I wasn’t sure what to expect when I met Mary, the Program Specialist, outside the Pleasanton middle school. We signed in and headed to the classroom, making small talk as we wandered the unfamiliar corridors.
Eventually we found the classroom and wad down at a table on the side of the room. There was a small kitchen in one corner. Otherwise the cheerful classroom looked like any other. At the back of the room were three severely disabled kids strapped into wheelchairs. Two were dozing and one was being helped with a juice carton. The remaining students were seated at individual desks and all had “talkers”—electronic devices that talked for them.
We had arrived in time for the academic portion of the day. The teacher projected a large capital M on the white board and asked the children to find a word that started with M on their talkers. It took most of the children an long time and many needed help. My heart sank. My daughter was more verbal, brighter, and had better academic skills than all these children. Katie could write the letter M from memory and was reading words that contained it. Today’s lesson would be excruciatingly boring for her.
The schedule on the wall confirmed that this was the only time devoted to academics all day. I felt depressed. Was this what was in store for Katie?
In the middle of the classroom a Hispanic girl slumped at her desk, head on her talker. I realized she had been in Mr F’s class with Katie, back in third grade. What was she doing here? She made eye contact and I said hi. For 45 minutes she repeatedly looked at me, trying to remember how I knew her. Then her face brightened. “Katie,” she yelled. “Katie’s mom!”
The classroom staff froze, clearly stunned. The teacher dropped her papers.
“Yes, sweetie. I’m Katie’s mom.”
“She’s at another school, but she may be here next year.”
“Katie come,” she said, bouncing in her seat.
“How do you know her?” the teacher demanded.
I explained and the teacher said, “That was almost three years ago. She can’t remember that.”
The girl continued to bounce in her seat. “Katie come,” she said.
I had tears in my eyes I was so full of gratitude. Katie had been friends with this girl. Katie was loved. Katie was missed.
I still didn’t want Katie placed in this classroom, but now I wanted to help this bored little girl get out too.
Some days the special education system is more than I can bear.
To be continued…
Until next time,