Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Powerful Force For Love

Today I had Patrick's IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for his transition to high school.

I wasn't expecting too much since we had recently had another IEP meeting and pretty much set up all of the expectations for next year and planned it all out ahead of time.
This was just a more formal hand off:
You, junior high group, formally pass the torch to the high school group.

It was an intimate affair.

One school psychiatrist. One inclusion specialist from the high school. 
One junior high inclusion specialist and me.
And the person of honor: Patrick.

So we started out the meeting in the usual way.
Let's list Patrick's strengths.
Patrick, you go first.

Patrick was prepared.
Mike, his awesome inclusion specialist, had worked with him.
He listed off his reading, his love of Shakespeare, his love of drama...
and then he paused.

So the team, ever conscious of time, and the need for a steady pace, stepped in.
Mike asked pointedly: "Any more strengths, Patrick?"

Patrick was thinking about it.
I wanted to jump in and list the many, many strengths that I know he has.
But I resisted.

I distracted myself: I pondered how I would have handled this question 
asked of me in a room full of adults as a 15 year old.
I would have said way more ummmms.

[Once again, I considered how faulty this whole process was...
how contrived and forced.
What 15 year old would want to discuss his or her strengths or challenges in a room full of adults?
What adult would?
Asking a typical student to do this is hard.
Asking a teenager with a developmental disability to do this is Herculean.]

Patrick ummed for only a short second and then he hit it out of the park:

"Oh, and I'm a powerful force for love."

What on earth?
Have I said that phrase.to anyone.

There was a silence in the room.

I wasn't sure if they had heard him...but Mike did.

I agreed with Patrick and chimed in.
"Yes, he's a powerful force for love...but I'm not sure where that will go in our paperwork."

In my mind, I'm in a trance.

Powerful force for love.
Powerful force for love.
Powerful force for love.

Why, oh why, isn't that measurable?
Why does an ability to move fractions into percents seem to this audience as a greater strength?

Where's our humanity?


What I love about this whole episode is that to those of us who have our days graced with someone with Down Syndrome this whole conversation doesn't seem so far-fetched.
People with Down Syndrome have a remarkable ability to keep it real.
To be candid and spot on.
They get to the heart of a situation.
They speak their minds...
without pretense or hidden agendas.

We just have to listen.

Or their genius gets overlooked...or lost...or worst of all, remains unknown.

No adult took the bait.
Patrick's comment went untouched.

Except for me.

His words just echoed. Over and over.

Powerful force for love.
Powerful force for love.
Powerful force for love.

His words became the haunting opportunity that remains largely missed in our schools.
Students with intellectual disabilities should be,
included in typical classrooms...for this very reason.


And our classrooms need way more love.
Our typical students could sure use some love...
some acceptance...
some social, emotional acknowledgement.

Our schools need this powerful force,
way more than fractions or dates in history or grammar.

LOVE is the answer.


Still, hours later, I'm hypnotized by those words.

Powerful force for love.
Powerful force for love.
Powerful force for love.

Maybe he said them just for my benefit.

They have forever changed me.
Patrick's words have become a mantra...
a challenge...
a request from the universe.
Most of all, they have become my heart's desire...
a daily affirmation...

to live more forcefully...
for love.

Let's be a powerful force for love. Today.

1 comment:

  1. That is just breath-takingly amazingly beautifu.