Yesterday afternoon I sat down at a table and completed the paperwork to move Ben’s school placement to a center based program full-time, starting after Christmas Break. This turn of events has been a long time coming, and is the culmination of an effort that has gone full-circle.
When Ben started Early Childhood Special Education, we chose the center based program based on our experience with Alex, and knowing that the spectacular team in that classroom had the tools to help Ben maximize his potential with the goal of transitioning him to the local elementary at age 5 or 6. We did indeed put him full time in the local district at age 7, a year later than originally planned to give him the comfort of familiar staff and setting while he finished his leukemia treatment. We ensured mainstream time, and embarked on inclusive education.
It’s only been 3.5 years since then, but after dozens of baby steps back from mainstreaming for many reasons, with this final leap into a center based program, with almost zero likelihood of returning to a less restrictive environment again.
It would be easy to be ashamed of this choice; to question if we tried every other option or tried hard enough to make other options work. Center based programming is treated like the dirty little secret of special education, like a last ditch effort or a bad choice by advocates who say that every child should be in a local district with maximum mainstreaming.
I don’t believe that’s true.
I believe we are making the best choice for our individual child, a choice that will engender optimal development. I believe that for a variety of reasons, the highly specialized staff and setting of the center based program Ben is in is best for him in every way. I am grateful for this option, and for the immensely capable staff that I am entrusting with his schooling.
I didn’t make this choice lightly, I understand that there are long and short term consequences both major and minor that will play out as a result. And I’m prepared to accept them on behalf of my child, for whom I am entrusted to make this decision.
I’m boldly sharing this because I believe that there are too many people hiding in the shadows, silenced by the inclusion movement who, like me, after years of special education experience know that inclusion is not best for their child, and I will proudly stand up for them.
If you are advocate for the option of inclusion then I commend and appreciate your work and opinion, but please listen to us for whom it hasn’t worked, and help us keep viable alternatives open.