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"I have to skate with a RETARD!" At last Sunday's speed skating meet, three categories of skaters were combined to race together; three boys, one girl and one special needs skater (namely Jeffrey). Evidently, not everyone was delighted with the arrangement.
I happened to overhear this because we were sitting right next to the competitors. Jeff was unaware of the minor drama occuring within earshot: Jeff is generally oblivious to all conversation that isn't about cars or Pokemon. However, I felt compelled to gently tap the dad on the shoulder and say, "This is my son, Jeff. He is a special needs skater." The kids didn't hear and Jeff didn't hear, so what does it matter?
It matters to me. That kid's ignorance is a vindication of my anxieties for the boys. Their entire education, including high school, will have taken place in the cozy cocoon of special education and its cousin services, special recreation and inclusion. Beyond those enlightened walls the world is a much less tolerant place.
With the boys in 8th grade, I have been deluged by new information. Our school district supervisor will soon hand us off to the district high school supervisor in charge of out-placed students. Jeff will stay in the same school building, but will participate in a number of "transition" activities to prepare him for high school. I carefully noted the dates of a dizzying number of presentations by schools, vocational programs, work apprenticeship plans for high school students. Hart's job training placement and supervision begins in earnest in 9th grade. Whew.
This is the question that haunts me: what are Hart and Jeff and other kids like them going to do in a few years once public education is finished? I do not know.
In the meantime, it was a small, but welcome victory when Jeff creamed the competition with gold medal win and personal best lap time.