Double Edged Sword
September 11, 2015
Get In The Pool
October 1, 2015

Like A Failure

I feel like a failure

And I have felt like that for quite some time

I don’t feel like a failure for everything – just a failure in creating inclusive opportunities for my son and other children with disabilities. I feel like I should walk the path encouraging people along the way to partake of our knowledge about inclusion and what it means not just for our children with disabilities but rather for everyone in the community.

When Corbin was younger we tried many preschool activities – all of which he was asked to leave due to aggression and inability to follow the rules. Those were early years and we had no answers as to why he did what he did and so we didn’t know what to tell staff of these programs.

Then later there were the times that we put him activities like private swim lessons, karate and Cub Scouts. By this time I felt more knowledgeable and stronger. I wrote out information for them and spoke to each instructor/leader and for the most part he did pretty well. At the time we felt he was being included both at school and in the community. It was exhausting for me though as I was the go to person to trouble shoot any difficulties that he encountered.

I send my children to Catholic school here in our hometown – which means they are supposed to be inclusive – it’s a point of pride for them. Never was it so clear to me that inclusion wasn’t happening than the day of the Grade 5 Christmas lunch with parents. I was running late that day but only by a few moments – when I entered the gymnasium families were sitting together with other families.

There in the back of the room at a table far away from the rest sat my son and his then 5 year olds brother. My throat caught and I immediately wanted to cry and scream at the same time. The Educational Assistant stood off to one side, completely unengaged and uninterested. Why didn’t she facilitate him joining another family group – or pull his table over to join another? But I said nothing, I just felt so unbelievably sad, disillusioned, and tired. So very very tired of fighting the good fight.

Things are better now he is at high school – he has a group of friends from elementary school that he hangs with as well as some new friends he has met there. But what about now? What about for all the kids coming down the line whose parents want them to be included?

My heart breaks a little each time a flyer for a recreational activity specifically for those with “special needs” crosses my desk. Even worse are the ones that are disability specific – further segregating children who are our most vulnerable and who need help to make friends and keep them. But I also understand because the world isn’t always accepting but I know the times my son felt include were the best times of his life – like when he was on the school soccer team and at the very end he started to cry – boys around him told him not to worry that they lost and Corbin managed to sob “but I won’t get to hang out with all of you all the time”

And to be honest I am not innocent. I too bowed to pressure and put him in Therapeutic horseback riding and in “Special Stars” soccer (love the man who runs it – hate the name). So who am I to espouse the virtues of inclusion? I have allowed my own child to do segregated activities and I feel like I am betraying all those who have gone before us who never settled for anything less than equality

Tina Szymczak
Tina Szymczak
Tina Szymczak is a 40-something mom and wife with two spirited boys. She has worked in early intervention and as an advocate resource for families with a loved one with a disability. Now she also writes a blog about raising children with complex needs, trying not to lose your sense of self as you parent, and her struggles with mental health.

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