Having a child in special education can feel like they are in “No Man’s Land,” especially if they spend a lot of time away from their peers as Eddie does. His unique needs due to autism and blindness make it hard for us to know where he specifically belongs. Because of this, we find ourselves in the dark sometimes when it comes to school activities and information. This spring, we were excited to be included from the beginning with the school’s popular “museum” event.
Every year, his elementary school puts on a “Wax Museum” where they pick a famous character, dress like them, and prepare a short speech. They stand posed in the cafeteria, and spectators stop by and hand them a ticket if they want to hear their presentation. Eddie’s school started reminding us of this event months ago, and we took a lot of time brainstorming how to make it work for him.
We knew he wouldn’t give a speech on demand; definitely not repeatedly for an hour two days in a row. We knew he liked to hear himself on videos, and we also knew that he can be pretty funny if you draw it out of him. He had all of the materials to transform into Louis Braille, and his love for foreign languages would make incorporating French perfect.
We decided on creating our own video at home with the help of his little sister, and then he could hit “play” during the event. We had a fun time bringing Louis Braille to life, and Eddie’s acting was great. Dressed in character, he ended up being able to play his video for many visitors as you can see in this photo. For the first time in too long, we felt like he wasn’t in “No Man’s Land,” but instead, alongside the other fifth graders… participating just like them.
I struggle with finding a sense of belonging for him at school all the time. I realize that he can’t just jump right into an activity without pre-teaching and guidance, but he should always be given those things and those opportunities. He really likes to be included and is a willing participant when shown the meaning or purpose. When it appears otherwise, I just think it’s because he wasn’t set up for success. We are all guilty of that at times.
For us, the wax museum pulled us out of “No Man’s Land” for an afternoon or two. He was included in a way that made sense to him and to us. And although I can’t get him to say, “My name is Eddie” in English, he said, “My name is Louis Braille” beautifully in French. I’m really proud of the work he did and love it when he surprises me. The fifth grade guests that day not only learned more about Louis Braille but a little bit more about Eddie too.