Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Among Peers

Katie is 8, and in a typical 3rd grade classroom. She has a 1:1 aide (and spends almost half of every day outside of the classroom, for various reasons), but is in what the school believes to be the" least restrictive environment".

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.

It's work.

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.

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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. 


  1. Lovely post, Jen. Mainstreaming is hard work. Are there other options for your daughter that would suit you both?

    1. Right now it doesn't seem that our district has any good options. It's something I am working on. I have been told K has 3 good hours/day, and the other 3 they spend managing behavior. That doesn't sound awesome to me, and seems like a waste of those other 3 hours when there could be an actual program happening, kwim? There is yet another IEP meeting in our future...

  2. Jen, what a beautiful post and how truly WONDERFUL it is to read that Katie has made a real friend. So excited for her! I think no matter what, with special needs you are always wondering if you made the wrong choice or if there is another choice. Maya is in a special needs environment and it is more nurturing and supportive and she is happy and she does make progress, but on some level I always wonder if she is doing well there just because there is no real aim to realize her full potential. Unfortunately our kids don't just move along. Hugs!

    1. Ha, there are no wrong choices! You know me...I just say whatever happens to come into my brain, at any given time! I would rather see Katie happy and content, at least right now. Maybe with age and maturity things would be easier down the line, as far as being among typical peers, and being fully included. I think I just see an unhappy kid and think, something is so not right here...

  3. This is a wonderful post that is a similar take on what we are learning at the House of Gort (thegortfamily.blogspot.com). While our goal was never mainstreaming, it happened because of a recent move and is working out quite well, but it's not suited for all kids. I even wrote an article for the local newspaper about the benefits and drawbacks we're experiencing with mainstreaming. In the end, it's about raising the happiest and most fulfilled human we have the power to do. Thanks for sharing this heartfelt counterpoint. Best wishes you and K.

    1. I totally agree. It's the one-size-fits-all mentality a lot of school systems have that is not a great thing. That all kids should be mainstreamed, and mainstreaming means this, this, and this. I am sure when it is done right, it is excellent, but when it's not...

      I know a lot of families who have had great experiences, and whose children have thrived. Others, not so much. It's so individual. It really is about them being happy. That's all I want.

  4. you've given me a lot to think about. My ultimate goal for both of my kids has been to get them mainstreamable enough that not only are they in a mainstream public school class, but they can be in a Jewish day school mainstream class (with one on one aides). but I see the intense bullying in the older mainstream classes and then I wish I could just keep my kids in bubble wrap forever and not force the typical socialization. They do better with kids who get them. But according to the district they belong, or ALMOST belong.... mainstream. It's just kindergarten so the bullying hasn't yet started but it's going to be a long, tough journey. Thanks for sharing! Your K and my girlie have so much in common.

    1. I watched your video last night, Heather, and was like, yep, that is SO Katie!!! Totally get it.