Monday, May 18, 2009

Tumbling into inclusion

"Were you in the tumbling class this morning?" she asked from across the street.

I was trying to get Caden hustled out of the house so we could hit the pharmacy before it closed. Caden charged down our walkway as I pulled the door shut behind me. I turned to see him stop at the sidewalk, waving to the woman pushing two children in a jogging stroller across the street. He is, after all, the self-appointed mayor of our town and never neglects his welcoming duties. Everyone deserves a smile and a wave. She waved back and I recognized her but wasn't sure from where. Fortunately she asked the question about the tumbling class so I could place her.

"Yes, we were. Are you new to the class?" I responded. I had never seen her or her daughter in Caden's gymnastics class before. As she crossed the street towards us, she explained that they usually attend gymnastics on another day but were having a make-up lesson (which I didn't even know was possible; nice to find out AFTER cold/flu season).

When she stepped up onto our sidewalk, we did a round of introductions and I noticed her Pro-Life t-shirt. She was very interested in Caden and I was betting she was finding the nerve to ask if we'd had a prenatal diagnosis. As she asked more questions about Down syndrome, I casually added that bit of information but I think it only served to stir up more curiosity in her mind as she suggested that we should get together over tea or coffee sometime to continue the conversation.
Then she commented, "I'm impressed that you have him in the gymnastics program." I know she meant it as a compliment but in my head I was wondering "Well, what am I supposed to do with him? Keep him locked up in the house all day?" Maybe she assumed that there was a similar class for kids with disabilities (not in our area anyway) or maybe she thought that gymnastics might be too dangerous for a child like mine. It didn't bother me enough to dwell on it with her but the statement did remind me that every time I engage in a community activity with Caden, we are also taking on the responsibility of advocacy and disability awareness. Every encounter with the public is also an opportunity to open eyes and hearts.

Certainly things were different for previous generations but for children today, inclusion is becoming more common. I actually went to meet the owner of the gymnastics academy before registering Caden to make sure it would be a good fit for everyone. Not only were they extremely positive and welcoming, but they mentioned how many other children with disabilities were students there. We were far from being trailblazers.
Today was the last day of class and every child received a trophy. Caden stood atop the thick mat serving as the medal stand and raised his trophy high over his head. Then he hugged his teachers before running to me, both of us beaming with pride. Why would we miss out on a moment like that? Of course I have him in the gymnastics program.


Angela said...

Oh, I can't wait until Benjamin is old enough to do things recreationally other than crawl around and chew on his brother's toys! LOL

I saw your comment on Adrienne's blog, and I had to leave one below it. Your words were just AMAZING! Here is the link back in case you wanted to read it. :)

Adrienne said...

That's wonderful that he's in the class! I hope to one day do the same thing!!

I too loved your comment and it's so true-I've had several people comment to me about your comment:) Thanks for helping me see that there can be a very positive side to all of it!

Adrienne said...

Hey, I just mentioned your comment in a post I just did, hope you don't mind! Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

HI. Just found your blog and LOVE your post. I am left smiling!

datri said...

Awesome! That's wonderful! I was hoping to put Kayla in a gymnastics program, but it conflicted with her home ABA.

Jessica said...

Angela, thanks for your feedback on the comment I posted on Adrienne's blog but it's really not amazing. It's just honest.

Adrienne, I don't mind you mentioning my comment at all but I could have added a lot more of those kind of "What If's" if I knew you were doing that. In hindsight, I see so many important things I omitted but I know you'll be realizing them for yourself very soon. Starting today actually!

Welcome farrellx4!

datri, I highly recommend gymnastics if Kayla's schedule should ever allow it. We drove past Caden's gymnastics building today (en route to the dentist - yuck!) and he pitched a fit when we didn't stop!