William had his first middle school orchestra concert Thursday night. He plays the cello, and orchestra is a big reason he wanted to stay in public school. Though he’s no prodigy, the cello is important to him and he enjoys the group experience of orchestra.
In elementary school, I was pretty involved in this endeavor. Orchestra was once a week and I often watched rehearsal. But of course, middle school is a different scenario and I worried whether he could keep up.
These worries led me to search out his teacher in September and share my concerns. Mr. P asked William to do a playing assessment and afterwards said “I know what to do to help”. A few days later, William had individualized music for each song, with the notes labeled and with simpler rhythms to account for his slower processing. Amazing! I was so grateful. That is exactly what inclusion means to me – adapting the learning experience to allow the student to participate fully and at his/her own level.
William practiced at home, not without errors, and I wondered how he was doing. As the concert got closer the wondering turned somewhat to worrying. Did I need to be on stage? Should I arrange for a para? What if he makes an audible mistake?
When we got to school for the concert I asked Mr. P how I could be of help. He tells me that he has arranged for a ninth grade cellist to assist William during the concert. I know who the student is, and I know she has an older brother with Asperger’s. Again, amazing! What a wonderful solution. Because, frankly, having William be completely independent might not have worked. And having his mother sitting on stage with him would certainly not be “mainstream.” The teacher setting up this arrangement with no request or help from me brought tears of gratitude to my eyes.
Of course, in real life no story is ever perfect. At the finale of the last song, William continued playing for a few bars after everyone else stopped. Afterwards, I heard some boys talking about this in the orchestra room, which immediately brought a little knot to my stomach. Will they make fun of him? Wish he wasn’t in orchestra? Will he know? Care?
But I guess I’ll worry about something else instead. I think Mr. P’s got this.