Who would have thought at two years old an important decision about school would be so eminent?
Tomorrow Beth and I will sit with all of Becca’s service coordinators, doctors, and representatives from the school and the state. All told there will be around ten people descending on the Lacourse household to discuss Rebecca’s educational future. Because of her extra needs we need to be pretty pedantic about the decision and make sure we are thinking of even the smallest detail. This is why we will have a team of folks helping us, people that represent her educational needs from a deaf persons perspective, a visually impaired persons perspective as well as a mobility perspective. We are ultimately preparing to make a choice on sending Becca to a school specifically for children who are deaf and hard of hearing or to a main stream school. There are benefits to either approach and with the benefits come some real concerns as well and the decision is not something we take lightly. Beth has been preparing for this day for well over a year, our children’s education is one of her top priorities. I admittedly am a bit more relaxed when it comes to these decisions but Beth is fully immersed and understands the complexities of this decision better than I ever will. We regularly discuss some of the issues that ultimately come into play and the issues are complex but they are also fairly obvious.
When making this decision we have to think of her learning environment from an acoustics perspective as well as a visual perspective, and of course these considerations are not limited to the classroom but also the playground the hallways and any transitions that she will have to make during a regular school day. There are so many questions that come to light as we try to navigate this decision. Will the classrooms and hallways have adequate lighting, and will the environment be too noisy? Very subtle things like a loud air conditioner could be the difference between a conducive learning environment for her or not. Noisy chairs being pushed in and out would render her Cochlear Implants useless. Will the school have the proper auditory equipment? Will the teachers know what to do when her Cochlear Implants come off? What if Rebecca wants a break from her implants how will she communicate with her teachers and classmates? Surely they wont be at her signing level in a main stream school. Will they force her to put them back on… (I can answer that one, NO!, her Cochlear Implants are ultimately her ears and we will empower her to control their use). Will the edge of stairs be properly marked with high visibility tape? Will the environment be consistent so that she can adapt to it? Will the school be staffed properly with specialists that specifically can cater to her needs? This is a short list of questions that will come up during our discussion tomorrow and we are certain a bunch more will be brought up by the professionals that are coming out to represent her.
Ultimately is comes down to two choices:
- Send Rebecca to a main stream school, where she will be taught listening and spoken language which will prepare her socially for a primarily non-deaf world but be an extremely challenging environment to learn in.
- Send Rebecca to a specialized school, where they understand her specific needs. She will primarily communicate using sign and some spoken language which is perfectly fine for communicating in our home and at school but I do worry that it will not prepare her adequately socially for a world that will not be as accommodating.
I don’t anticipate that we will be able to make a decision tomorrow but I do know it will bring us a bit closer to it. Ultimately the decision we make will be the correct one, of that I have no doubt, I know this because if it is not working we will adapt and adjust to make it work.