Comments to the Huntsville City School Board of Education

These are comments that I’m planning to make to the School Board tonight.rw

I am here tonight to share with you a success story from Challenger Elementary. While I am a “special needs parent,” I am not here to speak for my special needs child, but rather for all of our children. My son has autism, and recently he has been included in a regular education classroom for the first time since he was moved by the central office from Farley Elementary last year.

There are two reasons why his inclusion has taken so long. First, moving him set him back, and he needed extra time to adjust. Yet even after he had adjusted, the school had difficulty finding an aide to take him into the classroom. Eventually, this job fell to his OT Ms. Kelly Smith who took him into Mrs. McCord’s classroom last week.

His inclusion was a huge success. My son, who has difficulty making eye contact, playing with others and talking, made eye contact, played puzzles with the other children, and learned to say the name of a friend.

My son has a friend.

But again, I’m not here to talk about my son. I’m here to tell you what Ms. Smith shared with us after his second inclusion experience on Tuesday. She wrote:

Kids at his table cheered when Mrs. McCord announced he would sit with them. They like him. They ask some questions but are accepting of his singing over talking.

They cheered when they were selected for inclusion. They are accepting of others.

I am a teacher, and I love my job. But I’ve long since realized that there’s very little that I can teach my students that they could not learn on their own except communication.

We cannot teach ourselves how to communicate. To learn that, we have to be integrated; we have to be included. There is little in life more important than learning to communicate particularly learning to communicate with people who find communication difficult.

Those students chosen to be integrated and included cheered.

Please, give all of our students the opportunity to learn from each other. Keep them integrated. Give them the aid and the aides they need to be included. Not because it benefits my child, but because it benefits all of our children.

Give all of our students the opportunity to cheer.

Thank you.

"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.