As she sat there reading her book word-for-word, I felt a sense of determination. Ella loves to read and therefore has plenty of motivation when it comes to memorizing sight words.
“We’ll show them,” I thought, “they think that she can’t learn alongside her peers, but we’ll work hard and make it happen.” I had been on my soapbox all week having conversation after conversation with the school administration, the school board and Inclusion Alberta about how to protect Ella’s right to learn. It was exhausting to say the least.
But the other day, as I watched her say goodbye to her peers and walk across the playground, it hit me, “It’s not her responsibility to prove anything to anyone.” After all, that would be a big responsibility for a little girl.
Sometimes we forget what we’re fighting for and why. We miscalculate our success and pat ourselves on the back as if we have done something noble and heroic when really, it’s our kids who have done the real work. As a parent of a child with special needs, the competitor in me wants to embrace the challenge of her so-called disability and prove them all wrong – I want Ella to exceed their expectations. I want her to show them that not only can she learn alongside her peers, but she can also do everything her friends can do – she can be just as popular, as smart, as accepted and as pretty as the best of them, she can swing, she can dance, and she can play soccer.
I want her to succeed. But what if her definition of success is not my definition of success?
Do I believe that we should focus on the ability and not the disability? Absolutely!
Do I believe that Ella is capable of learning to read, write and function independently in society? Of course! But will she have the desire to go to college? Maybe not. Will she care if she is popular? Probably not, however, I see the hurt in her eyes when she knows she’s been rejected. Is she beautiful? Always and forever.
Will her success change public policy and pave the way for families in the future? No. Because public policy should exist not only for those who succeed academically but for those who don’t. Even if she wasn’t successful at all in the eyes of society, she STILL deserves the right to learn.
BUT WHAT IF HER DEFINITION OF SUCCESS IS NOT MY DEFINITION OF SUCCESS?
As I advocate for her to be in a “typical classroom” day after day and as we go over her spelling words week after week, I have to watch myself. More than likely, Ella will not do as well academically as her peers. It’s just the way it is. I am not in denial of her cognitive delay but I’m also not ignorant of the fact that Ella has HUGE potential. I want to do everything I can to foster and grow the delightfully vivacious character that God has given her BUT it is not her job to prove anything to anyone.
She is not my pawn to make a point or spite the policy. She is Ella and we will read night after night because she loves to read. I will put her in ballet class because she loves to dance and I will fight for her, because my little girl deserves to be seen, not as a liability, but as the beautiful, wonderful little human being that she is.