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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Birthday Party

A blue envelope came home in her back pack, opening it, I didn't know what to expect. Then I read the inside and it hit me, a Birthday party invitation addressed to Teale. Tears immediately welled up in my eyes and I quickly texted Mark the exciting news. Every year we have a Birthday party for Teale, every year goes by without invitations being reciprocated. Sure, in the beginning, when the gap was smaller there were a few parties, but over the last four years, I can't think of any. Taking a chance on getting to know Teale by typical families was one of my biggest frustrations in the integrated setting. Families are scared of "different." Kids had little in common with Teale by third grade and yet our school district fought to keep her integrated. What we lost those years I can not get back for Teale. I can not regain that precious time that she should have been a child, enjoying friendships. She was isolated in the public school system, third grade was the beginning of the end. Teale had started school as a two year old, getting on a bus that fall we were filled with hope for her future. The preschool was for children with special needs but it also had typical children enrolled. Mark and I saw this as Teale's path at the time, as she was being raised with typical people and would need social skills to live in society with everyone. Preschool was our first decision on how Teale would be educated. Somewhere along that road in the preschool years, we had to make a turn. For eight months Teale would go to a preschool with only children who were diagnosed with special needs. It was a tough place, with many behaviors and no typical children. We would not chose to keep her in that setting long and would be offered a program right in our home district for kindergarten. Mark and I jumped at the chance to have Teale be in an included setting. The program seemed ideal for our daughter and for what Mark and I hoped for her. Teale would have a home base classroom with all special needs children but she would also be included into typical classrooms as much as she could be successful. Kindergarten had many glitches and many meetings to work through this groundbreaking program, but all in all, it was promising. I always saw Teale as a teacher, living her challenges with grace and providing insight into her world. Children in classrooms with Teale took an interest in sign language and learned about the deaf. They saw her frustration and anger and understood things were not always easy for Teale. Teale taught them that although one of her arms didn't work the way it should, she was amazing at adapting to this loss. She worked through surgery on her leg to make her gait better and on her arm, to make it hang in a more natural way. Teale taught much, just by being a part of the school. First grade and second grade also went fairly well. There were many glitches along the way, but Mark and I advocated strongly and for the most part thought the program was successful in those early years from kindergarten through second grade. Third grade was the year it all began to fall apart, as kids began to notice the opposite sex, play sports competitively and read to learn, as opposed to learning to read. Teale's interests were still very childlike, she was not maturing like the typical kids. That was the year the  few invitations to parties became none. As Teale enters "seventh grade" an invitation comes home in her backpack. It would take me too long to explain how we got here, (see the blog, but finally Teale is in a school we fought hard to get her into. Finally, I can see her future opening up again and the possibilities as endless. Finally my daughter has been invited to a Birthday party, such a simple thing in the typical world, but for Teale it is a milestone I won't soon forget.

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