Wednesday, September 3, 2014

High School Open House

At 15 years old, Parker is now a sophomore in High School. It's ok if that thought blows your mind, it certainly does mine every single day.  15.  High School. Sophomore.  I'd love to go on about how our kids grow up too fast but that's not my point... tonight, so I'll move on...

Tonight was the Canton High School Open House.  Open houses are something I learned very early on that it really wasn't necessary for me to drag Parker along to (although I tried for a few years before I figured this out).  He would lay on the floor, hit, kick, do anything he could to get out of being there after I literally drug carried walked him into the school. I don't recall when I stopped bringing him but it was in early elementary school.

At some point in Middle School (5th - 8th grades) he decided, with some persuasion, he would go.  It was such a huge milestone I can't believe without looking back I don't know exactly what year it was.  Instead I remember every detail of the night.  I clearly remember walking through the extremely jam packed halls with my son.  With my son.  It was surreal to say the least.  It was extremely crowded, packed with faces of parents I had come to know well over the years, friendly faces, encouraging faces, full of pride in this accomplishment for Parker faces, only trumped by the many greetings for Parker from their kids.  It was a night I'll never forget.  Except the year, clearly I'll forget that part.

Parker transitioned beautifully to high school. He's really flourished there.  Maybe its maturity.  Maybe it was time.  Likely it's the result of the many, many members of the incredible teams of teachers, therapists and professionals he's had on his side since he was 3.  Each person on his team throughout the years has played an important part in helping Parker become who he is today.  There will never be a time where I say "This was all me"  or "us" as his parents.  This was a team, a team we were a very involved part of but a team way bigger than just the 2 of us and I am very thankful for every single member of that team.

The open house is something Parker has been talking about since school started, he has it on every calendar of his.  He's been excited about it and reminding me constantly.  So odd and very unlike him but something I totally encouraged (as did his teachers).  Even when he is this excited about something, it doesn't mean he will go... but he did.  Willingly and excitedly.

For the high school open house, you pick up your child's schedule from the tables in front of the auditorium before heading inside for the welcome and instructions.  Then you follow your child's schedule through each class period (6 minutes long each) to hear a bit about the class from the teacher and wrap up in home room at the end.

Perfect, we can totally do this!  I get his schedule and notice the main entrance to the auditorium is rather packed so I begin to open a side door to go in just as Drew is opening it to come out.  DREW, yes DREW! If I were a person who questioned if God existed, it's little things like this that would prove to me He does.  Drew was exactly who Parker needed to see at that moment to calm his anxious nerves.  Drew has a knack of making life better for Parker.

I wish this wasn't blurry, it's such a great picture of Parker and Drew!

After the announcements we went on with the tour of Parker's day.  Now, this... THIS is where if you were skimming you need to stop and really read because this is what is so important and has left me with a sense of peace and pride.

Parker has 3 classes that are general education classes (Art 2D, PE, Tech 1), 4 counting homeroom.  We already know his special education teachers are amazing, they are part of his team and really - phenomenal.  What I loved about meeting the other teachers was after two of them finished talking about the class time to those who were there they made sure to say to us how much they enjoyed having Parker in their class.  They pointed out how much he enjoys class, how he participates, how he is part of the classroom - sharing his work and/or stories.  This meant a lot to me.  Not just because they enjoy having Parker in their class but because it shows they really understand and support inclusion which is huge!

I know there doesn't seem to be much that can top this.  Parker wanted to go to open house and did - successfully.  Parker's teachers said wonderful things about him - awesome.  But there is one more thing and possibly one of the most important of the night to me...

Not only did the teachers talk about how wonderful Parker is but they talked about how amazing the (general education) students are with Parker. Some went as far as to specifically name another student and talk in detail of how that student offered to sit by Parker the first day, has helped him and shows extreme patience with him all the time.  They talked about how kids in the class pull together to help Parker when he needs it.  They talked about how amazing our kids are together.  This... this is success.  Not just for Parker. But for all of our kids.

Each of these kids who takes time each day to talk to Parker, in class, in the hall, at lunch - they impact his life in the most positive way.  Each of these kids who takes time to let Parker into their life... has that positive impact returned.  This... this is why inclusion is important.  It's more than just the difference it makes in Parker.  It's the difference it makes in every single child and teacher in our school.  Our kids are better because of each other.

I cannot even begin to tell you how much of a sense of peace this brings to me.  It's scary to send my son to school each day... scary.  I hear the horror stories.  I worry so much about him.  I needed this.  I needed to hear he continues to be accepted.  He continues to be involved with his friends and make new ones.  He has fewer opportunities at the high school to be included in classes, my fear was he would end up lost in the shadows.  He's not. Not at all.

For that, I thank each of you - the parents of the kids at CHS who have become Parker's friend.  You are doing an amazing job!  Your child, your children, are compassionate, helpful and caring.  Just as you smiled and said 'Hi' to Parker in the halls tonight, your children are taking it a step further each day and really reaching out to be his friend.  I hope your hearts are filled with as much pride tonight as mine has been.

If you needed a reason to hug your child tomorrow, let this be it. With gratitude and thanks for being a friend to someone extra special who really needs a friend to help support and encourage him and not letting him get lost in the shadows of the high school.

With all of my heart, thank you.

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