March 10, 2012

picture of a tornado siren

image courtesy of wonder_al via

“Pretty much all kids with disabilities are in mainstream classes these days,” a special ed teacher said to me once. “Well, except for the severe ones, of course.”

She had never seen my daughter. A different special ed teacher took one look at her and said “She’ll be in my self-contained class one of these days. I teach all the severe kids.”

What makes Chloe severe? It’s hard to pin down, but I think mainly it’s her difficulty communicating. The fact that she can’t talk or type. The fact that, in order to take part in a mainstream classroom, she would need a lot of support from thoughtful and creative professionals.

And that’s exactly what she has. Chloe is doing great in second grade (her third year as part of a regular class). She does the same homework, takes the same tests, gets exposed to the same learning opportunities as the other kids. She even had a speaking part in the school musical, with the help of a recorded message and a large button.

So while our school district tends to judge kids like my daughter pretty quickly, to assign her to the self-contained classroom at a glance, I’m happy to report that it didn’t take much to dismantle these assumptions. All the people we worked with were very open to trying something new, to giving my daughter a chance, even though she is “severe.”

So in the end, what does that word even mean?


One Response to “Severe”

  1. Maybe in Chloe’s situation it just means “very special, not the run of the mill” — loved the post.

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