In the past two days I've stumbled across two stories that have made me sad and angry. The first one I saw yesterday on a spina bifida group I am part of on Facebook. It was making the rounds because, though the boy in the story has cerebral palsy, he is in a wheelchair, which is a commonality for people with spina bifida as well. It was a picture posted by his mother, showing him at a choir concert with his class. His class is up on the risers with the choir teacher in front of them, and the boy, whose name is Alex, is off to the side, not at all a part of his class. His mother explains that she expected the teacher to position her son with his class after they were up on the risers, but instead they just started singing the song while he sat off to the side. In the audience, she felt there was nothing she could do to help her son without embarrassing him while his class was up there singing. She didn't want to make it worse for Alex, so she waited until after the performance and then complained to the teacher and the school. It looks like she's getting some local press for the story, and possibly some national attention too, according to her Facebook page.
The second story I just saw today, also making the rounds on the spina bifida group page. This story, reported by ABC News, is about a fourth grade boy with cerebral palsy who was being mistreated at school. Not by fellow children, but by a teacher and an aide in his classroom. Grown adults who were supposed to be teaching and caring for this boy were putting him down and ignoring him while teaching the other children in his class. The teachers were initially suspended, but after the suspension was up they returned to the same school, but were assigned to a different class. The boy's mother, finding this unacceptable, pulled her son out of school until the teachers were again taken out of the school and put on suspension until their ultimate fate is decided by the school board.
Both of these stories infuriate me and pull at my heart, as I would expect them to for any mother, or any human, for that matter. As a mother of a special needs child in a wheelchair, they scare me. Right now Ian only goes to school half-days, but someday he will go all day. Both the mothers of these two boys said they thought their sons were being completely included and cared for while they were at school. Just when you think you can trust the teachers you leave your child at school with every day, a story like this makes you doubt who your child is spending their days with. It's difficult for any parent to entrust the care of their child to a person that isn't them, but for parents of special needs kids it can be even more difficult. Our kids have more needs and more challenges than others. As their parents, we have to take these in stride. No matter how much we love our kids, we can't force other people to love them, not even their teachers and/or caregivers.
My takeaway from these stories is that, as Ian's parent, I must be extra vigilant in monitoring who is with my son while he is at school. Over the course of this school year I have gotten to know all of Ian's teachers, aides, and therapists, and am 100% confident that they are taking good care of him and doing a great job teaching him while he is at school. He is happy to go to school in the morning and happy when I pick him up again. Many of the people who are working with him this year will be doing so again next year when he is in 4K, but there will also be new teachers and aides in his life as well. When the school holds its open house in August before the start of the term, I will be the first one there waiting to meet them and introduce them to my wonderful son. After that, all I can do is keep a close eye and step in if something doesn't seem right.