by Amy Hibbs
12.5.23 and 1.11.24—These dates are forever etched in my mind.
You might think these dates are an anniversary or a birthday.
These dates are the first time our son, Caleb, went to the library at his school and the first time he went through the cafeteria lunch line in middle school.
Caleb is 14. He is in seventh grade. He is in a self-contained special education classroom.
Let’s start with the library. Think back to when you were a child. If you attended public school, you can probably remember visiting the library often and having the opportunity to check out a book. If you have a child in elementary school, you know about library books. You know the excitement when new books are selected and brought home for reading. You might remember how you couldn’t find the library book until the middle of summer after you had paid to replace it. You may have even offered a monetary reward for the first child to locate the library book before library day. The library is a huge part of the school experience!
During elementary school, Caleb’s class never went to the library. A library experience was provided in their self-contained special education classroom. However, no books were checked out. And, no books were brought home.
On 12.5.23, Caleb went to the library for the first time in his school career. He checked out a book and brought it home.
Now, let’s reminisce about the school cafeteria. If you are like me, you can still picture it. You might even remember the smell of the square pieces of pizza and carrying the tray to your table while balancing your milk carton.
Today, I am pausing to celebrate going through the lunch line and checking out a book in the library. I am celebrating those that listened and provided equitable opportunities. But, as I celebrate with Caleb, my heart is also breaking. It’s 2024. Yet, we are still asking for students receiving special education services to have the same opportunities as non-disabled students. We are still asking for discrimination to stop because discrimination still exists. In 2024, we are hopeful that systemic change is possible, but movement towards that change requires action. We must all be aware. We must all ask questions. We must all link arms. We must all move towards change.
Before I close this story, I want to leave you with a call to action. Here are some suggestions for how we can each contribute and move closer to systemic change:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amy Hibbs, a disabled individual, is an Occupational Therapist with 24 years experience. She is a mother of two children with disabilities. She is co-founder of BRIDGED and an active advocate for the disability community.
Amy Hibbs, a disabled individual, is an Occupational Therapist with 24 years experience. She is a mother of two children with disabilities. She is co-founder of BRIDGED and an active advocate for the disability community.