When my child’s aide walks into the classroom without Maddie several of her classmates say, “Where’s Maddie? Is anything wrong with Maddie?” and I don’t necessarily like that. While I appreciate that they care about my daughter, I also know that if they’re linking the two of them so completely they don’t see Maddie as a singular individual, capable of functioning without her aide. Because, to them, Maddie comes with a person.
We’ve worked hard to make sure the aide doesn’t accompany Maddie to music class, where our daughter does an excellent job staying on task and working hard for the music teacher, and we will be extending that to library time this spring as well. It’s baby steps, but it’s something. Don’t get me wrong. We love having the 1:1 for the times when Maddie needs to have someone help her out, but those times are getting fewer and farther between as she grows up.
I’m surprised when I hear others say how much they rely on their aides, how much they think their child can’t do without another person there to assist or to do it for him/her. And I know that every child is different, that each one occupies their own unique place on the spectrum, but isn’t that what testing is for? Shouldn’t that help us determine how little or how much assistance Maddie needs during her school day?
For example: the bus, which I’ve talked about before. Things are getting better on that front. Maddie doesn’t need constant supervision of the monitor while going to and from school. She is very conscientious and does everything exactly as she should, the model bus passenger. We’re happy to have the monitor on the bus in case anything happens that is out of the ordinary because Maddie doesn’t do well with a break in routine, but other than that we expect her to be sitting with the other children, engaging in social interaction.
The same is true of the general education classroom. We are huge proponents of inclusion, of having her in the general ed classroom as much as is humanly possible during her school day. While we know that in terms of math and reading she needs to be pulled out and given modifications, for writing and various other tasks she can stay in her classroom and do exactly what her typical peers are doing. We bask in that when we hear from her teacher that Maddie was working hard in class writing just like the other students, and doing it on her own so often as well.
So, yes, Maddie comes with a person, but we want to try and make it as unobtrusive as possible. We know she will need help, that she won’t ever be “just like” all the typical students, but we want her included as much as possible, which means eventually we’d like the aide to be extra, there but not heavily involved in our child’s progress, a resource, not a crutch. And we’re hoping that as time goes on everyone else in the school system understands and helps us achieve this. Music was a start, library is next, but this is still only the beginning.