Yesterday we had a meeting at Caitlin’s school, to go over her new set of needs post-surgery, and to plan for her return. The meeting went very, very smoothly. Cait will likely be returning to school the first week of April, just after their Spring Break, which is next week. We’re using the play-it-by-ear method of returning her on a day-to-day basis at first, because she had such a difficult time at first after her hip surgery. The team of her teachers and aides is all excited to see her, and so are her friends.
After the meeting, we went by her special needs classroom to say hi to her classmates, and her 3 best friends from the non-special needs 5th grade classroom came by to say hey, too. One of the best pieces of news that I got was that these 3 best friends will also be attending the same junior high next year with Caitlin. (Oh, and we’re all making plans for the girls to go see the Muppets together at some point soon, too.)
Cait was so excited to see her friends that she was basically up half the night last night going “WOO”. I kid you not. She’s apparently ready to get back to her friends and her life ANY DAY NOW.
That’s right, Caitlin has a POSSE. She has good friends that will be by her side in the next adventure. I’m so very, very pleased. THIS is why we pushed for, and were so happy to have Cait at least partially mainstreamed. Because the kids in her school see her as Caitlin. No more, no less. They take her nonverbal communication, the wheelchair, all of it in stride. She’s just Caitlin.
This is completely different from how my school district growing up handled things. They kept the special needs kids separate from the rest of the kids. It meant that we didn’t get to know the special needs kids, and they didn’t get to know us. They became “other” in ways that did not encourage us to be particularly kind to them. I often wryly joke that we only saw them in gym class while throwing dodgeballs at them, but it’s not really an exaggeration–most of their mainstreaming time was in nonacademic subjects like Gym and Home Economics.
I’m very, very glad that attitudes towards how to handle special needs education have shifted so much in the next few generations. Because Caitlin has a whole life with her friends at school that I don’t know much about, as is right and proper for an 11 year old going on 12. She will not have to experience junior high feeling any more alone or isolated than any other kid experiencing junior high for the first time.
And that, to me, is priceless.