I follow a an amazing blog, Diary of a Mom, probably one of the most thoughtful and insightful bloggers about autism that I have ever encountered. Currently she has been posting a lot about transitioning her daughter to a new school next year, and is questioning how inclusion is done in her experience.
All of her posts are worthy of reading, but this one in particular is phenomenal. My favorite quote from it is:
“But above all, we want to ensure that we’re not engaging in symbolic inclusion at her expense. That we’re giving her opportunities for the real connections and real relationships that she so obviously craves.”
For years, we have worked very hard to have a supportive team for our son. Yet his social life is very lacking. His classmates haven’t invited him to a party in years. The one that was playing online games with him and having the odd play date with him has chosen NT kids to hang around with instead.
The parents are worse. One went so far as to turn her back to me while speaking with all the other moms at a field trip.
A few months ago, he told me that most days he only talks to the grown ups at school. He often doesn’t say more than “Hi.” to his classmates and they to him.
In that kind of environment, how can his social skills possibly grow?
To again quote from that same post, “Geographical inclusion is not inclusion.”
The answer is clear: he needs to be in a social environment of his peers. Not a large group of NT peers, but a smaller group of other children with similar challenges. And facilitated social interaction, led by someone who truly knows how to teach them to interact.
If only it were that easy though. In our area, the only chance at a public education like that is to put him in an ME (multiple exceptionality) class. If we could find a space. But as a gifted student, that would not be the best fit. Maybe we could put him in the gifted program. If we could find a suitable method of transporting him there. And if we could get a guarantee of some EA support.
If we could find a local private school that suits our needs, and if it fit in our budget that might work too. So far, our research has only turned up one, and we question the appropriateness of it after conversations with the mothers of at least three different former students. I’m not interested in putting myself in the path of a lawsuit for not following the rules, or choosing to go elsewhere.
That’s a lot of “if’s”, with no real solution. Yet. As a mom of a child with autism, I will always keep looking, keep trying and keep hoping.
I have been told by two separate families that the local high school is well equipped and the SERTs are phenomenal. But again, will we just be including him for the sake of inclusion? Will he truly get the social supports that he needs. Or will he be cast adrift, forever on the outside. Always looking in the window but without the keys to get inside?