Because of my school district's lackluster performance at including students with disabilities in extracurricular and general education activities, I had pretty much given up on Ashley ever participating in school dances, PTA performances, or school clubs. In fact, the first and last time I did request that Ashley participate was way back in 2004, and it was a total disaster. That story of Ashley's token acceptance into a holiday school performance was what inspired Jonathan Mooney, author of Short Bus Stories - A Journey Beyond Normal, to include Ashley's story in his book.
So here we are many years later, and maybe, just maybe things are different.
Last Friday was Homecoming at Ashley's high school. There was to be a parade before the football game, and Ashley, along with the Circle of Friends club, was invited to participate in the parade. I agreed that Ash could participate, but deep in the pit of my stomach was a worry that once again tokenism would reign over inclusion.
I was wrong.
Ashley was welcomed - her Circle of Friends regular education students included her just as everyone else - disabled or not - was included - and Ashley had a absolute blast!
She showed up in her wheelchair decorated with ribbons in the school colors. She wore clothes in the school colors, and her smile rivaled even the cheerleader's smiles.
She lined up with the other students. She 'listened' to the band practicing right beside her. She clapped and hooted, and she walked around the entire football field with her peers.
The world shifted that evening, and I hope it never goes back.
Today I am thankful for a day off from work - a day when the laundry is done and the house is clean - a true day off!