"Why Are You Doing This To These People?"

At last years IEPC Matt's speech pathologist asked "Why are you doing this to these people? There are people trained to teach Matt at other schools." She was very frustrated that I was asking that my six year old son, Matt, be included with his peers at his neighborhood school. No one at our school seemed to think that it was reasonable to include an active child with Down syndrome in his neighborhood school, even with support. 

During our many meetings, I have thought - why do I want to place my child in a school in which he is so obviously unwelcome? It sure would be easier to avoid the negative battering I take at each meeting. I would love to be spared the list of deficits that the adults present to describe Matt. Last year and this I've heard that others, in distant building, are qualified to teach 'these children'. I am repeatedly told that segregated education works for the teachers. Why choose our home school? My answer always comes down to; "This is where Matt lives". 

Last year when Matt started kindergarten and stop leaving the neighborhood on a bus, he finally gained membership in his neighborhood. This is where Matt is greeted each day by enthusiastic welcomes, hugs and high-fives from his classmates. Where the kids he sees at school are the same kids he now plays with on our sidewalks and playground. 

The kids are the same kids that for the first time last year came to the door to ask if Matt could come out to play. This is where classmates invite Matt to their birthday parties. They're the classmate's who say gleefully "Matt's in my class". This is where the kids help Matt learn the subtle and not so subtle aspects of typical behavior and communication. This is where all the differences the adults are focused on are ignored or accepted by the kids. 

This is where he lives; this is where he belongs. Even social groups out side of school don't have the same influence on 'belonging' that being in class together all day affords Matt. My daughter, Suzanne, attends a religious school but participates in our neighborhood scout group. During one scout meeting the girls where singing a school song. When Suzanne asked about the song, several girls replied in unison that she didn't need to know because she didn't go to their school. Suzanne does not have a developmental disability or difficulty in conununicating nor does she accept any barriers to belonging. It's not that easy for Matt. It never will be. 

When I struggle during school meetings that challenge my decision to have Matt at his neighborhood school and not disappearing on a bus everyday, I focus on how Matt eagerly leaves for school everyday saying; "I go to my class". He belongs here; this is where he lives. 


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