I observed Finn at school today and what I saw was nothing short of a miracle.
Finn sat in circle time with 18 other kids!
If you don’t have a special needs child, this probably doesn’t seem amazing at all. If you don’t know the struggles we have overcome to get to this point, you wouldn’t understand my reason for calling this a “miracle,” but believe me, a miracle it was!
I stood in the hallway. Teetering by the closed door. Ready to hide behind the glass if he got a glimpse of me. I couldn’t hear a word the teacher, Mrs. M, was saying, but I saw him. Sitting in circle time. Listening. Legs “criss cross applesauce.” Eyes on the teacher. Hands in his lap. I swore a little ray of sunshine shone through the window just on him! His own secret spotlight for an encore chance at inclusion.
There he was.
Learning with the other kids.
Just like the other kids.
In fact, he was BETTER than the other kids! A kid behind him kept going from sitting to kneeling while twisting his shirt on and off his body. Another kid kept spinning around in his spot. A little girl kept turning around to talk to him (which I was secretly so happy about!) Finn sat there for 25 minutes, still as a statue, and learned! Ok, at one point, he tried to get another kid’s attention to make a face and make him laugh, but whose counting?
I was crying so hard I had to borrow a tissue from Charlie’s old kindergarten teacher. She saw my face and asked if I was ok.
I said, “Finn’s in THERE! With. All. The. Kids.”
She knew how huge this was. She was the one who saw Finn at age three repeatedly bang a shopping cart against the wall during Charlie’s classroom parties. She was the one who, at those same parties, guarded Finn’s meticulously constructed Lego towers with her life because she knew just how important they were to him. She was there the day we got Finn’s diagnosis. Charlie had a class party immediately after Finn’s doctor appointment and, as we all know, the show must go on! She hugged me that day and she hugged me today. They were hugs of reassurance, only that day I was a lot less sure of our future. Today, I could’ve sung and rejoiced from the rooftops!
I wiped my tears and hugged Mrs. D again and went back to watch my boy kill it at circle time!
As I stood there, other paraprofessionals walked by and saw me gawking (and crying!) They hugged me and told me how great he’s doing, how I “must be doing something right.” I know they know Finn’s struggles because they are part of the “underworld” that is special education. They have seen a glimpse, but they don’t know Finn’s personal struggles. And they have been so very personal.
Here– is the kid who had 68 “aggressions” in one day the last time he was in an inclusion setting.
Here– is the Mom whose heart sinks every time the school’s number comes up on caller ID because I think it’s bad news… again.
Here– is the kid who spent four months in a self contained classroom with one other child.
Here– is the Mom who never dreamed Finn could spend ten minutes with this many kids, let alone sit on a rug with them!
Here– is the kid who doesn’t like hearing the “hum” of the fan or the “tick” of the clock, sitting amongst the “hum” and the “tick” and the “chaos” of a classroom.
Here– is the Mom (and Dad) who have fought tooth and nail for the behavior plan, IEP goals, services, and modifications leading up to this moment.
Here– Is. The. Moment. We’ve. Waited. For.
And it feels so good!
Author’s Note: As much as I can take some of the credit for Finn’s success today, it wouldn’t be possible without his amazing teacher, Ms. S. She has only been with him for four weeks so far and it has been life changing (clearly!) She came back from maternity leave and rocked it! She demanded he get a regular Kindergarten report card, she has tried to include him with his “regular” class at every opportunity and she is a master in behavior intervention (no, really, she has her BCBA). She is everything Finn (and I) needed and I know she will bring him far! I have never been this happy with Finn’s education. I have never, until now, breathed a sigh of relief. I’m going to relish this one.