To some, it looks like a new swing and a coating of asphalt.
But to me, the improvements to my daughter’s school playground are so much more.
The $5,000 project that teachers, students and families donated to meant that my little girl was valued at her school, and not overlooked. Her school understood the importance of helping her play alongside her classmates -- both for her, and for the other students.
For any parent, the decision of where to send your child to school is a big one. It’s terrifying, and you fret over making the right choice. But when your child has special needs, that decision takes on a whole new importance.
When my husband and I made the decision to send our daughter to a small charter school instead of our city’s public school system, we knew we were giving some things up. We don’t have busing, our school has fewer resources, such as for specialized equipment, and funding is much tighter.
But we also knew we were giving her the educational experience we wanted her to have, in a classroom with her peers, which wasn’t an option at the public school system without a big fight and us convincing them Emma would do well in a typical classroom.
We also felt good knowing we could easily get in touch with her teachers, her therapists, her principal without waiting weeks to set up a meeting or days for a response to an email or call.
Still, we worried about whether the school was prepared for all her needs. After all, she was only the second child they had who uses a wheelchair and the only one who uses a communication device.
Then came the fundraiser to revamp the playground so Emma, and any other child who needs it, could easily get to the playground in her wheelchair. And so that once she got there, she had something to do alongside her friends.
The school asked for our feedback on what they were considering. They priced it out: with a total cost of more than $5,700.
And fundraising began, with kids, teachers and parents all chipping in.
In a few weeks, the goal was met, and construction started quickly. And I can tell you that Emma is in love with that swing.
Unfortunately, this is not the school experience for all families, but my hope is that it continues to become more and more of the norm.
Because when your school believes in and values your child as much as you do, limits and barriers are immediately broken down, creating change for the future.