Sunday, March 06, 2011

It starts young...

The "least restrictive environment" was drummed into my head when I went to college for a degree in Special Education back in the late seventies.  Schools had just begun to open up their doors to the handicapped who previously might have been institutionalized or been raised and taught at home.  My mentor started a school long before P.L. 94-142 mandated teaching the handicapped in their own school districts and neighborhoods when possible, at the expense of public schools.  Now days, there are still legal battles regarding what is meant by the "least restrictive environment", and many parents fight to have their children learn alongside their non-handicapped peers. Many--I'd venture to say MOST, just put up with what the schools give them, not having the time or funds or energy to do legal battle with a far more endowed and experienced  opponent.

My son is mildly handicapped. He spent 95% of his time in the regular classroom, albeit with ritalin. Even at that I remember the early days.  Ben wouldn't sit still or quiet to go to library activities or church. He went to a Northern Baptist preschool where the teacher just "got him", or didn't get easily upset.  Developmental Preschool at ages 3 and 4, and a great kindergarten teacher who identified with wiggly kids. But he could not communicate, other than echolalia, until about 3rd grade. I reiterate: he was mildly handicapped, but that didn't make it easy.

I went to church today (please tell my sweet mama!).  Something led me to pick up the brochure from St. James's preschool.  Lookie heah...

All children in the 3 & 4 year old classes must be completely toilet trained and comfortable with bathroom habits...Four year old children must be able to communicate their needs in an understandable manner and must be able to work cooperatively in small group and large group activities...

What it said to me was...

              
Keep your disabled kids at home.  We can't handle them. Jesus may love them but we find them a giant pain in the ass...

Maybe Ben's being refused admittance to a catholic grade school 9 years ago sensitized me.  I really thought that those who hoped to be "Christ to others" would have the heart. They didn't.  And when I left the church in 2006, I never really looked back.  There was a whole lotta non Jesus like shit going on all the time, and not a second of guilt shadowed this parochially trained mind. To go back after years; mama asked me to and if she asked me to climb Mount Everest, I would; to go back and find it exactly the same while I had grown so much upset me. 

Thank God for Kevin.  Just as beautiful as he could be and dressed to the nines, in a big black wheel chair with Daddy pushing him, "Hi, little guy, how are you today?"

"He doesn't always answer...Kevin, ..."

"Nah, just leave him alone, he's fine!" I said, and he did allow me to rub his back.

"I'm sorry..." said his Dad.

"No, don't be sorry!  He's like a sign to me today!" (Yeah, I know it was a goofy-ass thing to say.  It's the only language I speak.)

"I've got a mildly handicapped son, with autism, and I find the church is real bad about handicapped outreach.  Do they have anything here?"

"No, not really..."

Sometimes we gotta be the change we want to see.  If they hurt me again, so help me God....

10 comments:

Happy Elf Mom said...

Yep. I have a boy 4 1/2 who has never pooped on the toilet. I have left the "church" and all the "love" they show there and thankyouverymuch have no plans to ever go back. Well, Jesus would have to come over in person and ask, because unlike your situation, my mom never would ask such a thing. :)

Casdok said...

Im a parent who wont just put up with things = as like you say we have to do the changing.

KWombles said...

I hope it works out, this church. We didn't have a lot of luck, and it was hard to go in the hopes that it would be a safe, accepting place and find that it wasn't. I know that some churches do better; we have a blogger on the directory who blogs about the inclusive church.

You're absolutely right; we've got to be the change we want.

r.b. said...

Casdok, I do NOT have your energy! But I hope I love my son as much as you love yours.

KWombles, it's led me to believe that a church is just a social club. And some of the most intolerant people reside there! There are good people there,and good people who would die before they would set foot into one.

Happy Elf Mom said...

Hi rb, I just wanted to let you know that I put up the zero cussing thing because I've had trolls come by and ask what the f I did to my children, am I a crack smoker that I have so many messed up. That sort of thing. I'm ok with occasional interjections but the abusive barrage thing... well, you know. So I am sure you are fine on my blog and ps. sent some friends in from facebook a bit ago; perhaps they showed on your sitemeter.

I got a lot of flack and I was probably overly blunt and lost a few friends but oh wellll.

Stephanie said...

For me, it wasn't so much the lack of accommodations that put off of church--I hadn't sense enough to demand them, yet--it was the dirty looks I got from some of the lovely church ladies in the pews. Old or young, too many would give me dirty looks for my kids' "misbehavior." On top of the pinching and biting they inflicted on me for making them stay in one spot, it just wasn't worth it. (Though there were some very kind exceptions to the dirty-lookers.)

r.b. said...

Stephanie:

I remember the dirty looks from one particular pointy-nosed old hag. Most people were nice. It's just the dang schools. Sure, they do really well on paper because they don't accept anyone with those pesky "differences." By all rights, if the church was what they say they are, the church schools would be where the kids were welcome.

Stephanie said...

I agree. We looked into church schools, but none accepted children with special needs around here.

By now, when I'm well equipped to fight for my kids' rights, it's not some place I really want them to go. I don't want church or church schools to teach my kids that Jesus Christ is exclusive.

r.b. said...

Happy Elf Mom: you are a dear-heart!

Anonymous said...

RE: Church and Disabilities I'm a parent of two adult daughters w/PDD and mild intellectual impairments (as they call it these days). We were fortunate that the girls found a church all on their own that was very accepting all people,even the differently able. Oddly enough it was their gay friends who introduced them to the church! Another group that has searched for acceptance within organized religion. I still remember when I was looking for after school care for my daughters (we're talking 25 years ago plus) and not only couldn't I get them into any after school programs, I couldn't get them a babysitter! Most of the local moms were 'too afraid!' ARRRGH! Don't even ask me about the local Catholic school. (Of course one of our local schools hit the news about the same time for turning down a child who was 'too fat' and 'didn't fit their student demographics' so it does make you wonder 'what would Jesus say?'

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