I ran into my aunt at the gas station today. I haven't seen her in a while and we've had a lot of changes. She asked me how things were going, and things are going great! Walter is on the football team this year, Alex is loving his school, and Goofy...well, two out of three ain't bad. My job is flexible, I'm the president of Alex's PTO, and trying to help out with the football parent organization. We've adjusted to the move, we've graduated from family counseling, and Goofy is rocking the individual counseling. sort of. It's busy, but life is good. We were talking about Alex's school, he goes to Mapaville State School- one of Missouri's 35 schools for the severely disabled. For Alex, it's the Least Restrictive Environment. She was excited that he is loving it and asked if the school was helping him. It threw me for a minute... right into that dark place of "progress." Is he making any measurable progress? Will he ever? She caught where I went and redirected the conversation to how wonderful it is that he loves his school. and it is.
Tonight, I read a post called I Call Bullshit. I tried to explain to my boyfriend why I am so upset, but I started crying so hard I couldn't get the words out, so I came to tell you.
The writer is upset that special education students are doing what they call "janitorial work", and the school calls "life skills."
First, she says (I say she, I don't know. I'm guessing and don't care enough to find out.) that she knows plenty of neurotypical kids who don't know how to use a washing machine, wipe off a table, mop a floor, change their sheets, pick up wet towels from their bedroom floors, and clean up after themselves... and she wants to know if we are worried about our neurotypical kids not having these life skills. I call bullshit. Not doing it is not the same as not knowing how. I've had plenty of teenagers, I know laziness. Alex isn't lazy, he doesn't know how.
Secondly, I agree with her second bullshit. We do need to put more effort into making the "whole school experience" more accessible. I have plans. We're working on them.
Third comes work experience. She's offended that it may be implied that all our kids can do is menial work, janitorial work. I totally understand the offense, I have a cousin who's principal told my aunt that he would never amount to anything, the best he could ever do was janitorial work. That didn't go over well, my aunt was (rightfully) furious, and in the end, my cousin is fucking awesome. He's a wonderful husband, a great father, and he provides very well for his family. I get it. I do. But what about the other kids? The ones who take pride in their menial jobs because look how far they've come! Right now, at this point, as he is... Alex can't even get into a sheltered workshop, much less get a "real job." He has to have a certain level of mastery in life skills to qualify. Things like using the bathroom, managing his clothing, behaving in a way that he is not a danger to himself or others, following directions, having the ability to perform a menial task... like rip a piece of paper, apply a label, mop a floor, make a bed, wash a dish...
Along the same lines... where do you think these neurotypical teenagers learned to be "patronizing, condescending, and overzealous"? How many times have you given your child an exaggerated "good job!" and an overzealous high five for something like using their words, using their fork, eating one more bite, picking up one toy...? I call bullshit. You call it "patronizing, condescending, and overzealous" but they are imitating what they see us and the students' staff doing to congratulate our kids on something well done. Isn't that the way we were taught to do it? If it looks wrong, maybe we should work on fixing what we do, work on being a better example of what we want to see.
As for peers being entitled assholes? I call bullshit on that, too. That's all in how they were raised, they will continue as adults what they see respected adults do. It's not the fault of our kids.
As for the son of the writer, I respect his concern. She is raising a caring and considerate child, however, my son has an Individualized Education Plan that is based on his unique needs. It's good to talk about justice and injustice and to want to step in when something just seems wrong, but it's just as important to talk about differences. Not everyone is the same, not everyone works on the same goals, and that's ok. Just because it's different doesn't mean it's wrong.
Then I hit the comment section because I'm not feeling exceptionally bright at 2 am. "Parents need to refuse these activities for their kids. I have." I'm sorry, have we met? Do you even know my son's name? I don't believe I saw your name on the attendance sheet at his last IEP meeting... If you don't know my son, if you are not a member of his team, you don't get a say in what he needs or what I need to do for him. He's my son, I know his needs. I fought for life skills because those are the skills that he will need to survive without me.
I hope one day Alex will be wiping the tables of his school cafeteria or mopping the floor, hearing someone tell him that he is doing a good job. I hope one day he becomes a janitor. I will proudly post a picture on Facebook and say, "Look how far he's come!"