That’s what I say, every time someone suggests my daughter with special needs can't do something. It happens a lot when you have a child with disabilities.
Our daughter is 33, and I was sick of hearing the word “can’t” by the time she was a kindergartner.
I try to be nice. I listen politely, for example, as our parish priest tells me why Noni can't go to an hour of weekly religion class: Because other parishes – not ours – have classes for children like your daughter. Because our teachers don’t have special training. Because we’ve never done it before.
My comeback: The problem is our family belongs to this parish. If a teacher isn’t sure what to do with her, ask another student in class. These kids go to public school together all day long, and they know how to include her in the lesson.
Hey, I didn’t major in special education in college, and God gave her to me anyway.
He wouldn’t budge.
I was inspired early in my daughter’s life by a true story told at an inclusion conference by a professor of special education:
A young mother desperately wants her child with profound disabilities to attend elementary school. The school says no, no, and no.
On the first day of kindergarten, Mom rolls her little guy into the classroom, parks his wheel chair, turns around and walks home. A few hours later, a rattled school official calls. A morning fire drill proves her son is a fire hazard. They cannot get him out of the building in time to meet code.
Mom does her research, discovering there's never been a fire in the 85-year-old school building. Next day of school, she drops off her son and a signed release reading: In the event of a fire, let him burn.
Those scorching words set me on fire.
The story of that mother rallies me to drop off my daughter, holding the hand of her slightly older brother, on the first day of after-school religion class. I instruct him to walk Noni to her classroom, pick her up afterward, and meet me in the very same spot in the parking lot.
I'm not going in with her, because I'm not taking no for an answer.
She is going to class and, by God, she did.