end of the year thoughts

Today was Rachel’s last day of her first year at NPCC School. Tonight, I find myself reflecting on what I witnessed this week.  Yesterday, the NPCC School held their annual send-off ceremony.  Similar to how a typical school has a graduation ceremony, the NPCC School recognizes those students who are leaving.
What makes the send-off ceremony at NPCC School different is related to the fact that many NPCC School students are graduating from just one year - and some students are returning for another year.  All are recognized and celebrated at the annual send-off ceremony.  

The vision of the school is to prepare the children for mainstream classrooms.  In addition to those who attend for one or two years, there are some students who remain for several years and others who go back and forth over the years between mainstream and NPCC. 
Yesterday, the smiles on the students’ faces were awesome and the joy was contagious.
But... I had bittersweet feelings as I stood among the parents and therapists. 
You see, a place like NPCC School feels safe to someone like me with children like Rachel and Janneke.  
As I watched some of the students receive the applause of those gathered yesterday, I wondered how their new schools, their new classmates, and their new teachers would treat them.  
Would the disability cloud their perspective, making it difficult to see the person?
Sometimes, we fool ourselves thinking that we are normal, and people with disabilities are not.
Truthfully, no one is perfect - and, as Ian Brown put it, disability terrifies us.  It reminds us of our own shortcomings, our own (hidden) disabilities, our impending death and lack of control in a control-freaking culture.
I’d like to think there is more acceptance and kindness in our culture today, specifically related to children with special needs.  Sadly, I can recall many inappropriate comments and jokes that floated through the hallways and schools in my childhood, and I would like to think we’ve changed since.  
I suppose that’s why I love a place like NPCC School.  All abilities are embraced and celebrated - verbal, non-verbal, mobile, immobile, drooling, diapers....  The children are embraced and celebrated for who they are, not who they were supposed to be or what they should be. 

For Rachel, she is returning to NPCC School as part of the Total Communication Class - full day, every day.  We were prepared to begin integrating her into Beacon’s program, but if she has the opportunity to spend more time with therapists and staff at the centre school, then we will wait with our Beacon plans.
So, on this evening after all the graduations, I want to share with you an open letter:  see next post