We’re in the process of looking at high school options for Cole. Sadly we soon will leave the inclusive nest of CHIME and throw him to the wolves known as LAUSD public high school.

It’s terrifying. The main realization I’ve come to is that children who are differently abled or different learners are not exactly welcome when it comes to high schools. The effort or cost to actually provide any sort of education to this population is not deemed worthwhile.

There are little opportunities to create a class schedule that would allow children who need support, physical or otherwise, in the classroom to learn in a typical high school classroom. In an overly crowded classroom with 45 desks, there’s not even physical room for a child in a wheelchair to maneuver or settle.

Our home school is not a viable option for Cole. Four different local gangs (so I probably don’t need to further explain why he’s never going to go there) rule the campus, so safety becomes a huge concern, and it’s not geared for kids with physical needs. I’ve toured a couple of schools so far and have several more to visit over the next month before we have to start making decisions and applying.

The one thing I’ve come to understand is that there will be very little opportunities for Cole to be included in, what I’ve come to fondly call “gen pop”. He’ll be relegated to special day classes where the classes are slightly smaller, the curriculum is modified to differently abled learners and where he can have someone with him to support both his physical needs and to help him access his classwork.

Part of me understands why high school has to be like this. They’re under-funded; overcrowded, and under-trained when it comes to inclusion. I also have no illusions about my son’s ability to keep up at class level without considerable support and modifications to his work. I do get the simple argument but to me it’s more complicated, and it’s more of a civil rights issue.

No child left behind means that no child should go without an adequate education. It doesn’t seem like our public high schools are even taking the first step towards providing a decent education for children with special needs. There’s a population of over twenty percent of our children who are left without real opportunity to have a true high school education and experience. It’s heartbreaking and it’s wrong.

Besides the placement of being in special day classes, there is little opportunity for any social interaction with gen pop. One school offered the possibility of him taking an elective each semester that would allow him to be in a gen pop classroom. Cole’s a very social being. He thrives on the interaction and friendship from typical children. He’s always made friends with typical kids and has never been a setting where he’s only among children with special needs. His criteria for friendship are all about shared interests and experiences. Even educationally, his typical peers motivate him. He wants to show them he can do things, what he’s learned, what he’s capable of. I fear that relegating him to special day classes will leave him lonely and unmotivated, and eventually depressed.

It sounds dire. It feels dire. I loathe this experience. I know that wherever he ends up, we will be right there in the trenches advocating for everything possible that can make his experience more inclusive and more tailored to his capabilities rather than disabilities. I know it will take a lot of work and diligence. I’m prepared to be the loudest squeaking wheel in the school if that’s what it takes to ensure he has a positive high school experience.

I just wish that there were more interest and support in educating all children from the schools. There are too many children who are being left behind.

6 Responses

  1. Great blog. I am by no means at this level. However my little guy is vastly approaching Middle school. I think that you are doing all of the right things to ensure that your son is going to get the best wherever he goes for high school. I think we as mothers of these kiddos have to put up such a fight with everything that we try to do for them. Keep the fight alive moma!!

  2. Thank you CPmommy246! I appreciate the kind words. I feel like if enough of us fight for change, it will come. Our kids have so much to offer their communities, the world…

  3. I just stumbled across your blog, I have Cerebral Palsy and while I wasn’t in a wheelchair in high school I had a handful of complications that made me need adaptive devices and made my school have to adapt to me. I went to a normal, public high school and of course -it wasn’t easy. It was a fight but it was worth it for the experience I gained for learning to adapt in a world that isn’t made for me. I’m in college now and use a wheelchair to get around my campus – it still isn’t easy but my battles in high school prepared me for now. Not everything or everyone is bad their will be people who will help your child. Teaching them to advocate is key. Good luck!

    • Hi Brittney…Thanks for your insight. It’s greatly appreciated. You sound like a strong, determined young woman. Brava. I am ready to advocate in any way I can to make his high school experience successful and enjoyable. I just feel sad that it has to be so much harder for kids with disabilities to attain the same education and experience that typical kids have and needed to vent! So far, he’s had a great school experience, and loves both the learning and social aspects of school. I look forward to that continuing in high school too and hope, that like you, he has college in his future. xo

      • Is he able to advocate for himself?

  4. He’s non-verbal and recently started using a new voice output device, so is still learning a “new language”, so at this point and time, no, not independently.

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