The year before I had my son, I read an amazing article in the New York Times Magazine about a father who fought long and hard to get his little boy, who has cerebral palsy, integrated into a regular public school class. “The Lessons of Classroom 506” was incredibly moving and inspirational. Thomas’s father, Richard Ellenson, had done battle with a byzantine system, and won.
The following year, I had a baby who had a stroke at birth; it lead to cerebral palsy.
As Max went through Early Intervention, I always had that article in the back of my mind. But when it came time for him to enter school, and we met with the evaluation team in our district, it became very clear: Our local school could not accommodate Max. He had too many therapies, too many challenges.
I thought about fighting the system, but then I decided it really was the best thing for Max would be to get the intensive therapy he needed early on in life.
That was four years ago. These days, Max is in a fantastic school for kids with special powers (my hotly-debated new term for special needs that I’m trying to use whenever possible). He’s thriving there. The teachers know just how to teach him. The physical therapist has been the major reason Max learned to walk up and down stairs. The speech therapist helped us get an iPad and Proloquo2Go speech app to trial, and she bends over backward to help find good spoons and cups that’ll encourage Max to eat and drink independently.
It’s all good—and yet, I keep wondering about getting Max into the school in our district. The questions in my mind are endless: How could Max benefit if he were around kids who could speak fluently and play with him in ways his classmates can’t? Would the therapists be as good? Would it be too disruptive for his schedule to be pulled out of class so constantly for therapy? What kind of aide would he have—especially now that our district had to lay off dozens of them and hire temps? Wouldn’t it be good for Max’s future real-world life to be an actual part of the real world, as opposed to the specialized and rarified one of his school? Am I fooling myself—maybe he’ll never be part of the real world?
The next step, obviously, is to contact the district coordinator. But I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.
Ellen blogs daily at Love That Max