Mainstreaming is all the rage.
Although, to be honest, I am not so sure I share that view.
Katie has made progress, sure. She doesn't hit the other kids anymore. She attempts to involve herself, and does have the desire for friends and social interaction.
But, at the end of the day, trying to fit in with typical 3rd grade girls is hard. Really, really hard. I don't get to see her at school, but I do get to see her at Brownies (she was able to join a troop this year, after being on a waiting list since kindergarten. Who knew?).
And sometimes, it breaks my heart.
The looks from other girls. The way she desperately attempts to join in, but sometimes her anxiety takes over and the behaviors come out. The subtle, and not so subtle ways, she is different.
How it is work. Trying to fit in. Trying to make friends.
Recently, Katie met a little girl her age through a special needs dance class. They hit it off. She loves this little girl. She asks when she can see her (something she never does with other kids).
When Katie had a hard time during the last day of dance, when parents were invited in to watch, her friend didn't give her a look. She just called her name, and kept asking her to come back. Not phased by K's behavior. Accepting her. Loving her. Because there would never be another choice.
They can truly engage with one another, being just who they are, and it is a beautiful thing.
I wish it could always be like that. These are her peers. She connects with them. She has real relationships with them. While we are pushing her to mainstream, to conform, we fail to realize there is already a place for her. A place she belongs. Where she can grow, and be loved, and be happy. With children who get her. Those are her peers.
I know for some, mainstreaming is the goal, but I would be perfectly happy if Katie was able to spend her days with other children like her new friend. That seems like the least restrictive environment to me.
And the happiest.
I have always said, I don't want or need a typical child, just a happy one That is what I am fighting for.
Jen (who apologizes for her late post this month) is a SAHM to Katie, 8, and Ben, 6. She lives in small town New England with her husband, kids, and too many pets. She spends her days trying to hold on to her sanity, and plotting her escape to a warmer climate ;) You can find her on Twitter @JenTroester, and she blogs at I Am Still Looking Up.