Morgan starts 1st grade tomorrow and I am questioning if we made the right decision for her school placement. I guess I will know after the first few days but all I can do right now is worry and wonder. We decided at the end of the school year last year to mainstream Morgan this year. It was after a lot of careful consideration weighing all the pros and cons and I felt like it was the right decision for her. She did a 'cluster classroom' last year for Kindergarten and had an amazing teacher but was held back socially. All of the children in the classroom had an intellectual disability (ranging from blindness, severe CP, autism, Down syndrome, etc.) and behavioral problems. Morgan didn't have anyone to look to as a positive peer model of appropriate social behavior and seemed to be further ahead of all the kids academically too.
We were told last year that she would spend the first half of the day in resource and the second half of the day in the regular classroom without any aide assistance. I have been reading Lisa's blog posts on inclusion and disabilities these last few days and found myself agreeing with many of the topics of inclusion. Why does her school just assume Morgan cannot function in the regular classroom? Why not let her try being with her classmates and let her show them what is best for her? Well I guess I need to be careful what I wish for . . . we (Gavin, Morgan and I) met with her 1st grade teacher today. Her teacher is extremely positive about having Morgan in her classroom and is open to any ideas or suggestions we have. She hasn't ever had a child with special needs in her classroom so this new for both of us. She let us know that Morgan will be in the regular classroom all day for at least the first few weeks. She and the resource teacher feel like this will help her adjust easier to the new routine and structure. I love the idea of this but reality is something completely different. Realistically, she cannot sit in a classroom for 6 hours with 20 other students, one teacher and no aide support. I wish that was my child but it isn't. The teacher put Morgan's desk right next to her desk and of course the first thing I noticed were the sharpie markers, tape dispensers, staplers, cups of pencils all sitting right on the edge of the teacher's desk. I can only imagine Morgan's delight as she sits at her desk and is able to reach over and knock all of that stuff off the teacher's desk. She also had scissors in her desk. The teacher asked me if she knew how to use scissors and I told her she was great at cutting her hair all off with them and that it was probably best that Morgan didn't have independent access to them. I wish that was all I was worried about but there is so much more. She needs someone to take her to the bathroom every few hours and help her with getting her pants off and on. Of course the teacher can't leave her classroom so she is going to see if one of the resource aides could help with that. Then there is the worry of lunch. Carrying her lunch tray, opening her milk, helping her with her food, wiping off her dirty face when she is done eating. And she likes to wander. Will anyone be with her at recess and help her come back in when the bell rings? She is not going to willingly leave a good slide for sitting at a desk in a classroom. And I worry about her being a distraction. Who am I kidding? She is definitely going to be a distraction and that isn't fair to the other students.
I wish our district offered some sort of middle ground. Instead it is all or nothing. Either the student needs to be able to function independently, without any assist to mainstream, or be bussed to a school far away and attend a cluster classroom with lots of support (a teacher with 3-4 aides) but no typical peer models in the classroom. It just doesn't seem like a real win-win situation. I am trying to be positive but it is hard when I feel like we are setting her up to fail.