Saturday, October 25, 2008

31 for 21 (#25) My heart? It broke yesterday.

Get It Down; 31 for 21
Yesterday was Nora’s fall party for her first grade class. Note – they do not have Halloween parties, nor Christmas parties, nor Valentine’s Day parties, merely fall, winter, spring, etc. Anyway…

I sit on the “room parent” committee, and as said committee person, I am part of a team of mothers who plan these parties. We planned a joyous event. The children had a riot passing the pumpkin, having a sack race (indoors as it was windy with rain) decorating Halloween (woops “fall”) sacks for homemade snack mix, etc. As I said, all the children enjoyed themselves, all with the exception of one dear boy who just so happens to have autism.

This little lad was so dejected, and that is an understatement. Chaos is not in this little boy’s vocabulary, and among the clamor, one little boy (a vital part of the first grade class) was left out and very sad on the floor crying.

How could we have forgotten him when we planned the party? More importantly, how could I have neglected to think about the fact that a boy with autism would be asked to participate in the party’s activities as well? He attends therapy sessions at Elliot’s therapy facility. I have chatted with his mother on more than one occasion. I have “communicated” with him, and when planning the party, I did not remember him at all. Me, a mother of a child who just so happens to have a little boy with Down syndrome, forgot that Nora has a child with special needs in her first grade class.

Needless to say, his aid removed him from the classroom. I approached her and asked if I could work one-on-one with him. “We could decorate a fall sack for snack mix,” I suggested. “No, not a good idea.” “He is beyond return at this point.” So, I made him his own sack with his name to take home. It was the least that I could do.

Later in the evening, I emailed the first grade teacher and asked her to please suggest an activity that Nora’s classmate would enjoy at the subsequent party. She was pleased that I remembered him. I was displeased that I forgot him.

I could not help to think ahead just a bit with regard to Elliot. Would the parents who planned said parties remember “my” son…remember that there was a child in the class who had special needs? Would they plan the activities accordingly?

Will Elliot be able to “pass the pumpkin?” Or, will he throw it in the middle of the circle of children rather than to his neighboring peer? Will he understand the words in the story read to the class? Will he be nimble enough to participate in a sack race in first grade? Will he enjoy himself?

Of course he will.

And, I will never fail to recall Nora’s classmate with autism (or any classmate with any special need) again.


Melissa @ Banana Migraine said...

Oh Michelle, you shouldn't be so hard on yourself. You are doing a wonderful thing and are such a great person.

Debbie Yost said...

I'm a room mom for the first time ever in Peanut's class. Of course, it's my child with special needs and it is a class in theory with 1/2 and 1/2 mix of peer models (typically developing) and children with special needs, but still, I wonder how much I would have considered the little boy who has severe autism. I know him well because I volunteer in the room and yet, I don't know if I would have considered his needs in the party.

We all make mistakes, and that's ok. The fact you recognized the problem and took action to fix it as best you could and will make sure it doesn't happen in the future is what really matters. Try not to be too hard on yourself, but thank you for sharing this story. I, for one, will be sure to keep it in mind when planning our classroom parties.