Sometimes I stalk Rozie a little bit at school. I know it’s crazy mom behavior, but I can’t help it. I’m not worried; I love her school and teachers. I just want to see “school” Rozie. I think it is almost like I need to see it to believe it.
I need to see her thriving and doing everything the books said she wouldn’t do. I also like to stalk my other kids, but not quite the same way I bother Rozie. You have to imagine that if your child was born with preconceived notions and lowered expectations about her future, you too would worry about them a little above the norm. I personally ease the worry and fear, with some good old fashion helicopter mom style stalking. Don’t judge.
Today I slipped into her class and she was in circle time with her peers. One little girl was in the middle of the circle having a mini moment. She had a sad face and her head tipped against her shoulder, we also know this look and stance, but this time it wasn’t Rozie. The little girl finally reveled that her upset was because she wanted to sit next to Rozie. I could have walked out right that minute and been good for the rest of the day, the week even.
This is what inclusion is all about. It’s not about teaching others to be more understanding (mind you that is an amazing side benefit). It is also not all about what Rozie could learn from being around her “typically” developing peers. There is that added bonus and she does learn from her peers, but again that is not what its all about. For us, inclusion is about a little girl wanting to sit next to her friend Rozie. She doesn’t see Rozie as someone who is different. She doesn’t see Down Syndrome. What she sees is her friend that she wants to sit next to.
In class the girls are treated the same. Rozie’s teachers have the same expectations for Rozie as her peers, and she is given the same respect. When accommodations are needed, they do it in a way that would never make Rozie feel like an outcast in front of her peers. Her friends see this and think of Rozie as their friend, the one they want play dates with, the one they want to sit next to. This is what I consider successful inclusion. It is successful because we work as a team. The teachers, the principal, and myself work to find ways to make Rozie succeed in this environment. Today I got to witness all our hard work pay off. All the hard work came together with one little girl’s simple words, “I want to sit next to Rozie.”
I worry about Rozie’s future. Will this continue? What about in elementary school when the academic expectations are higher? But I can’t spend my days dwelling on her future and what it will and will not be. All I can do now is slip in her class everyone once in awhile. I can watch her draw triangles, or point out the letter her name starts with. I can see her smiling and playing with her friends, and I can go home knowing that my daughter has simply been included.
May we all merit the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days. Where words like inclusion and acceptance will no longer need to be used. We will see the light of every neshama and value everyone for their true being.
Sheva Givre is a married mother of three. She was born and raised in the beautiful desert of Arizona and in recent years moved to Baltimore. She is the author and photographer of the inspiration blog “MyShtub” where she photographs and writes about the joys and challenges of family, motherhood, and raising a child with special needs. www.myshtub.blogspot.com
This post was written in honor of Yachad’s North American Jewish Inclusion Month and originally published on MyShtub.