When our son, Sean, was born with significant disabilities, my husband and I decided not to change (lower) our expectations for him. We wanted Sean to go to school with his friends, neighbors and sister. Our goals for Sean were that he would grow up, work at a job of his choosing, have friends, be happy, and be a good citizen and a kind and caring person. We knew that, while academics might be a struggle for Sean, he could not get ready for life in an inclusive society if he spent his school days in a segregated setting. Was it easy? No, but it was easier than the alternative, which for us would have meant giving our son the message that he did not have the right to be in the same classes as his peers with and without disabilities, telling him that some doors were closed to him – just because he had a disabilit;. For us, that was just not acceptable.
When Sean was getting ready to enter the 9th grade, we were asked if it made sense for him to be in a general education English class, learning about Shakespeare. We were asked what would be the point in Sean learning about Shakespeare. What is the point in any 9th grader learning about Shakespeare? We decided that if it was good enough for every other 9th grader, it was good enough for Sean. And, as it turned out, Sean truly enjoyed learning about Romeo and Juliet. With appropriate accommodations and some modifications, Sean enjoyed a broad array of academic and nonacademic activities in high school. He loved school dances and basketball games, and his academic skills increased every year. Sean learned from his classmates, modeling his their skills and behaviors, and they in turn learned a great deal from him. I am sure that because Sean’s disability is visible and it highlights some ways in which he is different, he was teased sometimes. Far more often, though, Sean was supported and welcomed by his classmates.
Did we make the right decision? Sean is an adult now. He is funny, kind and responsible. He has a job, friends, he travels, has fun, recycles and he always votes. Thank you to inclusive education!!!