Personnel became comfortable with Michael and second through sixth grade went smoother. Staff came to know and love Michael. There were still times when someone would forget to order a lift bus for a field trip or did not think about obstacles such as stairs, but they were usually caught in time and worked through.
There were two parts to Michael’s elementary school. The new building was on one level and easy to maneuver a wheelchair. The old building was three stories with no elevator, next to impossible for a wheelchair user. Music and art were in this building. The school purchased a piece of machinery that hooked up to Michael’s wheelchair that “walked” Michael’s chair up the stairs. From my point of view, it wasn’t very appealing and I could not imagine trusting this machine. But Michael is always adventuresome and doesn’t mind. After a few tries, the machine was put in a corner because it was just too slow and cumbersome. It also did not easily attach to a child’s wheelchair. The old building was torn down and the new building was expanded on one level.
(This is Michael with his grandpa. Michael meant everything to grandpa and he was there for everything and would do anything for him. Grandpa never told Michael no. Grandpa died unexpectedly in late 2012 and his absence has really been felt by all of us.)
It is amazing to me that companies build accessible pieces of equipment and play devices for children in wheelchairs but then build them to the specifications of an adult. Be aware of companies selling items that are a “one size fits all”. Check on their claim that the size is easily adjustable. Their idea of adjustable may mean several removed screws, plates, bolts and many hours of work with a less than desirable fit.
Make sure your child is included in field day, sports, gym, art, music, etc. Your child can participate in any of these classes with adjustments depending on the level of your child’s disability. It’s important that your child belong participate with the group and it is the school’s responsibility to make accommodations.
I received a call one day from the school. Children were outside in the snow and sliding on the ice. My son was sliding on the ice and school personnel were concerned that he might be harmed. They called to ask me what I thought. I explained that I wanted Michael to participate and have fun with the other children. There will be times that Michael will get hurt, and while I certainly don’t want people to intentionally push him down, getting hurt is part of growing up.
Many years later I was told that my attitude was the same attitude that staff took with Michael. They felt comfortable working with Michael and knew they could push him to work harder, try new things, and I truly believe made him into the independent individual he is today.
What next? Learn about the junior high years.