My name is Haley Hilt, I am a 13 year old resident of this district and a student in the special education program at Maple Hill School. My Poppy and I find ourselves busy lately, writing our column for special needs kids and testifying on their behalf. We recently testified before the FDA and most recently before the East Greenbush School Board.
Tonight we are here to testify for myself and fellow students. The reason is simple, I find myself confined to a self contained classroom in a non general education building in a district outside my home district. It lacks the delightful chaos of the school I once attended which was Red Mill Elementary. I miss the laughter filled, riotous behavior of the non disabled children that filled the hallways and assemblies of that school and the daily interaction with them.
Obviously my skills are impaired and when such skills are impaired, children such as I are often excluded from many conversations and activities, as well as classrooms, and buildings where our non disabled peers are educated. I suppose it is easy for others to overlook what is intrinsically normal about us, since we often are not able to communicate that to others. That is why we wrote our column We Learn.
We are here tonight to strongly urge you to reconsider the relocation of the Questar III special education classes from the Red Mill Elementary School to Maple Hill School and reverse the location of the Middle School from Maple Hill back to Goff Middle School.
We ask this of you for one very important reason. It would put myself and my peers in the closet proximity to our non disabled peers as seems required by IDEA. It would allow myself and my classmates the opportunity to daily interact with my nondisabled peers.
My Poppy, and my parents and grandmother have walked behind this wheelchair for over a decade, and we know the attitudes out there. Let us help you change those attitudes starting with my peers in my home district. I am in HERE, I hear you, see you and render judgement on you as you do me. If you don’t want me to see or hear you, leave me where I am. If you would like to know me better put me where I belong.
Let’s be blunt. There is not a single elementary or secondary school teacher or parent for that matter who has not dealt with the issues of fitting in or belonging. In fact, it is part of the daily dynamic of all classroom behavior. Brene Brit, noted author, in an interview on NPR On Being with Krista Tippett, related that in a focus group with middle school children, one child stated, “Fitting in is when you want to be a part of something. Belonging is when others want you.”
Look around you, at each other, and what you see are people on the move seeking to fit in, all knowing the experience of not belonging at one time or another. I have no skills to wage this war. I rely on you.
I want to belong. The fundamental question to you is “do you want me?”
Let us know so we can plan our next step, write our next testimony, our next brief and publish our next column.