Wasn't it just yesterday he started kindergarten?
His clamastes have taken turns being Aaron's partner when they go to the library or gym
Kids are amazing. They are naturally so accepting. So willing to connect. So free of so many fear that somehow along the way we learn to carry with us.
He looks excited, hey?
His wonderful aid.
(Doesn't Aaron look like a tota teenager in this one?!?!)
Free of his cap and gown and rather happy about it.
I'm so grateful Aaron was able to start out his school career at such a wonderful school.
People ask me all the time why Aaron goes all the way out to Coalhurst, or how on earth do they have money to drive him,or do swimming, horseback riding, gymnastics??? I smile and I say, "They just get it."
They don't just talk about inclusion or make it look good on paper or use the write buzz words in their reports.
Inclusion is not a policy. It's who they are.
They are INCLUSIVE.
For the last 3 years, during Aaron's PUF years, the Coalhurst Elementary has show us what inclusion should look like, what it should feel like and that it is something that,to be successful, has to permeate your whole school in such a way that individual staff and students catch the essence of it. Inclusion is more than the right supports-- it's about the ways that daily interactions and genuine concern support and truly include each child.
Inclusion is not just a body in a classroom with all the other bodies (unless of course that particular body becomes too disruptive).
No, it is so much more. So many little things you don't see written up in the IPP.
Inclusion is a school secretary who knows my sons favorite clock from her desks collection and holds out for a "hah"ed hello before she hands it over with a reinforcing "Good job, Aaron!"
Inclusion is a reading buddy, leaving her friends to come and crouch down to catch my son's brief eye contact, so she can offer a sincerely excited "Hi Aaron!" When she knows there will be no reply.
Inclusion is the helper kid of the day happily walking hand in hand with Aaron to Music therapy, feeling "special" that it's their turn.
Inclusion is 5 year old "mamma types" who kindly remind Aaron "time to clean up" helping him with a gentle hand over hand approach she's seen the aides use.
Inclusion is seeing tears well up in a teacher's eyes as she describes to you how amazed she is at the compassion she sees the kids in her class so naturally offer Aaron.
Inclusion is an angelic army of assistants, who dont' just know their "assigned kid" but have stretched their hearts to make room for so many. Learning assistants who are enthusiastic to share with me little progressions and are quick to reassure me about how much my son adds to the classroom. Who have all endured countless kisses and endless hugs from my little boy. Who have let him run his fingers through their nicely done hair, just because they like to see him happy. Who tirelessly ensure a consistency of expectation that not only helps Aaron grow, but makes him feel safe. Assistants who undoubtedly go home exhausted everyday, and yet return all smiles and energy the next.
Inclusion is a teacher from an older grade calling down the hall "Brrrrrretz-keeeee!" because he knows that rubbing his shaved bald head brings Aaron massive amounts of joy. He let's him rub his head! Runs down the hall to give Aaron the pleasure! To the point where Aaron thinks any bald head he sees out in public is free game.
Inclusion is every child knowing that Aaron's all about high fives.
Inclusion is a little girl who notices Aaron's getting anxious on the bus and just starts patting his hand while she continues talking with her friends.
Inclusion is the way each child knows what Aaron needs, that if his aid is distracted momentarily, they'll hand him a fidget or give him a little squeeze. They know what he likes and what he needs and what sets him off and it's not "Autism" they see, it's just Aaron. Oh that's just Aaron. Sometimes he head butts you if you get to close to his puzzle. Oh that's just Aaron, sometimes he just starts laughing, so we laugh along.
Wheelchairs and sensory tools, speech paths and PEC binders at CES are a much of the school environment as back packs and markers.
Inclusion is really just a fancy, more professional term for love.
That't what Coalhurst Elementary has offered my son--
Which is really all we want for him. What we give him at home and what made sending him off to school so scary.
But you patiently calmed all our fears, and wildly exceeded our expectations.
In high fives and head rubs, you gave Aaron so much love.
And we will love you forever for it.