Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The difference a great school makes....

This is a little bit tardy for posting.....but I'm catching up, remember? So read on.

In March, the Missoula Children's Theater came to Raymond School District. (I LOVE them, by the way! It is the perfect answer to drama for small schools. If you aren't familiar with MCT, google them!) Jen came home all week before play try-outs absolutely begging to try out. I smiled pleasantly at her, and silently threatened to hang the person that was making it all sound so wonderful. As a kindergartener, Jen's experience with MCT was only through Tiersten last year. So......??? Where was she getting the idea that this was "so much fun". It's WORK! Albeit, only for a week. But WORK. And the sensory-parent in me was anticipating the horrors of the costume and make-up, the visual impact of hundreds of pairs of eyes peering at her on stage, the auditory impact of music and singing. Remember.....she coudn't "do" the Christmas Program. So why did she think play try-outs sounded so fantastic???

Lo and behold, Monday came. And I found out that it was our very own principal (who happens to have a special relationship with Jen) that was talking up the play. I arrived in the school, and she immediately spotted me and asked, "Jen's trying out after school today, right?" My eyes narrowed. After a few direct questions, I indeed had the person-needing-throttling. We proceeded to have a quick banter regarding the sensory demands of the play, ya da ya da ya da.

And then all the sudden, our principal said something astounding to me. "You know, Mom......she has the right to a free appropriate public education." And then she told me that, if necessary, Jennica's para-educator would be paid to work into the evenings all week, so that Jen could have her "helper" there to assist her with the sensory needs.

Huh? The principal was telling ME, the PARENT.....my child's rights? This conversation almost ALWAYS works in reverse. I was blown away and I backed down immediately. If my school district is THAT committed to helping my child be successful at something she wants to attempt, why would I say, "No."??

As it turned out, Jen crashed and burned at try-outs. I was right. Halfway through try-outs she started twisting her hair and chewing on her shirt. And then she turned to her teacher and asked that her Mom be called so she could go home. The sensory input was too much and she needed out of there.

But it doesn't really matter. What matters is that my daughter had a chance to participate at the same level as all the other boys and girls. And that my school district was willing to make sure that she could be successful, even if that meant paying an employee! WOW!!! For parents of children with disabilities, this is HUGE!

And for Jen.......she got to try out and she was happy with that. The decision was HERS not to continue. Mom didn't have to tell her she couldn't try out. And the school district didn't say she couldn't try out. She left while the experience was still positive, and she's already talking about trying out again next year. :)

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