Thursday, April 2, 2015

That's the heart of inclusion.

The CDC estimates that autism rates have increased to 1 in 42 for boys and 1 in 68 for all children.
Know the signs and act early! If you have questions or concerns you can contact  the Early Development Network (me) or your local school district.

Did you know that red flags of autism can be seen as early as 18 months or before?
Do a screener here: M-CHAT

However what I really wanted to say is that I've seen autsim. I've seen more families that I can count off hand who have heard the words "your child has autism" I've been there in those delicate-emotional moments. I've seen devastation. I've seen hopelessness.
In those moments I am angry.
Angry that there are so many unknowns.
In those moments I am full of hope too!
I promise them.
It will be ok.
......and I mean it.
They don't believe me....
I promise them anyways.

Of all of my roles and responsibilities within my job, walking alongside a family helping them discover and believe for themselves that it is going to be ok is the most important, sometimes hard, but a life changing one.

I wish in those moments I could pause time for them and fast forward their lives a few years and show them how good things can be!

I've seen autism, not just at work, but in my own circle of family and friends.

It has been amazing to see how much it is impacting my children...
in a great way.
in a way that I couldn't do alone.

Kadence now knows more signs than I do! I love that!

I have been pondering sharing an email I sent her school staff a few months ago and this seems like the perfect day to do!
I mean every word of it.

We are shaping the future! 

Think about it.....

I have talked to Rachel about this before but after last weekend thought I would tell you all too....because it matters!

We had gone caroling and sang jiggle bells several times and Kadence had asked a few times "can I do the actions?" and I was like "Yes, whatever."  The next day she said mom you never watched my actions...and she signed jiggle bells (insert parenting fail from giving her the "whatever" answer the previous day!)!   That is awesome.  A few months ago, I was asking Benson what he wanted (he is not quite 2 yet) and she said "mom you have to show him" and did the sign for more and said "Benson, you want more?" I think she then signed like 10 other signs that she knew and I said "what when did you learn all of those?!"

Here's the thing, there are lessons that can't be taught from a book.  There are lots of discussions in all schools about the validity of inclusion.  There are pros and cons. I'm sure someone makes a list. I am sure some feel a child may be better served in a special classroom with specialized instruction and I am also sure there are some that suggest having a child who learns differently in the class room *Gasp* distracts the other children from learning.  I hear these conversations at work every day. What is best?  None of us have a crystal ball. None of us can know for sure.

However what I do know....we are blessed to have a school that has embraced inclusion, not just on paper, not just in "percentage of time spent with peers", but really truly embraced it.  Teaching all the kids sign. Brilliant. You know how my six year old views someone who learns differently than her?  Me neither. It's not a "thing"  It's not "worthy" of talking about later. You know what that is? That's the heart of inclusion.

We are all different and no longer does different mean "less than."  These choices, made by parents to have their child in an inclusive classroom, the school to embrace it, these are the choices that will have more of an impact on who Kadence and her classmates become than any curriculum choice.  These are our future teachers, principals, Speech Pathologists, Law makers, Senators, Nurses, Employers, this is shaping how the world views others.  There are lessons that cannot be taught from a book no matter how hard we would try and I am eternally grateful that my kids are soaking it in.  Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I know days aren't perfect. I know there are barriers, but wow look what we are all doing!  It's amazing.

 Jennifer Calahan