Susan's Blog

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Separate But Equal

Our town has finally gotten its act together regarding special needs kids and fun. Our Parks and Rec Department is huge, their budget is as well, (I say this as a former jealous School Board member. Not that our budget was small! But because our town splits school and town pretty much down the middle, which is largely a good thing because it guarantees a good budget to the schools, the problem is that the School Board does not like to ask for more when they need it, unless they really, really have to, so they often do without if they can. And so, nice programs get cut. Then I look at all that Parks and Rec has and does and I would get jealous. It’s probably an irrational reaction. I actually believe our town is well-run, as towns go. They just need a little more of a clue when it comes to special needs children.) and they have an entire booklet of activities offered to people of all ages. But for years the special needs parents I hang around with have been feeling overlooked. Most of us just cannot access the typical programs, even if they say they accommodate. They don’t have the right mentality when it comes to our kids. They see our kids as a burden or worse. So we often feel we need to be separate but equal. We believe in inclusion when you can do it, but sometimes inclusion should simply mean, “included in the offerings within the town.” And when you look around at towns nearby, similar to ours, like Newton and Belmont, you see that there are a wealth of interesting recreational programs offered to special needs people.

Things changed for my town a few years ago Parks and Rec hooked up with Special Olympics, and if you know me at all, you know how much I love that organization. SO teaches any kid a sport. They figure out how. They get terrific volunteers, excellent coaches, plenty of staff, and the staff listen to the parents, which is truly the way for children to learn — education must be a partnership with the families.

Now we have a swim team that practices at the town pool, The Brookline Sharks, as well as a soccer team, a track team, and more.

Last night began a new initiative on the part of Parks and Rec: Trips Unlimited, with Drew Bilillies. Drew is one of these Can-Do people, on steroids. (Not really) He operates out of the western suburbs (the Route 128 tony towns) and takes special needs kids, with aides, to all kinds of fun places and restaurants. We met Drew eight years ago when Nat attended a school program out there, and it was through Trips Unlimited that Nat filled his school vacation weeks.

Nat’s friend — with whom he went to the Extreme Sports Camp this summer — shared an additional aide with Nat last night on their first outing. They went to the Good Times Cafe in a van with other kids they knew (some of whom they’ve known all their lives!) and they had a blast, as far as I can tell.

It was a very strange and wonderful sensation, being at home last night (after my two speaking events, which were both excellent gatherings) with just Ned and Ben. I felt both young and old, playing around with Ben while Ned read to him on his bed, waiting for Max and Nat to come home!

Max came home first, around 10, just brimming with things to say. It is National Novel Writing month, and he and his friends are all trying to write 50,000 word novels in one month. He asked if our third floor was habitable so that they could all write there sometime! I was so happy that he wanted to bring them here! It means I have to buy some fuel oil to heat it, but it’s well worth it. I haven’t even met some of them, although Ned has. I’m also glad he is interested in writing. He is great at it, and, well, I feel a sense of pride in that fact.

Then Nat came home, and he had not much to say. He said he had a good time, and then got ready for bed. I was already in my jammies, and I was so tired — from waiting up for my two teenage sons!

1 comment

Jack is just four, so I can only dream of the day …

Must google Drew and get the scoop. Thanks as always for being my beautiful crystal ball…

— added by Judith on Saturday, November 3, 2007 at 1:17 pm

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