Advocating for Finn’s dreams

The day Finn was put into a “self contained” classroom was one of the worst days of my parenting life.

I was scared.

I was sad.

I felt powerless.

While I knew that Finn was not to blame for his behavior, nothing (effective) was being done to stop it, and I couldn’t afford to keep jeopardizing his and his classmates’ safety. I knew we had to do it, but that didn’t make it any easier. I was sickened by the idea that Finn was (being made out to be) the “bad kid.” But sending Finn into a self contained class, I feared he would be the “forgotten kid.”

I worried that he would slip through the cracks. I worried he wouldn’t be held up to the same standards as all the other kids. I worried that he would be stigmatized and categorized and ostracized and marginalized (and any other -ized). Afterall, he is smart and jovial and witty and intuitive and insightful and empathetic, but you can’t see those qualities when he is constantly “fighting” or “flighting.” I worried that he would never again see the inside of a mainstream classroom.

I should’ve known that wouldn’t be the case.

I should’ve trusted my parenting (and advocating) skills more.

I had a conversation with a friend the other day and she told me, “Never stop advocating the dream you have for your child.” And I know she is right, but if you asked me a year ago, I would’ve told you that my dream was to have Finn stop hitting other kids! I can’t digest a long-term dream for Finn right now. I have to take it in small chunks. Which is good, because if I didn’t then the day Finn was put into a self contained classroom would’ve made me suicidal!

Right now, my dream is for Finn to have a friend. My dream is for Finn to feel loved and accepted. My dream is for Finn to learn and feel competent. My dream is whatever Finn dreams it to be.

A few months ago, Finn said to me, “Mommy, I want to spend more time in the yellow hallway” (that’s the Kindergarten hallway). I said, “You spend a lot of time there, but I can talk to Mrs. S and see what we can do. You like Mrs. M’s class, huh?” He said, “Yes, but I’m not a part of it.” (My stomach did a flip.) I said, “Sure you are.” He said, “Not really.” I sat there stunned and bewildered. Could a five year old really realize that he wasn’t really a part of something? (I mean, he did teach his class what the word “exclude” means, so it shouldn’t shock me, but I didn’t think he picked up on how much time he spent in the class). Either way, here we were and it made me think of this graphic I saw about inclusion on Pinterest:

inclusion

” Inclusion is part of a much larger picture than just placement in the regular class within school. Inclusion is being a part of what everyone else is, being welcomed and embraced as a member who belongs It is being a part of what everyone else is, and being welcomed and embraced as a member who belongs. Inclusion can occur in schools, churches, playgrounds, work and in recreation.” —Kids Together, Inc.
Photo credit: Michiganallianceforfamilies.org

Although Finn was a part of Mrs. M’s class, he didn’t feel included. (I didn’t, at any point, think that it was due to something Mrs. S or Mrs. M did, but I wondered what made him feel that way.) So, I asked him and he said because he doesn’t hang his backpack there and he doesn’t do everything they do.

I set off to make sure that Finn hangs his backpack in his general ed classroom next year (among other things.) It’s important that Finn feel like he belongs. I want him to feel included and accountable and accepted.

I realize that I am among the extremely lucky. My kid can verbalize what he wants (most of the time). He can articulate his feelings and advocate his needs (this is a very recent skill, but an amazing one nonetheless). A year ago (hell, even 6 months ago), I never would’ve thought Finn would be participating in an inclusion classroom again let alone begging for more time in it. (Six months ago, they couldn’t even get him to walk in the door). Finn’s participation in an inclusion setting consisted of going to “specials” and that was never consistent. Now, he is being used as an example of good behavior among his typical peers and earned student of the month!

Finn’s progress is nothing short of amazing! The other day, I went to field day and observed Finn walking out to the event with his classmates and it brought a tear to my eye! He was walking… in a line… with other kids! Even the little things (to some people) are really big to me!

I had a meeting with Finn’s teacher today and she said to me, “You don’t have to keep telling me how thankful you are that Finn is doing these things. I know you are.” I guess I’m overzealous, but I can’t stop myself.

I thought I had to readjust my dreams for Finn.

Now, it turns out, they were there all along.

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4 thoughts on “Advocating for Finn’s dreams

  1. Oh! Hugs momma! I watched my son’s “friend” walk up the other day and say, “Hey Jp”. And Jp not recognize him at all. We are him twice a week. I thought, I my dream is to have him recognize Collin!

    Then, when we left, for the very first time -ever- he gave Collin a hug. I barely made it to the car before I started crying. Our dreams are always secondary to the bad a accomplishments, right? 🙂

  2. Congratulations Finn and Mom! We, too, cringe at the thought of a self-contained class for our son, who does very well academically and has made a lot of progress socially, even making a few “friends” this year. I was wondering if you could offer advice as to how to make our dream for our child come true. We are finding it difficult to find a true “inclusion” setting with staff that is knowledgeable about Asperger’s and can help our son with some of the interfering behaviors in an effective way. We know that special education teachers offer more praise than gen ed teachers, but our son has a 1:1 TA and we feel like why can’t she offer him that kind of consistent verbal praise, catching him being good, even on his worst day. Our son is able to walk in a line with his classmates, attend all his specials regularly, and socialize with peers better with each day that passes in his integrated co-teach setting. But still they tell us he belongs in a self-contained. Our concerns are the same: that he will feel left out, that he will be bored by the non-Regent track curriculum (he has a 127 IQ and no LDs), that he picks up bad behaviors from others when he isn’t paired with good peer models. I would love to hear what you think, as I have always valued spectrum Moms’ opinions more than anyone else’s! Thanks for your blog. I really enjoy reading it.

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