Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Letters "LRE" Give Me Hives

Yes, I know, I am supposed to be thrilled when I hear "He's doing GREAT! We really think he's ready to move into his general education class(es). Our goal is for him to function well and learn in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)." Logically, I know that is the goal for my little Einsteins; emotionally, I go into panic/no, not yet! mommy mode.

I start wondering, mostly to myself in the wee hours of the night: "What's so great about transitioning into the gen ed class(es)? He's exceling in his academics, he has friends he actually talks to in class, his behavior is typically super (or is easily redirected), his anxiety level is almost nil in regard to school. I adore his teacher(s) and aides and we communicate with each other well and often. Why on earth are we fixing something not broken?!"

Then, I remember why. No matter how hard I try or how much I want it, I can't keep them in a bubble where they don't have to expand on the social and coping skills they've worked so hard on learning. Someday my babies will have to venture out into the "real world" where there are co-workers, bosses, girlfriends that turn into wives, crowds of people to contend with and environments that aren't completely structured. They have to be prepared to live independent, happy lives and the only way to become prepared is to gradually keep moving into the "normal" world now. BUT, that doesn't mean I have to relish idea.

Part of my dread stems from a purely selfish place. When our 6th grader moved into an inclusive classroom a few months ago, life became dramatically easier for all of us. No more 3 hours of homework a night - he finishes nearly every piece of work during school hours now. No more phone calls about unmanageable behaviors - he has actually started removing himself to a quiet spot and calming himself before there's an escalation to "meltdown". No more teachers who "don't get it" - he's surrounded by people he trusts, cares about and, most importantly, "get it" all day long. I'd be a liar if I said inclusive classrooms haven't made MY life a lot easier.

Another piece is the protective mama instinct running rampant. Right now, my boys LOVE their teachers, their classmates, their routine. (Change is NOT a happy word around here) The transitions are going to be hard for them, they will have some anxiety and fear of what's "different". There will be kids in their class(es) who think they are "weird" and may tease or taunt them. There will most certainly be chants from my boys of "That's not the way Mrs. _____ does it!" What if their teacher becomes aggravated with their rigidity and doesn't know how to help them cope? The list could go on and on, but I'm sure you get the idea.

Tomorrow my baby boy will transition to his general education kindergarten class for essentially the whole day instead of the hour and a half he's been going each day. In August my 7th grader will transition back to a block of general education classes with just a couple of hours a day in his current classroom. And yes, my heart is beating a little faster just thinking about these changes in their routines. Like I said, the letters LRE give me hives.

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