The Friday before the school year was set to begin, we took an impromptu tour of my daughter’s new school. 

She’s attending senior kindergarten this year at our neighborhood school, which for us is directly across the street.

It would be her first time at school so we were all very excited, especially her big brother Sebastian. He’s going into Grade 4, so he knows how much fun school can be.

The school has an elevator, so Sebastian was looking forward to enjoying the tour too.

It took us up all three levels of the school to a view of the CN Tower and the downtown skyline, visible from one of the hallways.

It seemed quite spectacular for the other little boy on the tour, new to our neighborhood. I’m one of those moms that wants a tour so I know where my kid is going to spend her days.

I also want my daughter to feel comfortable and ready for goodbyes on day one, knowing where she would be going once inside the building with her new teacher and peers.

Tallula’s kindergarten classroom is on the main floor, but there are steps down to both the gym and the music classroom. Therefore, despite having an elevator, the school is not fully accessible.

Aside from the lack of accessibility, it also has no nursing or the additional academic supports and support staff that Sebastian needs for his epilepsy medications and g-tube feeds, so he cannot attend our neighborhood school with his sister.

He cannot be the big brother on campus for her to say hi to on the playground. He can’t come home for lunch like his sister can either. His presence is absent, as are any children with wheelchairs or other physical accommodations.

I believe that a part of Tallula’s own identity, that of a sibling of a child with a disability, will also become something that is not a part of her learning experience at school. Yet it makes up a big part of who she is.

Her peers won’t have the experience of knowing someone with a physical disability at school either. I often wonder how this will affect her relationships with them as well as her brother over time.

We have lived in this neighborhood for four years; I have visited several schools in the city we live in, hoping to find a school that could accommodate both of my children, even if it meant moving to a new neighborhood.

I so badly want them to go the same school. Sebastian goes to a school a bus ride away, in a congregated setting for kids with disabilities and medical needs.

I strongly believe in and advocate for inclusion; without it, how will society change?

But over the past two years I have had to come to terms that inclusion in our school district is not possible on the level that Sebastian needs.

Most schools, like our neighborhood school, cannot provide the kind of care, or accessibility, his school can provide for him. Sebastian’s school has a phenomenal music program and a pool, which are both really important for him.

The other schools I had visited, which could potentially accommodate both of my children, had neither.

After we toured Tallula’s new school and discovered that they have a music and drama program, and even met the drama/dance teacher, I was really excited for her year ahead.

I thought, ’This is going to work. Both of my kids are going to get what they need to thrive at school, even if it’s not at the same school.’

I felt that I would be ok with my kids going to different schools because I really believe that the programs at each one support my kids in the ways they need and that will help them grow.

I have had to accept that life doesn’t always coincide with my educational philosophy or what I had imagined for my family.

But later that afternoon I received Sebastian’s bus pick-up and drop-off times - which would add an hour each way to his school day - suddenly I felt deflated rather than hopeful.

The sense of discrimination we often deal with in all facets of our daily lives, crept slowly back in, determined to sour the first days of school.

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