

  10. Ahhh, this just sux Julie. I am sorry ((((HUGS))))

  11. Wondering if I can shed a little light from the other side... I too have a child with DS and do plan for him to attend our regular elem. school and be in an inclusion setting. I also have a child who just finished 2nd grade on the advanced curriculum, and I believe due to the principal's groupings, she learned little to nothing this year. This has nothing to do with IEP's or inclusion though, this has to do with grouping students on three different grade levels in one classroom and expecting one teacher to meet all their needs. Due to this grouping, students only got 1/3 of the teacher's time, so I believe all groups suffered in this environment. With mixed groupings, studies show that the top students should be grouped together, and then the rest of the students- on grade level and below grade level- should be mixed. Honestly, I don't want my child with DS grouped with the tip top students- kids are smart and know who is in what group, and know how much lower their level is compared to others in the classroom. Major self-esteem crusher. Many parents in our school have written to the county administrators and board members to voice their concerns since the teachers have tried to group students more appropriately, but the principal overrode their decisions and remade all the groups. Again, I absolutely am all for inclusion and as a former teacher enjoyed having an inclusive classroom myself. I am also aware of how strained the teachers are with the responsibility to meet the needs of all children, and yes, the higher achieving students deserve a challenging education experience just as all other students.

  12. I may be a tad clueless but I never knew of any child not benefitting from classes with all learning levels. I would actually prefer it. I guess it just proves how narrow minded people are! Just remember- karma is a bitch!

  13. That was powerful. And I am sorry you had to experience such betrayal. I am beginning to (sadly) learn some not so nice things as well :)

  14. My very smart kindergarten daughter was asked to sit next to and help a little guy with some significant challenges this year...

    Do I care if she "missed" some material?

    No way.

    She was already kind and compassionate and now has llearned how to put those qualities into action!!

    Sorry you had to go through that with a "friend"...


  15. Hey honey I just read is all I can say. Unfortunatly you do see the worst in people when they let thier guard down because as a "friend" they some how think you will understand and agree with them. Alec has a IEP and a BIP. Beleive me these kids are not always slow..or "dumb" they just learn differently and may need some extra help. Most are actually very intelligent. I am sure Kai will fall in this catagory as do many. He will just need things taught to him a little differently. Alec is a smart kid, but he can not learn the way most kids do. His are different road bumbs in his life of learning. But show me two people that learn the same way. This is not a lower standard...just a different standard. Alec has to have a co-teacher, he takes tests seperatly and sometimes the test are accomodated, or read orally for him. But that does not mean he is not intelligent! Kai will shine, I have no doubt. And you continue to be that tenacious mother that expects the best and most "normal" situations for Kai. They will come, as in his early years you will have days that you just want to scream...and then so many more that you will see that everything you and he have been through make you amazing people. His journey and intelligence is something few people will ever get to experince. An understanding, accepting, loving, unbiased, open minded, and never settle for anything less intelligence that few will ever even be able to imagine. You can not learn that in school in a classroom...that comes from the heart! So stand tall and Kai will stand tall with you.....and he will continue to teach others what you have taught him.