This morning I was reading the Valentine’s messages given to Evelyn by her classmates. Because of the similarities in the messages (and that they are on pre-printed paper), I’m assuming that the students were instructed to write a thoughtful message. I imagine that they were asked to think of something special about each classmate. Most of the messages were wonderful and I found myself smiling.
And then? I read this.
“To Evie you are really good with your ipad And you are almost just like us.”
Remember “evelyn: you in a box”?
Remember the big stink I made about compliance training?
Remember the first time I asked, nicely, for the school to reconsider the use of “whole body listening” social skills training?
Remember all of the times, I’ve talked about the dangers of social skills training?
While, eventually, Evie’s educators accepted my insistence that Evie not be, personally, subjected to social skills training of the “whole body listening” variety. After complaining several times about the posters all over the schools and not even receiving an acknowledgement of my concerns, I let it go because I thought I had bigger fish to fry.
Let’s talk about the message Evie received.
It may as well say:
“We were told to say something nice about our classmates. The highest compliment that I can pay you (besides ‘youre really good with your ipad’) is that you’re “almost like us.” Who is “us”, you ask? The real people. The kids that don’t flap their hands, get completely overwhelmed by too much sensory input. The kids that make eye contact and don’t move their bodies when other people are talking. The kids that speak and are able to sit in the real people classroom for the duration of the school day. The kids that don’t need help with personal care. The kids that don’t have a one on one paraeducator. Us.
Hey Evie! If you pay attention to the ‘whole body listening’ curriculum, someday YOU could morph into a real real person. Pay attention to the posters all over the school. They are there to remind you (and ‘us’) that you’re ‘almost like us” but not enough. Sure, we’ve learned to pay lip service to respecting your access needs and we can pretend to be your friends. But until you really get with the program?
You are OTHER.
You don’t belong.
You’re not a real person.
You are not like us.
Your very honest peer”
Congratulations school district! You’ve really and truly taught my child’s classmates not to accept her.
That note and all of its subtext is why I am kicking myself for letting it be enough for Evie not be directly subjected to social skills training. It is NOT enough.
Because Evie is, very much, a victim of this curriculum.
Evie spends five days a week in a hostile environment created by the insistence that one must conform to arbitrary social norms or be ostracized. Disrespected. Dehumanized.
Good intentions are not enough.
So hey school district! Saturday, we are going on vacation. When we come back?
I’m coming for you with a scorch the earth policy.
I will RELENTLESSLY shame you for creating a culture of disrespect for my daughter and her tribe. Much like you shame her. Because when I asked quietly and nicely for your to reconsider this social curriculum? You couldn’t even be bothered to respond.
I’m all done with requests.
I’m demanding, with every single resource at my disposal, that you stop teaching children to be ableist.
See you soon!