We’ve always advocated strongly for Schuyler to be educated in an inclusive public school environment, even moving to our current city to make sure she’d be able to integrate using assistive technology to bridge the communication gap between her and the typical world. I have to be honest and say that her current school situation is a poor reflection of that goal. There are a lot of reasons for that. It’s a complicated situation, which is usually a pretty accurate way to describe the lives of special needs families. There are goals, and there is reality, and if you’re lucky they might look a little bit similar. If you’re very, very lucky.
For the past three years, Schuyler’s consistently successful inclusion story in middle school was band, where she played percussion under the tutelage of two very patient and innovative band directors. Her participation was accommodated, to be sure, but it was also meaningful. She contributed to the performances of her ensembles, in ways that were exposed and upfront and a little bit risky. They believed in Schuyler, and it showed. For three years, band was Schuyler’s sheltering island in a turbulent sea.
Now she’s transitioning to ninth grade, and to the competitive world of Texas high school marching band. It’s been unclear what that’s going to look like, exactly, except that the accommodations are going to be fewer, and less dependable. Schuyler’s entering into a bigger world now, one that’s going to require more independence from her, more problem-solving. Swimming, to avoid sinking.
Yesterday was her first day of drumline camp. One week of intensive instruction, both in music and marching techniques that are all new to Schuyler. She was extremely nervous going in, but when the kids broke out into their first session, she said her goodbyes and went with her group. No hesitation.
At the end of the day, I picked Schuyler up from the school. She was happy but not forthcoming with many details of her day. We had a long drive home, though.
“What was the best thing that happened today?” I asked.
“I played marimba all day,” she replied. “And I got two brownies at lunch!”
“And what was the worst part of the day?”
“I tried to talk to people with my iPad, but no one would talk to me. I tried a lot, too.”
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she answered. “I’ll try again tomorrow.”
And that was that.
When she was much younger, I believed that Schuyler was fearless. I was wrong. She’s never been fearless, not exactly. She’s had fear, as we all do. But she’s also had determination, and tenacity, enough to power through her fear again and again. She’s got whatever it is that will send her back this morning to try again. That’s better than being fearless. That’s what it’s going to take for her to walk through this grand rough world on her own terms. It might be the thing I admire the most about her, although I don’t know. There’s a pretty long list.
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