It’s September now. Everyone seems to be going to school. Except me.
So I have finished my degree with some support. Maybe some would love to gush about the accessibility of the school system, how we integrate the normals and the for lack of better word, the “non normals”. But what is “integration” really and call you call it that? “Integration” is a misnomer. It does not necessarily mean that we are all part of it, that we fully equal and that gulfs don’t exist. It just means that everyone gets to be there, share the same space, share the same air.
I spent most of my grade school in a social development program. Yes, I rode the short bus. And the “short bus” jokes are not particularly funny to me. We often had maybe one block per week (elementary) or one to two classes (secondary and only in some cases) of “integration” in which I was just tossed in a regular classroom for a while. But did I interact with the class? Not really. In my later years of high school, I was fully “integrated” – if you can call it that. I went to “normal” classes, did “normal” schoolwork. Did I have “normal” relationships? Not even close. I made no friends.
Yes, for all intents and purposes, I have graduated university. Most will say that I was “integrated” since I went to normal classes, handed in normal assignments, took normal exams (often with the class) and normally procrastinated. But I wasn’t normal. Throughout my entire 6 years of university (I didn’t take full loads), I was incredibly isolated. I don’t recall talking to my peers let alone making friends. I had accommodations for group work, presentations and participation so I was allowed to remain in my “buffer zone”. No one was even interested in me anymore and I helplessly felt the gaps widening. I never had normal parties, normal relationships, normal friends, normal study groups, normal clubs, normal jobs or anything like that.
There was me. And then there were the normals.
That is not “integration”. It is barely inclusion in the aspect that sharing physical space and course content is accepted.
I don’t think there is adequate support for developing social skills in the public system where I live. There wasn’t for me. Aside from math, I was generally okay for academics. I’m no genius but I can manage alright. But I still have the social skills of a rock…and judging from my meltdown with a phone call a few days ago, I still have the social skills of a rock. It is better I guess but simply not good enough.
Some debate if special needs should even be in classrooms, claiming that slows others down. I don’t know but I know that we sure as hell can’t develop social skills if we have no one to practice it on. Also, that kind of edging towards discrimination. Yes there are cases where a student is disruptive but aside from that. Sure you can’t spend all day tending to one or two students with a one or two staff and support members but that’s a staffing problem, not including special needs. So don’t blame the students, especially if they are not disruptive. I wasn’t but I’ve had classmates that were (or at least distracting – such as throwing pencils so it sticks up in the ceiling).
At any rate, I still few completely out of the loop and searching for the entrance into the loop that I cannot possibly go in. I still don’t have friends, still can’t make friends. I’ve been riding for over a decade now and spent part of the time hanging out at the barn. But I’ve never made horsy people friends (especially other students) and it feels like I’m just so completely out of touch with them. I have watched people made friends at the barns but the most I’ve been able to do was to be a third wheel to two younger horse crazy girls (they were both better riders than me despite I that probably was riding longer) when I was helping camps in Southlands (I was helping with them but got “laid off” in about 2-3 weeks since they only wanted 2 helpers). It is however, still closer than what I’ve had a university. Since my classes always had a different group of people, I never really got to know anyone anyway.
Even when I did talk to my peers in regular classes when I was around grade 1-2 (5-7 years old), I still never made friends. They all thought I was weird or something.
At any rate, schools can say all they want about “integrating” everyone, if possible. But they do not. Nor do the provide the support for some to do so.
I’m still looking out of the glass, waiting for something.