No mommy, she only eats certain foods because she’s picky and you allow this pickiness. Abeba doesn’t have an allergy to foods; she has an aversion to them. It’s part of her condition. Abeba is actually an interesting kid. She’s “normal” for the most part, except that she hates to be touched by other people. Oh, and she forgets to listen to other people. She needs constant redirection or she’s going to stare off into space.
She’s so smart though. She’s reading on a 3rd grade level and she’s 5. Her math isn’t as good, but we’re working on it. It’s because her mother always read to her and I guess forgot to teach her math skills. She’s picking up on addition and subtraction very quickly. Rain man is a good description for her ability to understand reading and math so well.
Lunch is always a fight. I fight little kids for a living, have I mentioned that yet? You might have already picked up on it. I’m a champion boxer in the ultimate featherweight class for fighting little children. Abeba, you will eat the school lunch. I don’t care if you are going to make yourself gag and throw up because of the food. It’s that, or it’s nothing. I tell her mother to stop sending her lunch. She’s going to learn to eat all foods.
Well, it’s not going so well. Abeba’s winning these fights because no one wants to get puked on. So, she starves and we don’t give her the afternoon snack that everyone else gets. Oh well. I’ve never been good at tolerating bratty behavior, even from disabled children.
Mother doesn’t like that Abeba’s hungry every day when she comes home. So, she caves and starts sending her lunch. I swear to God, if her mother didn’t check on her every day at lunch, I would have thrown out the food. I’m not joking. Abeba will not starve. She’s already overweight and thanks to my bout of not feeding her lunch, she actually starts losing weight.
Because Abeba’s so smart, and so capable, I have to fight for her to get out of my classroom. I actually don’t want to lose Abeba, she’s the closest to normalcy I have. But my classroom is a madhouse. Her mother’s freaking out because she’s starting to pick up on the behaviors of the others (cursing, spitting, fighting, etc.). I’m freaking out because I know with the assistance of an aide, she can make it in a normal classroom.
Let me back up. So, in DC Public Schools, special education is like a black hole that sucks in children and keeps them forever. They never, ever get out. Well, people like me who advocate for inclusion at all costs, hate that the school system does this. But special ed kids are money and principals are greedy. Also, the “normal” teachers don’t like the sped kids. They’re bad and a lot of trouble and a lot of work.
But Ms. Sunshine is different. She’s young like me and she likes Abeba. So, after coaxing my principal and at the approval of the IEP team (special ed coordinator, mom, Ms. Sunshine, me, principal, and the speech language pathologist), she starts normal kindergarten. Only 20 minutes at first, but it’s a victory.
By the end of the year, I fight to get Abeba into a regular first grade classroom all day with the assistance of a dedicated aide. Well, it happens. Something actually goes right for once.
Abeba was actually one of my big victories. What a shitty job where that’s the greatest thing you do in a year. But that’s not the point I suppose. I championed for her rights and now she’s with the other kids where she belongs. Now, she won’t be stuck in the sped system forever. Now, she has the same opportunities as her non-disabled peers. Well, I suppose I haven’t saved the world, but I did save a little girl. I guess that’s going to have to be good enough.